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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 907-vii
HOUSE OF COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE THE
HOME AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
UNAUTHORISED TAPPING INTO OR HACKING OF MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS
TUESDAY 19 JULY 2011
LORD MACDONALD, KEIR STARMER and MARK LEWIS
Evidence heard in Public
Questions 976 - 1155
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
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Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 19 July 2011
Keith Vaz (Chair)
Mr James Clappison
Dr Julian Huppert
Mr David Winnick
Examination of Witness
Witness: Lord Macdonald of River Glaven QC, former Director of Public Prosecutions, gave evidence.
Q976 Chair: Order. May I refer everyone present to the Register of Members’ Financial Interests? I thank Lord Macdonald for coming to give evidence at such very short notice. We are most grateful to you; I know you have been in court all day, so thank you for coming to this sitting.
Lord Macdonald: The case was adjourned, so I haven’t been in court today.
Q977 Chair: What we would like to ask you about is in two parts. The first is in respect of your role as the Director of Public Prosecutions. Immediately after you, we’ll be hearing evidence from the current Director of Public Prosecutions. I don’t know whether you have seen the previous evidence, but it is very clear from the evidence of Mr Yates-and indeed before that the evidence of Mr Clarke-that throughout his investigation they sought the advice of the CPS. Is that something that happens regularly when the police are involved in an issue of this kind? Do they consult with the CPS about what is happening?
Lord Macdonald: Yes, and indeed we encouraged it. A notion developed in the years before I became DPP in 2003, and continued to develop, of the prosecution team. We would encourage police officers and prosecutors, particularly in complex or sensitive crimes, to work together, so that advice would be sought by the police at an early stage from the prosecutors. I am very confident that that would have happened in this case.
Q978 Chair: Your role as the DPP was what? We were told that you had oversight of this.
Lord Macdonald: Every legal decision that is made in the CPS is made on behalf of the DPP. The reality is that the DPP has responsibility and accountability for all legal decision making. That is a serious point that I need to make at the outset. This case was notified to me because of the convention that any case involving a member of the royal family is notified to the DPP. At some stage, I would have received a note telling me that this case was in the pipeline. I am quite sure that I would have asked to be kept informed about it, and I am quite sure that I would have had meetings from time to time-I remember at least one-with the lawyer in charge of the case, who was the head of the special crime division.
Q979 Chair: Would you have met Mr Clarke or Mr Hayman, or any of the senior police officers?
Lord Macdonald: I do not believe so. I was not the decision maker in the case and I would have deferred, unless I substantially disagreed with what she was saying, to the head of the special crime division, who was an extremely senior lawyer in the CPS. She left the CPS two years or so ago, but she was an extremely senior and well respected lawyer. Indeed, I was on the panel that appointed her to her post.
Q980 Chair: Indeed, but you clearly remember the case.
Lord Macdonald: Yes, I do remember it.
Q981 Chair: And do you remember the advice that was given in respect of the big question, which is that the police and Mr Yates maintain that they had certain legal advice from the CPS, which they followed absolutely?
Lord Macdonald: I am afraid I do not remember that issue at all. I do not expect I would have been consulted about that. We had instructed Mr David Perry, QC, who was a former senior Treasury counsel at the Old Bailey and one of the best criminal lawyers in the country without a doubt. I have, however, seen the evidence that my successor, Mr Keir Starmer, has given, particularly to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. He makes an observation in his final letter to it, I think, or his final piece of evidence, that the indictment in the end contained counts in respect of which there was no evidence that they had been hacked before they were listened to. His analysis, which I am sure he can go into in more detail than me, is that unequivocal advice of that sort was not given, but I understand that this is an issue between the CPS and the Metropolitan police and I have seen the evidence that has been given before to this Committee.
Q982 Mark Reckless: You say that unequivocal advice was not given, and to the extent that there are not documents, there may be a bit of "He said, you said" up to 2005-06, but in his evidence in July 2009 to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, the current DPP was absolutely clear. He wrote: "The Law. To prove the criminal offence of interception the prosecution must prove that the actual message was intercepted prior to it being accessed by the intended recipient."
Lord Macdonald: I did read that, but I also read his later evidence in which he expanded on the process and indeed quoted from e-mail advice and written advice that was given to the police by the head of the special crime division. He also, I think, made the point-this point never failed to be argued-that the defendants pleaded guilty and that the indictment contained counts in respect of which we could not prove that. With respect, it seems to me that the outcome and the way the case unfolded does not support Mr Yates’s contention that unequivocal advice was being given. If that advice was being given, it would be difficult to see how those counts could have ended up on the indictment.
Q983 Mark Reckless: According to the police, because one was there-according to Mr Yates earlier, they had had to say to the person whose phone it was, "Don’t pick up your messages," so that they could wait for the potential hacker to intercept those because they had not been listened to. The other five cases were just inferential on the basis of that, because of the advice the CPS gave and the DPP confirmed in July 2009.
Lord Macdonald: Mr Reckless, I know from speaking to Mr Starmer outside a moment ago that leading counsel David Perry simply does not agree that this unequivocal advice was given to the police. I do not know. I cannot say one way or the other because I was not party to it, but I must say that if Mr Perry says that, I would be inclined to accept what he says.
Q984 Mark Reckless: Leaving Mr Perry aside, I have here Keir Starmer’s evidence in July 2009 to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. He says: "To prove the criminal offence of interception the prosecution must prove that the actual message was intercepted prior to it being accessed by the intended recipient."
Lord Macdonald: Well, Mr Starmer is giving evidence directly after me, Mr Reckless, and I am sure he will be able to address that with you better than I can. All I can say is that my understanding, from the documents that I have seen, is that unequivocal advice of that sort was not given.
Q985 Mark Reckless: But isn’t the reality that in RIPA we have section 2(7), which makes it perfectly clear that the time of transmission includes any period when a message is stored in such a way that the intended recipient can collect it or otherwise have access to it? Is that not completely inconsistent with the advice the CPS gave and what the DPP said in July 2009?
Lord Macdonald: Well, I am not sure. It depends what the words "other access" mean. There is also the possibility, which I think was raised with the police, of charging these offences as conspiracy, which clearly would not have the requirement that you have alluded to.
Q986 Mark Reckless: Surely the words "or otherwise to have access to it" are entirely clear.
Lord Macdonald: Well, I don’t know.
Q987 Mark Reckless: The CPS just advised the opposite and ignored it.
Lord Macdonald: I don’t think that is right. I think Mr Starmer will be able to take you to e-mailed and written advice that was given to the police, which was not in any sense in line with what you are suggesting.
Q988 Mark Reckless: Finally, I put it to you that what the CPS advised in 2006 and what the DPP said in 2009 is inconsistent with section 2(7) of RIPA, which states "or otherwise to have access to it." That explains why the police did not follow this up in the way that they should have done. There have been senior resignations at the Metropolitan police and News International. When will someone else at the CPS take responsibility?
Lord Macdonald: I do not think that your analysis is fair, if you do not mind me saying so. I do not think that unequivocal advice was given. DPPs are responsible for casework that takes place in their period of office. I take full responsibility for this case. The evidence I have seen-I was not party to the discussions that you are talking about-particularly that given by Mr Starmer to the Committee, does not support the analysis that you are putting forward.
Mark Reckless: This evidence could not be clearer. I am sorry to read this for a third time, but it says, "The Law. To prove the criminal offence of interception the prosecution must prove that the actual message was intercepted prior to it being accessed by the intended recipient." What could be clearer, and what could be more wrong?
Alun Michael: You are quoting from where?
Q989 Mark Reckless: This is from the evidence given to the DCMS Committee by Keir Starmer. It was written in July 2009. It is completely inconsistent with section 2(7).
Lord Macdonald: I think you should look at all of his evidence.
Q990 Chair: He is, as you say, giving evidence to us shortly. Was that your understanding of the law at the time?
Lord Macdonald: I must say that the first time I came to think about this was in July 2009, because I was not a party, so far as I can recollect, to these legal discussions. I have not conducted any in-depth research of my own, because I had been out of office for something like 18 months before this came to my attention. I have seen the evidence that Mr Starmer has given to the DCMS Select Committee, and I am inclined to agree with it.
Q991 Chair: Why is July 2009 significant?
