Examination of Witness (Question Numbers
15 SEPTEMBER 2009
Q2106 Chairman: Can I this afternoon
welcome Les Hinton who is giving evidence to the Committee from
New York. Les is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Dow
Jones but was the previous Executive Chairman of News International
at a time when the Committee previously took evidence in its last
inquiry into self-regulation of the press. Les, thank you for
making yourself available this afternoon. May I start by referring
back to the evidence which you gave to the Committee in March
2007 because at that time in relation to the Clive Goodman affair
you said that there had been a full rigorous internal inquiry,
that you were convinced that Clive Goodman was the only person
that knew what was going on but that the investigation continued.
Can you say what the final outcome of that investigation was and
if it remains the case that you are convinced that only Clive
Goodman knew about the tapping of phones by Glenn Mulcaire?
Mr Hinton: Yes,
Chairman. As you have already heard, when Colin Myler took over
as Editor he continued studying the events there and had the assistance,
as you know, of a firm of solicitors, and I know from recollection
he went through thousands of emails. He never delivered any evidence
that there had been anyone else involved. At the same time as
that of course our biggest concern was that the News of the
World, having gone through a pretty terrible time, that he
was going to make absolutely certain that whatever lapses had
happened in the past would not be repeated. I think he gave you
some pretty detailed information about the measures that he took
to be certain that everyone there was well aware of the rules
and the boundaries, but, no, there was never any evidence delivered
to me that suggested that the conduct of Clive Goodman spread
Q2107 Chairman: When you conducted
the investigation were you aware of the email which the Guardian
subsequently produced in the Committee, the "transcript for
Mr Hinton: What I was aware of
later after I had spoken to you the last time was that there had
been a complaint from Taylor. I do not recall the detail of it
and I never knew about any memo, no.
Q2108 Chairman: So you were never
aware of the email which was sent by a reporter at the News
of the World to Glenn Mulcaire headed "Here is the transcript
Mr Hinton: No.
Q2109 Chairman: When you carried
out these investigations, and you said you looked through thousands
of emails, none of those emails related to anybody other than
Clive Goodman having knowledge of what Glenn Mulcaire was doing?
Mr Hinton: Look, I obviously did
not look at those emails personally but I know that that scrutiny
went on and no emails that raised any further suspicion were brought
to my attention.
Q2110 Chairman: When you conducted
the investigation did you ask individual reporters on the News
of the World whether they had any knowledge of what Glenn
Mulcaire was doing?
Mr Hinton: Not personally but
remember that Colin had come in from New York, a very experienced
editor with a clear remit to do two things: make sure that any
previous misconduct was identified and acted upon and that the
prospect of any future misconduct would be ruled out. So he was
there in that position with absolute authority and no involvement
in any possible conduct before that time. I thought bringing him
inand I still think itwas a perfect way to create
an independent, experienced judge of what had been going on or
what ought to be going on in future.
Q2111 Chairman: But presumably the
investigation did include asking employees of the News
of the World whether or not they had any knowledge of what
Mr Hinton: Look, again I know
you had a conversation with Colin Myler. He spent a long time
talking to lots of people and I cannot recall more reliably than
he the nature of them. However, importantly, he did not come to
me with any concerns relating to what had gone on other than,
obviously, the Goodman matter.
Q2112 Chairman: But specifically
did you ever speak to Neville Thurlbeck about this?
Mr Hinton: No.
Q2113 Chairman: You did not?
Mr Hinton: No because I was not
aware of Neville Thurlbeck having been involved. In any event,
I relied upon Colin as the independent newly appointed Editor
to conduct that kind of questioning.
Q2114 Chairman: Neville Thurlbeck
was the author of a number of stories with Clive Goodman some
of which appeared to have used material obtained from phone messages.
Mr Hinton: I do not know, Chairman.
Q2115 Philip Davies: Can I ask you
about your suspicions about other people being involved at the
time when many of the phone-tapping incidents had nothing to do
with the Royal Family, and so given that Clive Goodman was the
Royal Reporter did you or anybody else think to yourself if people
who were not part of the Royal Family were being tapped then surely
this must go beyond Clive Goodman?
Mr Hinton: That is a good question
but you have to put yourself in the position that we were in at
the time remembering that the police had conducted an exhaustive
inquiry that went on for many months, even before the charges
were laid against Goodman and the private investigator, and I
think it is reasonable, when we are looking at the work carried
out by some of the best brains at Scotland Yard, for us to accept
that that had found no evidence beyond speculationand there
was a great deal of speculation in other newspapers, as you know,
some of it perhaps (but probably not) maliciousand there
was never any substantive additional evidence produced. Although
I have not followed meticulously all the proceedings since the
summer I did look at the evidence that John Yates of the Yard
provided to you only a couple of weeks ago and I think he said
rather pointedly that the Guardian story that has so excited
this Committee and certain parts of the media contained no new
evidence and in the two months since its publication no new evidence
had arisen. I think it is fair to say that since no evidence has
come up it would be hard to find any because there are lots of
very capable people I am sure from establishments such as the
Guardian looking for it and it has never been presented.
We were in a situation where there was no clear evidence, there
was lots of gossip but the most important thing at that point,
having gone through this really difficult periodand the
News of the World is populated, I promise you, overwhelmingly
by decent hard-working peoplethey did not deserve the difficulty
they had gone through and I was attaching a lot of importance
to getting things back to normal with Colin's appointment.
Q2116 Philip Davies: Do you accept
that even if you were unable to identify a particular individual,
given that other people's not just people in the Royal Family
phones were being tapped, that other people at the News of
the World must have been involved in this?
Mr Hinton: I am afraid I cannot
quite follow the logic of that because whatever may have been
happening in the offices of the private investigator, whether
or not it was being relayed to the News of the World, I
just had no reason to believe that, but there was a lot of gossip,
there was a lot of speculation, there were a lot of accusations
that we could never find any firm foundation for, so in the light
of them we went, I promise you, to extraordinary lengths both
within the News of the World itself and from my own position
at the timeI was also Chairman of the Editors' Code Committeewe
clarified the Code. There were a number of measures taken across
the industry because there was only so much you could do retroactively.
Q2117 Philip Davies: I want to focus
on the payments that you have made to Clive Goodman and Mulcaire
specifically since their conviction, or certainly after they were
arrested and charged. First of all, did you in any way pay for
any of the legal fees for Clive Goodman or Glenn Mulcaire?
Mr Hinton: I absolutely do not
know. I do not know whether we did or not. There were certainly
some payments made afterwards but on the matter of legal fees
I honestly do not know.
Q2118 Philip Davies: The problem
I have here is that whenever we have questioned anybody who was
involved at the News of the World or News International,
even including very senior people such as yourself, everybody
has always said they do not know and they have also been able
to further add that they have no idea who would know. This is
all becoming rather incredible that some of the most senior people
involved in News International either did not know or did not
know who would know. Stuart Kuttner said that he did not know
and he said that he did not know who would know. Now you are saying
you do not know. Who on earth would know these things?
Mr Hinton: That is a fine flourish
of a question, Mr Davies, but I have answered your question: I
do not know.
Q2119 Philip Davies: Well, who would
know in your organisation? You were a senior person in this organisation.
Who in your organisation would know?
Mr Hinton: If we paid their legal
fees the company would know; I do not.