Examination of Witness (Question Numbers
2 SEPTEMBER 2009
Chairman: For the final part this afternoon,
can I welcome Mr Mark Lewis, Solicitor Advocate at Stripes Solicitors.
Paul Farrelly has some questions for you.
Q2064 Paul Farrelly: Thank you very much
for agreeing to the request to come. There were a number of people
who have declined to appear in front of us so far, so thank you
very much. I saw you were present for all of the police evidence?
Mr Lewis: Yes.
Q2065 Paul Farrelly: But not the
Information Commissioner's evidence?
Mr Lewis: I think I was here for
a short period ten minutes, and then the police evidence.
Q2066 Paul Farrelly: Do not be fooled
by the empty gallery. This is being televised and there is not
much else going on in Parliament at the moment, so journalists
can watch this from the TV screen.
Mr Lewis: Could I start by setting
in context the evidence I can give?
Q2067 Paul Farrelly: I want to ask
you because you are under privilege here but personally you will
feel there are things you can talk about or not.
Mr Lewis: I have three issues
at least that I have to deal with. One is client confidentiality
because there are certain things I have been told by clients that
I have to protect, so that is my secondary privilege, or more
primary privilege I suppose. There is a privilege on the documents
which were provided to me under court proceedings and court orders
which, whilst you might find interesting, are still under court
privilege, documents given on disclosure, and therefore unless
they have been referred to in the public domain they cannot be
referred to. The third issue is that I am under threat by News
International of an injunction against me acting for other people,
so I will try not to upset them.
Q2068 Chairman: We are into complicated
legal areas. Your first point, your responsibility to your client,
is obviously understood, but on the second point, any information
you give to this Committee cannot be regarded as a breach of any
Mr Lewis: I understand there is
an implied undertaking that is given when obtaining documents
on disclosure. Some of the issues in this case have been dealt
with by members of the Committee who have asked very pertinent
questions of the police, and I heard the evidence of the police,
but those issues which apparently were not obvious to the police
were very obvious to me at the starting point. If that sets it
in context, the picture that came up was when the prosecution
of Goodman and Mulcaire took place in respect of phone-hacking
of the royal princes, Gordon Taylor, who was a client of mine
at that time, was quite obviously of no interest whatsoever to
Goodman and it did not take a genius (although I like to think
that I might be a genius) to work out that somebody else had been
the recipient of that information. That was the cause of the whole
of this inquiry because I started to think, "Hang on, there
is something more to it." The premise that led me to reach
that conclusion is because a year before there had been an issue
between my client and the News of the World which, whilst
subject to client confidentiality, had led the News of the
World to say to me that the information they had investigated
at that stage was as a result of proper journalist inquiries.
When I watched the television about the prosecution in respect
of the royal princes being given, I thought, "No, it was
not proper journalistic inquiries, they have been hacking phones
and that is how they have got information which has led to that
story." That is whyfast forwardwe get to where
we are here and my involvement in the case. My understanding is
that there have been three cases. I have also undertaken three
cases. Two of my clients have been named and I have been named
as having acted for themGordon Taylor, Jo Armstrongthe
third one has not been named and therefore I cannot name them
within the context of these proceedings.
Q2069 Chairman: The key question,
you correctly surmise, or at least we would say is your view,
that it is unlikely Clive Goodman was commissioning information
from Gordon Taylor's phone. Do you have any evidence to suggest
who in the News of the World might have been receiving
information from Gordon Taylor's phone?
Mr Lewis: This is interesting
because I have heard the evidence given by the Assistant Commissioner
and his side-kick. The methodology of the claimand I have
worked out there was a claim, it was obvious to me there was a
claim but to make that stick I had to get documents which proved
itthe way of getting the documents and the methodology,
was applying for third party disclosure, as lawyers would call
it, of various part bodies. That is why I applied for evidence
from the Information Commissioner, and they consented, evidence
from the CPS, and that was not a problem either, and evidence
from the Metropolitan Police. When it came to the Metropolitan
Police, the person who attended at the court was Detective Sergeant
Mark Maberly. I can mention that because it was an open court,
there were court hearings, and Detective Sergeant Mark Maberly
said to me, "You are not having everything but we will give
you enough on Taylor to hang them." Those were his words,
"to hang them". So he quite clearly knew at that time
there was sufficient evidence about my client, and I only had
one client at that time, Mr Taylor, to hang the News of the
World about that client. He also mentioned the number of people
whose phones had been hacked. Whether that was an aside, whether
that leads me into the threat of the injunction that the News
of the World have made against me, or through their lawyers
have made against me, the reservation of that right, but they
had said that there was evidence about, or they had found there
were something like 6,000 people who were involved. It was not
clear to me whether that was 6,000 phones which had been hacked,
or 6,000 people including the people who had left messages. I
think I am able to explain to this Committee how it worked. I
accept there is a difference in civil burden and criminal burden,
so the police might have been looking at things very differently
and therefore if someone was called Neville they did not bother
to check that because they could not prove it on the criminal
burden of proof, but the position was that with Gordon Taylor
there was sufficient evidence to be disclosed by the police to
do the hanging, as the police had called it. But there was evidence,
for example, the Neville email, which you have been talking about
today, and it is fair to say that was not disclosed initially.