Lord Macdonald: Was that not when the stories in The Guardian started to appear? Of course, like anyone else, I began to think back over what had happened when I was DPP, and asked myself whether we had got it wrong, whether we had done what we could have done, and whether we had done everything that we could have done.
Q992 Chair: And you were satisfied that you had done everything that you could have done?
Lord Macdonald: Well, I tried to think back to what I knew and what I believed at the time when this case was live. From my perspective as DPP, having an excellent head of crime division who I trusted implicitly, having David Perry QC involved in the case, and believing that they would analyse the material that had been given to them by the police sufficiently and rigorously, I believed they would come to the right conclusions. I take full responsibility if that did not happen, but I do not believe that I had any reason to believe in 2005-06 that the right decisions were not being made.
Q993 Chair: What kind of material would you have looked at? What would they have given you?
Lord Macdonald: They would not have given me anything.
Q994 Chair: Not you personally, but what would they have given the CPS?
Lord Macdonald: The police? The way the system works, as I am sure you know, is that the police are responsible for the investigation. They gather material pursuant to the investigation and assemble it. They then send it to the CPS for analysis. The CPS at that time was responsible for charging all but the most minor cases. The charging decision has to be made by a prosecutor. The CPS would then consider the police material. It might advise that more was needed, that sufficient evidence was there, or that they ought to look in this or that direction. The CPS and the police would have a discussion of that sort. They would meet regularly-I am sure they did-and they would come to charging decisions. Charges would be laid and individuals would be prosecuted. It was a co-operative process of that sort, with the police maintaining their independence as investigators, and the CPS maintaining its independence as a prosecutor.
Q995 Chair: And there is no doubt in your mind that some information may have been withheld? Is that a possibility?
Lord Macdonald: You mean deliberately? I never had any grounds to suspect that. I watched Mr Clarke’s evidence to your Committee. Whether some material did not feature in the investigation because of the parameters that he set, so that the CPS did not see that material, I do not know. One thing that I am absolutely sure of is that if anyone at the CPS had seen material relating to Milly Dowler, or the 7/7 victims, or the relatives of war dead, that would have struck very sharp alarms.
Q996 Alun Michael: You referred to the very acute cases that have caused public outrage, and rightly so. It is clear that there is a large volume of evidence in the hands of the Metropolitan police that was not investigated, because there were more important things to do, to paraphrase Mr Clarke’s references. I preface this by saying that I am very keen on the joint working of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, because day-to-day co-operation has greatly improved the nature of investigations, but there is an issue of being clear about where decisions are taken. How do you make sure that the advice given by the CPS is clearly understood and properly recorded? It seems that some problems in the evidence that we have been looking at rest on possible misinterpretations of legal advice.
Lord Macdonald: That is a risk, particularly if people are working day after day on intense cases. If we take the example of a terrorism case, the prosecutors and investigators will be speaking hour by hour, almost minute by minute. It is always possible, I suppose, for misunderstandings to arise. As a matter of principle, any serious, substantial legal advice should be reduced to writing and should be delivered in writing. Advice was given in writing in this case. The barrister instructed by the CPS will almost always be required to produce an advice on evidence, which is a written document making recommendations about charges and so on and so forth. You are right that there is room for mistakes, and that is why it is so important that critical advice should be reduced to writing.
It is also very important, as you say, that people understand their roles. The CPS has no power to direct police officers. At the time the CPS was set up, some people on the royal commission felt that prosecutors should be allowed to direct police officers, but the contrary view won the day. My experience in serious cases, as the DPP, was that if we recommended that a certain course should be followed, subject to resources, the police would tend to follow it.
Q997 Alun Michael: So in a case like this, where there seems to have been a clear focus in the first instance on pursuing specific individuals for specific prosecution, primarily in relation to the royal phone hacking, there was a wide body of evidence; as we subsequently found, it contained details of a wider range of victims and a larger number of incidents of hacking. Would the CPS people who were working with the police concentrate only on the lines of the police inquiry, or would they be likely to advise that this wider body of evidence ought to be looked at?
Lord Macdonald: It would depend. Either could happen, depending on the prosecutor’s assessment of the situation. I should say that there are two contexts. One of them, which Mr Clarke referred to, is terrorism cases. We had the Dhiren Barot case-a man who was planning simultaneous multi-casualty attacks in London, as well as in New York, Washington and Newark. We had the 21/7 trial about to start in January. We had the airline plotters arrested in 2006. That was one important part, and I have enormous sympathy with what Peter Clarke has said.
The other context is that all of us had, in the early 2000s, experienced disastrous cases that had collapsed and gone wrong because they were overweighted-too many defendants, too many counts and too much evidence. The best example of this was the Jubilee line case, which, when I became the DPP, had already been running for about four months at the Old Bailey. It ran for another 10 or so and then collapsed under its own weight. So we-I take full responsibility for this, because this was my policy-provided prosecutors with firm advice that they must focus their cases, and that we had to have sharp cases that we could prepare, assemble and prosecute to conviction. That did not mean that you did not look at important evidence, but it did mean that you had to remain focused.
Q998 Dr Huppert: I share the concern that Mark Reckless expressed, particularly about the interpretation of section 2(7) of RIPA, because it seems extremely clear. I will not read it out again, because he has done so.
You presumably also know that the police have other sources of advice on legal interpretation. For example, the ACPO preferred source of advice on the lawful and effective use of covert techniques is the covert advice team at the specialist operations centre in the NPIA. I contacted it, and it says that it has been giving clear advice, which has essentially been the same since 2003. It says that it is clear that the process ends at the point at which the data leaves the telecommunications systems by means of which it is being transmitted and is no longer accessible, and not simply when the missed message has been listened to, but accessing voice mails which have been listened to could therefore amount to a criminal interception of a communication. The police have had that fairly clear advice since 2003. Why was that not the advice, which seems to have been so clear, from the CPS at any stage?
Lord Macdonald: My understanding is that the first piece of advice that was given on this-it was equivocal advice-suggested that that might be a problem, but that the area was untested by the courts. I think that was the position at that time. As the situation developed, further advice was given. This is all second hand coming from me, Dr Huppert. Further advice was given that indicated that this was not an issue that should limit the investigative strategy. Indeed, the way the case turned out, that seems to have been the position. I keep saying that we had counts on the indictment-more than one-in respect of which evidence of that sort was not available. If the counsel’s view had been that you had to be able to prove that aspect, those counts would simply not have been on the indictment.
Q999 Dr Huppert: In terms of what was and was not possible to explore, as I understand it, the idea was not to use Data Protection Act tools, because the penalties were insufficient to be worth while. We have heard from the Information Commissioner that the penalties should be massively increased to take account of serious cases. Would you agree with that?
Lord Macdonald: The blagging offences?
Q1000 Dr Huppert: For example. Would that be an important tool that the CPS should have available?
Lord Macdonald: Yes, this has always been an unpopular view with the press, but I have always thought that imprisonment ought to be available for blagging offences. It is then up to a court or a judge whether the sentence is imposed. If it is simply a fine, anecdotes suggest that it is sometimes treated as a business expense. I am not suggesting that blaggers in trivial cases should be sent to prison necessarily, but it should be available for serious cases.
Q1001 Dr Huppert: If that had been available, given presumably that offences under the Data Protection Act would be easier to prove-you would have to prove that the data had been used inappropriately, rather than how they were obtained-would that have made a significant difference to the investigation and the people who could possibly have been prosecuted?
Lord Macdonald: People may have been charged with it. I should hasten to add that there should be, and would have to be, a public interest defence to that offence. I can imagine a number of cases in which it would be appropriate for journalists to blag in pursuance of a serious public interest story.
Q1002 Dr Huppert: How would you limit that public interest? Is it anything that a journalist thinks is interesting?
Lord Macdonald: No. The public interest is not the same as what people are interested in. The public interest is a test quite well understood in law. Many offences have a public interest defence. It is up to a court to decide. People have to make their own decision before they engage in behaviour as to whether they can persuasively demonstrate that they are acting in the public interest. It is a bit like an elephant: most people will recognise it when they see it. It is decidedly not to be equated with what the public are interested in.
Q1003 Chair: Thank you. Can I now turn to another matter that has arisen as a result of the evidence we have received today: your role with News International? When did you take up your appointment with News International?
Lord Macdonald: I was contacted by a firm of London solicitors called Hickman and Rose in May, and asked to review what has become known as the Harbottle & Lewis file. That was a file put together in 2007, when, as I later discovered, Mr Goodman was bringing internal unfair dismissal proceedings against News International. The file was brought into effect to deal with that issue. It was reviewed by Harbottle & Lewis, and it was asked to give an opinion on whether the material gathered in that process supported phone hacking or related criminality. Its view was that the material in that file did not. It prepared a letter that was to be forwarded to the DCMS Committee to that effect.
Q1004 Chair: In 2007, or this year?
Lord Macdonald: I think it was 2007. The communication was sent to the Committee, and that file remained, as I understand it, in Harbottle & Lewis’s offices.
Q1005 Chair: Who at News International asked you to do that?
Lord Macdonald: Hickman and Rose.
Q1006 Chair: The solicitors asked you?
Lord Macdonald: Yes. The solicitors asked me to look at the file and to report not to News International, but to the News Corporation board. I said, "I can’t look at anything that has anything to do with phone hacking." They said, "This is an issue that isn’t to do with phone hacking; it’s entirely separate." I looked at the file and came to a firm view about it, which I conveyed to the News Corp board.
Q1007 Chair: What was that view?
Lord Macdonald: The view was that it must be handed to the police.
Q1008 Chair: Do you remember the date on which that happened?
Lord Macdonald: It was 20 June. The file was handed to the police and, as a result, the police opened Operation Elveden, the investigation into corruption at the News of the World and the Metropolitan police service.
Q1009 Chair: What was your reaction when you looked at that file? You obviously saw information that was so serious that you decided it should go immediately to the police. We are most grateful to you for sharing that information with us.
Lord Macdonald: I do not want to say any more, if you do not mind, Mr Vaz, because the police are examining this material.
Q1010 Chair: Of course. But it was important enough for you to give the file to the police. That is something quite exceptional, isn’t it?
Lord Macdonald: It was evidence of serious criminal offences. I gave that advice to the News Corp board, and I have to say that it accepted the advice unhesitatingly and instructed that the file should be handed to the police. I handed it to, among other officers, Cressida Dick on 20 June.
Q1011 Chair: And Cressida Dick’s position is overall oversight of Operation Weeting.
Lord Macdonald: And Operation Elveden. I think she has now moved into another position, but at that time she was doing both.
Q1012 Chair: Did you present this orally to the members of the board of News Corp?
Lord Macdonald: Yes.
Q1013 Chair: And there was no dissention?
Lord Macdonald: Absolutely no dissent whatsoever. I would say that they were stunned and shocked, and when I said that my unequivocal advice was that this must be handed to the police, they accepted that advice immediately.
Q1014 Chair: And how soon after you saw them was it handed to the police?
Lord Macdonald: It would have been reasonably shortly afterwards. I know that News International-although I wasn’t involved in this process-was engaged in trying to find supporting evidence for the material that was in that file. It did find some, and that was handed to the police as well.
Q1015 Chair: Is it your view that anyone looking at a file of that kind would have come to the conclusion that there was criminality in there, and that this should have been done before?
Lord Macdonald: Mr Vaz, I can say only that my view was completely unequivocal.
Q1016 Chair: So anyone looking at that file would have said, "This must go to the police"?
Lord Macdonald: I cannot imagine anyone looking at the file and not seeing evidence of crime on its face.
Q1017 Chair: And therefore, by implication, this file having been with Harbottle & Lewis, you disagreed totally with the advice that was given by Harbottle & Lewis?
Lord Macdonald: I don’t know whether Harbottle & Lewis ever considered the question of whether this file should go to the police.
Q1018 Chair: What do you think its consideration was?
Lord Macdonald: There seemed to be a process whereby information was going to be given to a Select Committee-the DCMS Committee-about whether or not the company had come into possession of any more material relating to phone hacking or associated criminality. I cannot remember the exact wording of the letter, but it is a matter of record now, and I think indeed it was put to Mr James Murdoch this afternoon by some of your colleagues.
Q1019 Chair: So if this had happened in 2007, with your other hat on-we’ll come to other questions on this with colleagues-when you were the DPP, and that file had been handed over to the police, it would have ended up back in your lap, in a sense.
Lord Macdonald: We would have had the Operation Elveden case four years ago.
Chair: Four years ago, if you had seen that file then.
Lord Macdonald: If the police had seen that file in 2007, Operation Elveden would have been opened in 2007.
Q1020 Mr Winnick: Lord Macdonald, obviously we have noted what you just said, and I am sure that not a single Member in this room is surprised that you acted as you did in providing the police with what you found. The only surprise would have been if you hadn’t, but that is not the point of my question. Phone hacking was very much around, and allegations were made-whether or not the police acted properly is another matter-while you were Director of Public Prosecutions. When it came to being asked by solicitors to act for News International, did you not consider that to be a rather invidious position?
Lord Macdonald: It was the News Corporation board, not News International, but that is a point of detail. I was absolutely clear that I could not look at anything that had anything to do with phone hacking. Indeed, anything that I was shown of the Harbottle & Lewis file was material that had been extracted from it, and was to do with an entirely separate issue. Even the legal advices were redacted, so I saw nothing to do with phone hacking. My judgment was, and remains, that given that the question of corrupt payments to the police was never an issue when I was DPP, given that News International was never prosecuted when I was DPP, and given that the solicitor who instructed me, and who I knew well and trusted, expressed a degree of anxiety about this material, I thought-and still think-that it was appropriate for me to do it. I am quite confident that the advice I gave the company, which has resulted in this police inquiry, was the right advice to give.
Mr Winnick: Well, of course, News International and News Corporation are one and the same.
Lord Macdonald: Well News Corporation owns News International.
Q1021 Mr Winnick: It is the parent company. Lawyers, as I understand it, use a phrase commonly used even outside the law courts––the cab rank.
Lord Macdonald: There is something of a myth that we are supposed to take any case that comes along in the absence of conflict.
Q1022 Mr Winnick: Did that apply to you in this particular case?
Lord Macdonald: In the absence of conflict, but not really. That rule developed in the late 19th century when the so-called Fenian prisoners could not find barristers to represent them, so the Bar developed a rule that barristers had to take any case that came along. That is a very noble and worthwhile rule. I cannot pretend that I took this case because of the cab rank principle. I took it because I was satisfied that there was not a conflict. I was somewhat touched by the concern that Mr Ben Rose was showing about this file. He is a solicitor whom I know and trust very well. I could sense his concern. I also sensed a great deal of concern when I came in to read it and spoke to Mr William Lewis who is now the operations general manager at News International, I believe. There was a degree of concern about these documents.
Q1023 Mr Winnick: And you didn’t feel at any stage that your well-deserved and distinguished reputation would be harmed by taking on this position?
Lord Macdonald: I did not think so. If I had, I would not have done it.
Q1024 Chair: When you presented your findings to the News Corp board was Mr Murdoch there?
Lord Macdonald: He chaired it.
Q1025 Chair: Which Mr Murdoch?
Lord Macdonald: Mr Rupert Murdoch. Mr James Murdoch was there as well.
Q1026 Chair: Was Rebekah Brooks there, too?
Lord Macdonald: She is not a member of the board.
Q1027 Chair: Who else was there? Do you remember?
Lord Macdonald: Well, the directors. There were about 20 people. There were a group of directors. The former Prime Minister of Spain, the former chairman-
Q1028 Chair: Was Les Hinton on the board?
Lord Macdonald: No, he wasn’t.
Q1029 Mr Clappison: Could you describe what exactly it was that Harbottle and Lewis asked you to look at, and when was it they asked you to look at it?
Lord Macdonald: No. It was Hickman and Rose who asked me. They said that there was a file of documents and they wanted me to look at them and give the News Corporation board some advice about those documents. Once I had clarified that they weren’t to do with hacking and had the other conversations with Mr Rose that I have alluded to, I was content to do it.
Q1030 Mr Clappison: What were they about? Can you tell us or give us an idea what the subject matter was?
Lord Macdonald: Operation Elveden is an inquiry into corrupt payments to police officers. That inquiry was opened as a result of this file being handed to the police.