It is a shame that the court file is closed, because obviously
that cannot be looked at, but I think it is a matter of record
that initially the News of the World's defence was, "This
did not happen". This defence was subsequently amended to
say, "Yes, it did" and the settlement came about shortly
after disclosure from the Metropolitan Police showing for example
the NevilleI nearly said "the Neville Thurlbeck"
but that has never been proved on any criminal basisemail
Q2070 Paul Farrelly: I wanted to
ask you, as far as you can, to describe your role in the case,
when it started and when it was settled, part of which you have
already done, Mr Lewis. Also, could you reflect a little further
on the evidence the police have given, particularly with respect
to the questioning about whether any of the evidence you were
able to requisition through court orders gave you reasonable suspicion
that other journalists were involved, either in the Taylor case
or, and I do not know what evidence you are able to command, in
the other cases as well, which is the question John asked? Before
that, can I ask you to explain what is happening with News International
now? They are not seeking to injunct you in respect of your appearance
here, are they?
Mr Lewis: No, they are not seeking
to injunct me. I have copies of the letter but not necessarily
Q2071 Paul Farrelly: Can you explain
Mr Lewis: The difficulty for News
International, or Farrer's on behalf of News International, is
that I know information which they say should not be used for
other people. I disagree with that and I have responded to it.
I have not had their substantive response to my letter but it
says, "It goes without saying that our client ... .",
that is News International, " ... will object to your involvement
in this or any other related case as against our client for the
reasons set out above. We reserve our client's rights to take
injunctive proceedings against you, should you chose to disregard
the matters contained in this letter." It then concludes
by saying, "However, you have an opportunity to correct matters
by confirming that you will now accept that you cannot act for
any individual wishing to bring a claim against News Group in
respect of the voicemail accessing allegations ... ", that
is what they call this, voicemail accessing allegations, but I
call it "phone-hacking" or such like. I think it can
be summarised as, "You know too much, please don't act against
us or we will bring the whole weight of the organisation down
Q2072 Paul Farrelly: More than "please".
Mr Lewis: Perhaps I was being
Q2073 Paul Farrelly: I have not heard
of this happening before. Is this something you are aware has
professionally happened before to other solicitors, where they
are seeking to prevent you from practising your trade because
you have been involved in one case against one
Mr Lewis: I am sure it might have
happened before but I am not aware of it.
Q2074 Chairman: I do not quite follow.
I understand why News of the World might not want you to
appear on behalf of anybody else, but what are they threatening
to do to you if you do?
Mr Lewis: They threaten an injunction
to stop me acting against them.
Q2075 Chairman: On what possible
Mr Lewis: On the basis that I
won, I think.
Q2076 Chairman: No court will grant
an injunction on that basis! Does the News of the World
have any serious threat against you?
Mr Lewis: My response was no,
they did not, but I took the view that I was entitled to act in
the same way as anybody else who has now jumped on the bandwagon
I have started rolling.
Q2077 Chairman: It seems an entirely
pointless letter to me.
Mr Lewis: I think it was designed
to upset me, but it did not.
Q2078 Paul Farrelly: It is part of
a pattern of activity perhaps, Chairman, and something the Solicitors'
Complaints Authority might wish to have a look at if you were
Mr Lewis: Perhaps.
Q2079 Paul Farrelly: Could you tell
us when you started the case and when it was settled, just to
give us a time frame?
Mr Lewis: It is difficult to give
the exact chronology of it because a year or so before is when
there had been the threatened storyand I was acting at
that time for Jo Armstrong, who has been mentioned earlier today,
rather than for Gordon Taylorto stop a story which was
absolutely ridiculous anyway, and I got a response from Tom Crone,
who I understand has given evidence previously to you, to say
that this was a proper journalistic inquiry but there would be
no story run. My understanding is that Mr Crone would have understood
there to be proper journalistic inquiry rather than any knowledge
on his part that there was anything improper. I have no doubt
about him saying things honestly. It was a year later, when I
just happened by chance to see the 9 o'clock News or 10
o'clock News, and heard "That is a proper journalistic
inquiry" and I have a good memory and I thought, "Hang
on", that phrase stuck out that these were not proper journalistic
inquiries at all. It was at that point. So whenever the prosecution
of the princes' hearing, the sentencing hearing, took place, was
the date that Gordon Taylor's claim effectively was in embryo
and started against News of the World.