Q1031 Mr Clappison: When was that?
Lord Macdonald: 20 June.
Q1032 Mr Clappison: Of what year?
Lord Macdonald: This year.
Q1033 Mr Clappison: This year, 20 June?
Lord Macdonald: That’s when it was handed to the police.
Q1034 Mr Clappison: When was it you were asked to look at it by Hickman and Rose?
Lord Macdonald: May.
Q1035 Mr Clappison: Of this year?
Lord Macdonald: Yes.
Q1036 Mr Clappison: You see one of the points that we have come across in this inquiry, because appearances are important on this, relates to the evidence we had from police officers as to how intimidated they were by News International-I think that’s a fair way of summarising it; that’s the word I would choose to use-and as to how unco-operative News International has been. We had Mr Clarke last week. I don’t know if you heard this part of his evidence. He said: "We pursued it as far as we could through the correspondence with the News of the World lawyers…This is a global organisation with access to the best legal advice, in my view deliberately trying to thwart a police investigation." Can I look at this in the round with you and ask you to consider how your employment as a barrister by News International looking into the activities of its employees might appear to a police officer such as Mr Clarke and to the outside world? How do you think that appears?
Lord Macdonald: He was not talking about legal services at the time when I was involved; he was talking about it at the time of his inquiry in 2005-06.
Q1037 Mr Clappison: I don’t think that that was the impression.
Lord Macdonald: It was.
Q1038 Mr Clappison: He has told us of a pattern of a lack of co-operation all the way through.
Lord Macdonald: Well, I was asked to conduct this single task. All I can say is that the result of it was that the documents were supplied. I have no reason to say that he is wrong in what he says about what was happening in those years. If he says there is a lack of co-operation, I am sure there was.
Q1039 Mr Clappison: He is making the point generally, but I am making the point to you about your position as a former DPP. If I may say, you are obviously a very distinguished barrister with an important post. But you weren’t just any old barrister; you were the former DPP and you were acting on behalf of News International, looking into the activities of their employees. I think that’s a fair summary, isn’t it?
Lord Macdonald: I don’t think that it is. I am sorry to keep saying that I was acting for the News Corp board, but I was not looking into the activities of their employees. I was looking at a file of documents, which had been held by a firm of London solicitors, and was asked to express a view about what should be done with it. I expressed a view.
Q1040 Mr Clappison: Forgive me for asking about this, but the final documents must have related in some way to News Corp because you ended up telling the board all about it. Whatever it was, you were acting on behalf of News Corp, who had been the employers through News International of the employees who had been involved in the original phone-hacking investigation. I appreciate that you did not want to be involved in the phone hacking. You were very clear and explicit about that, and you had that made clear in the newspapers, but you were still acting on behalf of News Corp. Are you happy with the appearance of that?
Lord Macdonald: I do not see any difficulty at all with the appearance. I do a lot of legal work. There is no reason why a former DPP should not work for companies. I do work for companies, for individuals, for governments, for foreign governments. I do not see any difficulty with that at all. Unless there is a conflict-and I did not see one here-
Q1041 Mr Clappison: I am not saying that there is an instant conflict, but you had given advice in matters relating to the same company-a high-profile company-in the past. It is the appearance of it.
Lord Macdonald: I had not given advice.
Q1042 Chair: Mr Clappison was saying that you had oversight of the CPS.
Lord Macdonald: Of the CPS.
Q1043 Chair: At a time when they were dealing with this particular case. An ordinary person switching on the telly and seeing you now acting on behalf of News Corp would think twice about whether that was appropriate.
Lord Macdonald: I am sorry, I don’t agree. If I had thought that, I would not have undertaken this task. I think that the way I undertook it speaks for itself and, as I say, it has resulted in a police inquiry.
Q1044 Steve McCabe: How would you describe your relationship with News International and News Corp during the time that you were the DPP?
Lord Macdonald: I do not think that I had any relationship at all with News Corp. I met and knew some people at News International, as I did at other news organisations. I would sometimes lunch with journalists, so I knew some journalists from News International newspapers such as The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun, but also from all the other newspapers in the normal course of my work. I would meet with legal editors, legal correspondents, crime and security journalists, and we would have discussions about various topics.
Q1045 Steve McCabe: You met Rebekah Brooks twice during that period-once on 19 April while the Metropolitan Police were actively consulting the DPP about possible offences in relation to phone hacking during the first investigation. What was the purpose of your two meetings with Rebekah Brooks?
Lord Macdonald: Sorry, what date was that?
Q1046 Steve McCabe: 19 April 2006.
Lord Macdonald: What sort of meeting was that?
Q1047 Steve McCabe: You declared that you had a meeting with her, and again on 20 February 2007. That was the subject of an FOI request. I was just wondering––
Lord Macdonald: I remember having lunch once with Rebekah Wade, as she was then, but it would simply have been having lunch with her. It would not have been in connection with any casework, obviously.
Q1048 Chair: The point Mr McCabe is making is that that is the time when this company was being investigated, and you were having lunch with a senior member of the company.
Lord Macdonald: I do not think that the company was being investigated. The journalists were being investigated. I am afraid that I can’t remember this meeting. I am sorry. I am sure that it must have been a lunch meeting, but I can assure you that nothing inappropriate would have taken place. I did have lunch with quite a lot of journalists over these years.
Q1049 Steve McCabe: I merely make the point that she was not strictly speaking a journalist at that time, was she?
Lord Macdonald: I think she was actually. I think she was editor of The Sun at that time. In fact, I am sure she was.
Q1050 Chair: In other words, she had executive responsibility.
Lord Macdonald: Yes.
Q1051 Chair: She wasn’t any old journalist.
Lord Macdonald: I take your point.
Q1052 Michael Ellis: When you had your meetings with journalists, and lunch occasionally, was there any preference given to News International?
Lord Macdonald: No.
Q1053 Michael Ellis: None at all?
Lord Macdonald: Absolutely not.
Q1054 Michael Ellis: You did not see more of them than of other newspapers, for example?
Lord Macdonald: I probably saw quite a lot of Frances Gibb, who is the legal editor at The Times. The people I saw most would be Frances Gibb, Joshua Rozenberg, who is at The Daily Telegraph, Clare Dyer who was at The Guardian, and Robert Verkaik who was at The Independent. I would meet them to have meetings, but also occasionally to have lunch. Yes, I would see Frances Gibb quite often.
Q1055 Michael Ellis: You saw these papers when you were instructed to do so-the files that have been referred to, the Harbottle and Lewis file. How big was that file?
Lord Macdonald: I only saw the documents that had been extracted from it that were not connected with phone hacking-
Q1056 Michael Ellis: Some documents had been redacted that related to hacking?
Lord Macdonald: They extracted some documents that were not to do with hacking, and I looked at those. I think there were about nine or 10 e-mails.
Q1057 Michael Ellis: Nine or 10 e-mails?
Lord Macdonald: Yes.
Q1058 Michael Ellis: So how long did it take you?
Lord Macdonald: To read the material I needed to read?
Q1059 Michael Ellis: Yes.
Lord Macdonald: About three minutes, maybe five minutes.
Q1060 Michael Ellis: This is the material, just to make sure-
Chair: You’re not going to ask him for his bill, I hope?
Michael Ellis: No, I am certainly not. I am just establishing that you had no doubt at all about the criminality of the matter and that it needed to be referred to Scotland Yard. Within that, can you say whether you established that there was criminality outside Operation Elveden, the operation to do with police corruption?
Lord Macdonald: The material that I saw that I said should be given to the police was material that has ended up being, I imagine, a part of Operation Elveden.
Q1061 Michael Ellis: So no other criminality was disclosed in your reading of that material, other than Operation Elveden-type material?
Lord Macdonald: I don’t recall seeing any, no.
Q1062 Michael Ellis: And when you brought this to the attention of the board of News Corporation-it was News Corporation?
Lord Macdonald: Yes.
Q1063 Michael Ellis: You say they were very concerned, as were their solicitors?
Lord Macdonald: Yes. They had a lot of different firms of solicitors working for them at that time. I think they were all concerned, as well they might be.
Q1064 Michael Ellis: Is it your position, therefore, that senior police officers who have given evidence to this Committee are exaggerating-
Lord Macdonald: No, not at all. I am telling you what my experience was. I completely respect their experience, and I don’t wish to suggest in any way that they are wrong in what they say. I have to tell you that the material I saw was so blindingly obvious that anyone trying to argue that it shouldn’t be given to the police would have had a very tough task.
Q1065 Dr Huppert: I am not a lawyer, but as I understand it, there is a duty on solicitors and barristers, if they find evidence of criminality, to report it. Is that correct?
Lord Macdonald: I don’t-
Q1066 Dr Huppert: Is there not a duty to the court?
Lord Macdonald: Well, if you were involved in a particular case. I may be wrong about this, but I am not sure there is a broader duty on lawyers to report crimes to the authorities. There may be some other lawyers shaking their heads on the Committee. I don’t know. I am not sure there is, actually.
Q1067 Dr Huppert: Presumably, a number of other lawyers must have looked at the same things that you looked at. What I am trying to understand is whether it was reasonable, in your opinion, for them to have taken no action on it until such time as, a number of years later, you were asked to have a quick look and spent a few minutes observing that it was clearly illegal.
Lord Macdonald: I was not asked to have a quick look; I was asked to look at it. All I am saying is that it did not take me very long. I do not know who else looked at it, and I do not know what Harbottle and Lewis were looking at it for. If they were looking at it in terms of whether it supplied more evidence of phone hacking, that is one question. If they were looking at it for evidence of wider criminality, that is another question.
Q1068 Dr Huppert: If it is only nine or 10 e-mails and it took you a few minutes to read, could somebody have glanced through it to look for phone hacking evidence and not noticed the other evidence of criminality? We are not talking about 11,000 pages; we are talking about a few e-mails.
Lord Macdonald: I don’t think you could have missed it.
Q1069 Dr Huppert: Do you find it surprising that people didn’t comment on it earlier or pass it on?
Lord Macdonald: I can only tell you what my reaction was: that it should be handed to the police.
Q1070 Nicola Blackwood: One of the consistent pieces of evidence that we have received from the senior police officers who have appeared before us-that includes Peter Clarke, who conducted the original 2005-06 investigation, the police officers who conducted the review in 2009 and police officers conducting the current investigation-is that News International has consistently failed to co-operate. The police officers have expressed a continual frustration at their inability to pursue the investigations in the way in which they wished they could, and they have expressed frustration with some laws, including production notices and the like. I am wondering, in the light of that, first, how it chimes with your experience with the News Corp board and, secondly, why this was not raised with you when you were DPP and what advice you would have given to the police in the light of that experience.
Lord Macdonald: To take the last one first, I do not remember any suggestion from the police when I was DPP-that is, from 2003 to 2008-that News International had been obstructive in the original investigation. I do not remember the head of the special crime division ever saying to me that they were facing that sort of obstruction. I am not saying that the police were not, but it was never brought to my attention. How it chimes with my experience-well, I didn’t have that experience, but I was dealing with material that I thought was plainly and obviously destined for the police. It would have been quite difficult, I would have thought, to build a counter-argument. Nevertheless, there was as I said no resistance at all to the advice that I gave. I repeat that I am not trying to undermine anything that those very distinguished officers have said to you earlier, and perhaps to other Committees. No one drew it to my attention at the time if that was happening, and it was not my experience in May and June of this year.
Q1071 Chair: But you were employed by them, so they wouldn’t not co-operate with you, would they? It would be a completely different experience.
Lord Macdonald: It would be a very different experience, yes.
Q1072 Nicola Blackwood: I suppose the confusion in this Committee is that we do not usually expect those suspected of wrongdoing to co-operate easily with the police, but we do expect that the criminal and legal system has ways in which it can impel people to co-operate with the police. We are slightly confused that the response of senior police officers to obstruction by News International was to throw up their hands and say they are thwarting our investigation. That is the appearance of their response. We wonder, as a former and distinguished DPP, what is your assessment of that response?
Lord Macdonald: There are other mechanisms which the police have at their disposal if people are not co-operating. If I am a police officer and I want some documents from someone and they do not produce them, I can either get a production order or, if I have the right grounds to suspect, I can get a warrant to go round and search their premises and seize the documents.
Q1073 Lorraine Fullbrook: Although you are acting on behalf of the board of News Corporation, the papers that alleged the illegal payments to police officers specifically related to the News of the World. Is that not correct?
Lord Macdonald: Yes.
Q1074 Chair: You must be quite pleased that, as a result of what you have done, criminality has been uncovered and that previously this would not have been uncovered. It could have been left in a file at Harbottle and Lewis, such as the bin bags that had the evidence from the first investigation by Mr Clarke. Somehow, all this has come to light.
Lord Macdonald: I don’t want to overdo it. I was engaged as a lawyer to do a piece of work, and I did it.
Chair: I shall allow Mr Reckless to have one more go at you on this. I am sorry, but he is very keen to do so.
Q1075 Mark Reckless: You refer to the trial and how the indictment included cases where it couldn’t be proved that the interception was before the message was picked up. Given that the defendants proved guilty, isn’t one possible interpretation of that that the defence lawyers, like the NPIA, had read section 2(7) of RIPA and knew that it was wasn’t necessary to show that the interception happened before the message was picked up?
Lord Macdonald: It is possible. It was never an issue-there was never any point taken on it, and it was never argued in court. They pleaded guilty, and the court proceeded to sentence.
Q1076 Mark Reckless: You said that the e-mails that you were looking at from Harbottle and Lewis took five minutes to review. Will you tell the Committee how much you were paid by News Corp for that work?
Lord Macdonald: I don’t really want to, if you don’t mind. I have given them other advice about other documents, which have been supportive or not supportive, but I don’t think I should be put in the position of saying that.
Q1077 Mark Reckless: It is your decision, Lord Macdonald, but do you not understand that for the public watching this at home, if you reviewed something that took only five minutes and then reported on it and you received a large sum of money for it, it may at least raise eyebrows?
Lord Macdonald: I don’t want any misunderstanding about this. I have not said that I only did five minutes work on this; I said that it took me five minutes to review those e-mails. There has been other documentation that has been obtained as a result of their internal investigations that either supports or does not support those e-mails, and I have given them advice about that material either going or not going to the police. All the material that supports those e-mails has gone to the police. Indeed, we had a second meeting with the police on 22 June, I think, in which a large file of material was handed over. In addition to that-
Q1078 Chair: Are you still advising them?
Lord Macdonald: Not at the moment, because I am doing it in a traditional barristerial way of brief by brief. I had the original brief. If they want to send me another brief in connection with the payments, then I will consider it when it comes up and consider it again in terms of whether I think there is a conflict.
Q1079 Mark Reckless: Finally, Lord Macdonald, you drew a distinction between this work being for News Corp and News International. Have you also taken payments from News International, for instance in recompense for any articles or journalism in their diaries?
Lord Macdonald: I write for newspapers-The Times, The Guardian-and I think I have written for The Independent. Yes, I write for them, and they pay me for the articles that I write for them. I also wrote for newspapers when I was DPP, although I do not think that I got paid for it then.
Q1080 Chair: You know what is troubling the Committee, Lord Macdonald? We are coming to the end of our evidence session; you are the penultimate witness, there are just two more witnesses after you, and then we will decide on our report. It is that we have seen and heard evidence that former members of the News of the World were working for the Prime Minister and for the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. We have a former DPP advising News Corp-we know that they are different companies, but still advising News Corp-and we have a former Assistant Commissioner writing articles for The Times. It is almost like a job placement scheme-a revolving door-and this worries us. There might not be a problem with individual issues, but collectively it is a worry. Do you see the worry that we have and the perception that is created, that this organisation has so many people in so many places of power that can determine its fate?
Lord Macdonald: I can see that there is a great concern that is shared very widely now about links between the press and other institutions. That is obvious, and I can see that. It may be that what has happened will fundamentally change the landscape. I must say that I don’t believe that the fact that I write articles for, among other newspapers, The Times-and, frankly, usually what I say there is not News International party line, by any means-is an indication of anything untoward happening. My involvement in this recent case, such as it was, resulting in a corruption inquiry into News International by the police, is hardly evidence of me being part of a revolving door and going in to help News International.
Chair: I understand that. I am not suggesting that you are part of the revolving door, but it is a general concern, having looked at it in the round, that of all the people who could actually decide the fate of this company, it has managed to get someone in everywhere. That is what concerns us. No one is accusing you of doing anything improper, I can assure you-and I am sure that Mr Clappison is not.
Q1081 Mr Clappison: You have given very distinguished service, if I may say, including in this matter. As you will gather, it is the appearances that we are concerned about. I have read your articles and I have to say that they are worth every penny.
Lord Macdonald: They don’t pay very much, actually.
Q1082 Mr Clappison: I am going to ask you, Lord Macdonald, if you could say it, because one of your constant themes is wider public scrutiny, you are against secrecy, and you want a scurrilous press, so I am tempted to ask: how much do you get paid for an article by The Times?
Lord Macdonald: I will tell you that. I am paid £500 an article, £400 by The Guardian and I think something like £200 by The Independent.
Q1083 Mr Winnick: You have had a lot of close questioning today about your employment by News Corporation. If you had to do it again, would you have any reflections? Would you do the same or otherwise?
Lord Macdonald: I have not enjoyed some of the stuff in the press about me taking a job as a paid adviser with News International, and giving them advice on phone hacking-even, once in The Guardian or The Observer, that I am advising them about how to deal with civil claims brought by hackers. I have not enjoyed any of that, but I do not have any reason to regret what I did for them and its results.
Q1084 Mr Winnick: You would do it again?
Lord Macdonald: I would do it again, yes.
Q1085 Mr Winnick: Even knowing the criticism, justified or otherwise, that would arise?
Lord Macdonald: The criticism has largely been based on misinformation about what I am actually doing for them. I perhaps should have been clearer from the start about what I was actually doing for them.
Chair: That is why we are so grateful that you have come here. This is an opportunity to put the record straight and, as always, I only asked you to appear yesterday, you readily agreed to do so and we are extremely grateful. Thank you for giving such clear evidence.
Lord Macdonald: Thank you for inviting me.
Examination of Witness
Witness: Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, gave evidence.
Q1086 Chair: Mr Starmer, welcome back. I will not give you a long introduction because you know why we are here. You are very busy and, again, I am also very grateful to you. I only rang you less than 24 hours ago, to ask you to appear. We will not go through all the evidence you have given in the past. We will just pick up on a number of points, and Mr Reckless will obviously pick up on the points that he raised with Lord Macdonald.
Having looked back at what has happened over the last few weeks, and bearing in mind that you were the Director of Public Prosecutions on 9 July 2009, do you think that the CPS had a duty to do more than it did in respect of this case? Do you wake up at night and think, "My goodness, if we had acted more quickly. We have a former DPP giving clear evidence, there was a file which contained issues of criminality that took him three to five minutes to send to the police, and if only the CPS had probed a little more, we wouldn’t be sitting here today, and things would have been very different."?
Keir Starmer: May I answer that by picking up the date of 9 July 2009, and telling the Committee what I did when I first became aware of and seized of this matter, and the approach that I have taken thereafter? That will take me back to the 2006-07 situation.
My first involvement was on or about 9 July 2009. I had no involvement before then. It was not a live issue as far as the CPS was concerned. That is the day on which Mr Yates carried out his exercise. I played no part in that. It was also the day when the Culture, Media and Sport Committee wrote to me asking me to give evidence, which is why it featured for the first time for me. The Guardian was also reporting, I think, that it had access to an e-mail with the name "Neville" on. I think it had perhaps just handed it to a committee. Issues were raised with me for the first time which required me to look to see what had happened in the past. I thought that the right thing to do, as I had no prior knowledge of it, was to ask the then head of the special crime division to examine the material that we, the CPS, had-
Q1087 Chair: On 9 July?
Keir Starmer: That we had on 9 July, yes. That we still had at that stage. I asked them to look at the approach that was taken at the time, and to give me assurances as to the approach that had been taken. I wanted a number of matters looked at.
On 15 July, some six days later, I received a formal submission or report from the head of special crime division with a six-page chronology setting out what had happened in 2006-07, which I obviously read for the first time. It also had a file of material-some 33 annexes-in support of what was being said in the chronology. I looked at that, and asked myself whether it gave me the assurance I needed at that stage as to what had happened. I felt that it did, and perhaps I may briefly set out what the assurances were-
Q1088 Chair: Assurances from whom?
Keir Starmer: Assurances about the CPS’s approach in 2006-07. Obviously, I was not DPP at the time, and I was looking back. The head of special crime division who had done the case at the time had left the CPS.
Q1089 Chair: The name of that person was?
Keir Starmer: Carmen Dowd. The review in 2009 was carried out by Simon Clements, then head of special crime division. What I ascertained from the report that I got on 15 July 2009 was that David Perry QC had been involved from an early stage, and that gave me assurance-he is one of the leading criminal barristers in the country. In particular, I was influenced by a note he had produced, dated 14 July 2009, of his recollection of two questions that he put to the police in conference. Those questions were whether there was any evidence that linked the editor of News of the World to any of the wrongdoing-
Q1090 Chair: The editor of the News of the World being whom at that time?
Keir Starmer: I think it was Mr Coulson. Mr Perry asked that question, and was told no. He asked whether there was any evidence linking Mulcaire with any other journalist at News of the World in relation to the wrongdoing, and he got the answer no.
Q1091 Chair: He got the answer no.
Keir Starmer: He got the answer no. He also said there was no material that he had at the time, in August 2006, which suggested the same. So what I got from the report back to me was a clear indication that senior counsel was involved, that senior counsel had written a note for the purposes of my exercise to tell me he had asked those two questions, and the answers he had received in relation to them.
Q1092 Chair: To whom did he ask the questions?
Keir Starmer: He asked them in conference with the police team carrying out the investigation.
Q1093 Chair: Do we know names of people?
Keir Starmer: I don’t know. I have tried-
Q1094 Chair: Would it be Mr Clarke?
Keir Starmer: I don’t know and it is not helpful for me to speculate.
Q1095 Chair: Could we find out?
Keir Starmer: We certainly can, and he is clear enough about the questions that he asked at the time.
Q1096 Chair: Remind me again, for the record, of the date when this was done.
Keir Starmer: This was done, I think, in August ’06. It was a conference with counsel, the police and the CPS lawyers, as far as I understand it.
Q1097 Alun Michael: And in a note of July 2009.
Keir Starmer: I was looking at July 2009. You asked whether I looked back and considered what had happened at the time. I was looking at what I was being told and trying to draw conclusions from that: I see that senior counsel is involved, which gives me comfort, because I know that David Perry is extremely good. I see that he asks some pertinent questions at the time, and he has recorded for me the answers that he got.
Q1098 Chair: As far as you are aware, from the assurances that you got, did-
Keir Starmer: Can I just complete my comments about the assurances, because they are important? From the chronology and the documents provided to me in July ’09, I understood that briefings had been provided to the DPP and the Attorney-General from May ’06 onwards, so there was high-level oversight of the case, which gave me assurance about what had happened. I understood that victims had been added to the indictment where witness statements supported the fact that they were victims. So wherever there is a witness statement, I supported it. I spoke to my predecessor before 15 July and I-
Q1099 Chair: You spoke to Lord Macdonald.
Keir Starmer: To get his general recollection. To be fair to him, I was phoning at a time when he did not have access to any of the documents, but I just wanted a general impression.
Q1100 Chair: And what was his general impression?
Keir Starmer: That he did not, frankly, remember much about it. I do not have here the note of any conversation with him, and he has just been before you. I also ascertained that the chronology that I was being provided with had been read through to the then head of special crime division, and that she had agreed that it was accurate, because, of course, I had no way of ascertaining that.
Q1101 Chair: So you had this note, you read it and you accepted the assurances.
Keir Starmer: It goes on from there.
Q1102 Mr Clappison: Can we just be very clear about what the assurances were, because there was an interruption?
Keir Starmer: Reflecting, almost, the question that you put to me, my query to myself was: I know nothing about this case; it is the first time that it has come up on my watch. Can I be assured that we adopted the right approach? Short of reopening all the case files and so on, I went through the exercise of looking at-
Q1103 Mr Clappison: What are the points? Can you tell us the two points.
Keir Starmer: The two points?
Q1104 Mr Clappison: The two points on which you got assurance from David Perry, which you referred to.
Keir Starmer: I was assured by the fact that David Perry was instructed and was leading the team-this was a senior, experienced counsel-and I was assured by the questions that he had asked at the time.
Q1105 Mr Clappison: What about the questions?
Keir Starmer: No, please. You asked me what exercise I went through. This is really important, because comments have been made about this.
On 15 July, I drew the conclusion that the approach that we had taken seemed, on the information that I had been given, to be appropriate. There was high-level involvement of people whose judgment I would trust. At that stage I concluded that. The Guardian, I think, then contacted our office and asked some more questions about the Neville e-mail and the contract between Mulcaire, I think, and the News of the World-again, information that it was putting before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. At that time, that was the critical new information. Because it had raised that question, I asked myself, "Has this been dealt with specifically enough?" I went back and asked for those two documents to be specifically drawn up to my attention and I looked at them. It transpired that the contract, which was not particularly important, had always been with the CPS. The Neville e-mail was with the police, but it had probably been on the unused material schedule. I did not stop there; I then asked David Perry to come in and see me.
Q1106 Chair: When did you do that?
Keir Starmer: He came in on 17 July for three hours. I asked him to provide a written advice.
Q1107 Chair: And what did he tell you in those three hours?
Keir Starmer: I asked him: "Given that these two documents are now before us and it is being said by The Guardian and others that they are material new evidence, can you do me a written advice, answering for me first, whether you think you saw them in ’06; secondly, what view you would have taken had you seen them in ’06; and thirdly, what view you now take of them in ’09. And add to that, please, whether you think those two documents are sufficient to allow anyone to be arrested, on the basis of those two documents."
Q1108 Chair: And what did he say?
Keir Starmer: He produced that advice for me. I think it came on 20 July. He answered that he could not be clear whether he had seen it at the time; had he seen it, it would not have affected the approach that he took to the case; if he was asked to advise in ’09, it would not have affected the approach he would have taken to the case; and he did not think it provided the basis for the arrest of anyone in relation to that e-mail.
Now, at that stage, that is all I had to work with. So, by 30 July-some 21 days later-I had concluded for myself that I had not found anything to suggest that what had been done was a wrong approach, and I thought that I had probed as far as I could on what I understood to be the new material at that stage.
Keir Starmer: But I signed off by saying, "Should there be any further material, I’m prepared to go through the same exercise again." I continued with that view and it was in late 2010, early 2011, that I was the first person in fact to say, "I want the entire material held by the CPS and the police to be thoroughly reviewed", and I appointed Alison Levitt QC-
Q1109 Chair: When did you say that and why did you say that?
Keir Starmer: Because I had gone through that assurance exercise, I thought, and looked at what I thought I needed to look at, and drawn conclusions. As the autumn of 2010 rolled out and January 2011 arrived, it was clear enough from me that what was being disclosed in the civil actions was adding considerable cause for concern, and I was concerned. It seemed to me at that point the assurances I had sought and been provided with in July needed to be looked at again.
Q1110 Chair: Right. Which you did.
Keir Starmer: And then I said, "Okay, we need to look at all the information that we have, that the police have, lock stock and barrel, and I need our senior QC to review it from start to finish."
Q1111 Chair: So you did that. Can I just-
Keir Starmer: Well, that is an ongoing process, because that review is being conducted. We are advising the team at the moment on the current investigation, so the two are running together.
Q1112 Chair: Mr Starmer, that is very helpful and thank you. It is very helpful to the Committee. We wish we had had all this information previously.
Keir Starmer: Well, I have tried to put it together.
Q1113 Chair: I know that. But anyway, you have given it to us now.
A number of points arise out of this and I am sure that colleagues will want to come in. We will not detain you too long. But you knew that Mr Yates was doing his eight-hour review on 9 July, because you have made it very clear that you did. At the same time, you were seeking assurances from leading counsel. Did you think of ringing up Mr Yates and saying to him, "By the way, Mr Yates, I gather you’ve done a review that’s lasted, well, a day, because you must watch the television as well and you’re obviously concerned about this. What did you find and what did you do?" Mr Yates has told us he did not seek the advice of the CPS and he did not seek fresh legal advice on his eight-hour review, whereas you were actually doing the review somewhere else.
Keir Starmer: I was not involved in his review. He did not contact me, so far as I can recollect. And his review, I think, was completed that day. Mine was starting that day. Therefore, I was engaging in a different exercise.
Q1114 Chair: I understand that, but considering the closeness of the contact between the CPS and-
Keir Starmer: I did have contact with Mr Yates during the course of my exercise.
Q1115 Chair: Right. When was that?
Keir Starmer: I had phone calls with him on the evening of 17 July and I had a meeting with him on 20 July, the reason being I was concerned about the Neville e-mail.
Q1116 Chair: So after Mr Yates concluded his review and said that he did not think that the case should be reopened, he then had a meeting with you at your request to go through these matters?
Keir Starmer: We had at least two phone calls on 17 July as I was with Mr David Perry QC and we then had a meeting on the Monday morning-20 July. At that point, I was concerned about the Neville e-mail. It was after that that I decided that I had to ask David Perry to give me, as it were, the hypothetical advice, "What would you have done if…?" and "What would you do now?", because I was concerned about it.
Q1117 Bridget Phillipson: There has been a lot of discussion with the police during this, around the unco-operative nature of News International. They found it very difficult getting information out of them, which we found in some ways quite unsatisfactory because you take as a given that sometimes people who may commit criminal offences may not always be willing to co-operate with those seeking to enforce the law. Could you clarify, in terms of the schedule 1 production order, whether this has any bearing on it, in relation to the Mulcaire contract and the Neville e-mail? Were they in the possession of the people carrying out the original inquiry, and were they considered as part of seeking a production order? Could that have helped in any way?
Keir Starmer: I think that, from memory-I can certainly clarify this matter for the Committee if there is any error-the e-mail was seized from Mulcaire when his premises were searched in 2006, and it had been, at least, in the unused material with the police. David Perry says he cannot now remember whether he saw it in 2006, but that is why I asked him to conduct the exercise that I did. So, there was no need for a production order in respect of that. As I understand it, it was material seized consequent to the arrest of Mr Mulcaire.
Q1118 Bridget Phillipson: So it would already have been part of the correspondence entered into between the Metropolitan police and News International, with a view to using that as leverage to gain further access to material.
Keir Starmer: I don’t know. I have not seen all of that correspondence. I just don’t know. I can say that we are advising the current investigative teams on a number of issues, one of which relates to co-operation.
Q1119 Bridget Phillipson: The problem has been that on one hand, the police are talking about how unco-operative News International were, but on the other, the blame seems to be shifting to the CPS-that, really, you were not giving them the back-up that was required in order to pursue News International more vigorously.
Keir Starmer: I do not want to sit here and attribute blame. There is going to be a full judicial inquiry, and you will make your reports. I have tried, throughout this process-last time I appeared, and this time-simply to give a chronological read-out of what happened, as I understand it, in neutral terms, without attributing blame to anyone. As far as I am concerned, this material-the particular material I was looking at in July 2009-had been seized as part of the ordinary search, in any event.
I add that there is an ongoing investigation here. We are being asked for and are giving advice on issues that can broadly come under the umbrella of co-operation.
Q1120 Alun Michael: Following on from Bridget Phillipson’s question, some of our witnesses have been slightly less restrained than you are being, and in effect, some witnesses at the Committee-I am sure you have read the evidence-have suggested that the CPS advice resulted in police inquiries being closed off. What are your comments on that suggestion?
Keir Starmer: Can I deal with that question in this way? Last time I appeared before the Committee, I was asked in detail about the legal advice that had been given in 2006-07. I produced a 10-page letter setting out, chronologically, each piece of advice. As you know, before I submitted evidence to the Committee, I asked Mr Yates whether he thought it was factually inaccurate, and he did not identify any factual inaccuracies. Since then, nobody has come back to me to suggest that that chronology of the legal advice is in any way inaccurate. Nobody has come back to me to say, "You overlooked a particular document."
I read with considerable care the evidence of Mr Peter Clarke, which was given on 12 July to this Committee-it is question 454 and following. He says about the legal advice that he understood that he was being advised by the head of special crime. He understood that the RIPA legislation was untested. He understood that he was getting advice about the misuse of computers Act, and he understood that he was being told that should the interception have been before it was listened to, that was certainly a crime, and if it was after, that was untested.
I then read his evidence-I think it is questions 458 to 459-where he gives the four reasons why he decided that a team would not analyse the 11,000 pages of the Mulcaire diary. Four reasons are there, and one is split into sub-reasons. Legal advice is not there. To me, that is hard to reconcile with the advice that I have heard John Yates give this afternoon, and that I have read in the transcripts. The man who was receiving the advice at the time has given evidence to this Committee, which, in my view, corresponds with everything that I put in my letter and gave last time. That gives me comfort that, as I was looking back to piece it together, I got it broadly right.
Q1121 Alun Michael: One other point of detail. You mentioned that on 14 July 2009, there were questions to the police from David Perry. This was looking at the question of whether there was a link between the editor of the News of the World and any wrongdoing. Your evidence on that was very clear. I just want to understand why that was so specific, because wrongdoing would have been wrongdoing in requiring investigation, even if it was not known to the editor, would it? You were very specific in that phrase.
Keir Starmer: I appreciate that. You could say why did he not ask a more general question about wider wrongdoing. I cannot answer that, but I did see him this afternoon, after I finished watching Mr Yates give his evidence, to prepare for this afternoon, and he said that at the time it occurred to him that the relevant question was, "Did the editor know?". He rather thought that the editor might have known, and that is why he asked that specific question. It is true to say he did not go on to say, "And what about everybody else generally?", but he did ask two quite pointed questions and he got answers to those questions.
What I took in July ’09 from that was that here we had a leading silk who was prepared to ask questions in conference about the material that had been gathered in the investigation. As I said, this afternoon I had a meeting with Mr Perry again, just to make sure that I understood what he meant by that information he gave me in July ’09.
Q1122 Dr Huppert: You have referred quite a bit to the Neville e-mails. You may have seen the Evening Standard today. There is a story that Neville Thurlbeck was an informer for the police in exchange for information from the police national computer. Have you seen that story?
Keir Starmer: To be honest, I have not, because I had booked out as much time as I could today to prepare for this hearing. I got the letter yesterday afternoon. I am not complaining about that, but it meant a major diary reshuffle. I did watch the evidence of Mr Yates, because I was concerned to hear what he may have to say on the subject. I knew it would be of concern to this Committee. I did not watch all the evidence of Sir Paul Stephenson this morning. I had picked up, from a trail, that he had said something, but I have not read the transcript yet.
Q1123 Dr Huppert: To fill you in, essentially Neville Thurlbeck was an informer for the police for a number of years and was given information in exchange from the police national computer to help him with his reporting. Two questions arise from that. First, if the police involved in the investigation knew that, do you think there was a risk that it would have affected their decision as to whether to work out who Neville was? While you think about that briefly, the second question relates to the fact that there has been no conviction for the police passing information from the police national computer to a journalist at News of the World. Is that something that you think we would have the tools to prosecute for at the moment?
Keir Starmer: As for the first question, undoubtedly it would have framed the way the police would have approached any evidence in relation to an informant. I have to say it is hypothetical, because I have not seen it and I have not read it. I was not told he was an informant. I am not sure I needed to have been told. That would have been, presumably, approaching ’06, ’07. It may have framed the way they approached it. The police are always careful in an investigation that involves an informant, for obvious reasons. But I have not seen any documents myself that deal with that aspect of this case.
As for the second question, do we have the tools to deal with essentially corrupt practices in the police or anywhere else? Yes. I do not anticipate that any issues will arise in the ongoing investigation in relation to the tools and powers that we have available.
Q1124 Mr Clappison: I think I can understand why you were so concerned about the Neville e-mail. Can I just take you back to the original trial and investigation leading to the trial? That was for hacking a member of the royal family’s phone, wasn’t it? It was the royal correspondent of the News of the World: Mr Goodman. He stood trial on counts relating to the hacking of members of the royal family, and Mulcaire had done the hacking for him. That is right, isn’t it?
Keir Starmer: Yes.
Q1125 Mr Clappison: The Neville e-mail was in the unused material, yes?
Keir Starmer: Yes.
Q1126 Mr Clappison: This was an e-mail that was marked for Neville, wasn’t it? It was about Mr Gordon Taylor, who was the secretary of the Professional Footballers’ Association. Is that right?
Keir Starmer: Yes.
Q1127 Mr Clappison: And it was relating to some private matters of his which we can only speculate about.
Keir Starmer: I am not sure that the e-mail made that clear. I think that the e-mail tended to suggest that a transcript was attached, or it was certainly referred to from memory. I am not sure that it had the details, but the significance was that it appeared to be an e-mail with Neville’s name on, referring to a transcript. That was what concerned me about it.
Q1128 Mr Clappison: Would you say that that is something that would immediately lead to a suspicion?
Keir Starmer: It concerned me.
Q1129 Mr Clappison: Because it had come from Mulcaire, hadn’t it?
Keir Starmer: No, I am not sure that it had come from Mulcaire. I think that this Committee may have the e-mail, so you can check the details. Certainly, it was of concern that here was an e-mail that appeared either to attach or make reference to a transcript and had the name "Neville" on it. That is why I asked David Perry to give me further advice in 2009 as to what significance he attached to it. I accept the premise of the question that you put to me.
Q1130 Mr Clappison: I can understand why you were concerned about it. Did you ask the police officers at the time if they had suspicions about this and what had they done about it?
Keir Starmer: I have done my best to piece together what happened in that period during the course of today. There are further documents that I need to check. I did have meetings with the police at the very time that I was concerned about the Neville e-mail, but in the time that has been available, I have not looked at each and every record. I was certainly raising it with David Perry at the time and that was uppermost in my mind in the period of 17 July to 20 July.
Q1131 Mr Clappison: Were you told if this matter had been investigated or not?
Keir Starmer: I do not know without double checking. I am certainly prepared to look at any further documents. I have been trying to piece together these relevant documents today. I can certainly have another look and help the Committee if I can.
Q1132 Mr Clappison: Did you raise this with Mr Yates when he was doing his review?
Keir Starmer: From my reading of Mr Yates’s evidence, his review was finished on 9 July.
Q1133 Chair: On the same day?
Keir Starmer: Yes. All of this for me was post-9 July. I certainly had conversations with Mr Yates-as I said, according to the records I have got, at least on 17 July by telephone and face to face on 20 July. The thing that was uppermost in my mind at the time was the Neville e-mail.
Q1134 Mr Clappison: There was not the problem with the Neville e-mail as to whether somebody had already listened to the message or not because you presumably did not know that.
Keir Starmer: This is the other point about the legal advice and whether it can constrain the investigation. There is the chronology of the legal advice-that is one thing. The other is the logic of the situation. Before you conduct the full investigation, you do not know whether you are going to get evidence that relates to a message that is listened to before or after it is listened to. I cannot see how an investigation can be constrained, even on an understanding that the narrow view is the view, because you do not know before you start what you are going to find. Therefore, you cannot say at the outset, "We are not going to investigate because we don’t know what we will find" because you may find evidence that satisfies even the narrow view. I have always had that fundamental difficulty with the suggestion that it was the legal advice that constrained the investigation. I note that Mr Clarke did not put that forward as his reason at all.
Q1135 Mr Clappison: Did it make you worried that in fact it might not just be confined to the royal family? Here was a football person who had been investigated for football matters. There might be a whole lot of other things that had not been investigated as well.
Keir Starmer: In relation to the legal advice, all I have been able to do is look back. I was not there at the time. My evidence on the chronology of what happened is exactly as it was before. Logically, I am struggling with the idea that an investigation is constrained at the outset, or before being expanded, because of legal advice, unless the legal advice is that you cannot go there at all.
Chair: Thank you. Mr McCabe has a quick question and then Mr Reckless has a quick question and then we will conclude.
Q1136 Steve McCabe: It is very quick. I just want to understand this. In your judgment, when you spoke to Mr Yates after 9 July, is there any way he could have failed to understand that you had some concerns after he had concluded his mini review? We know that he did not speak to you at the time, but you had some conversation with him subsequently. At that point, is there any way he could have failed to understand that you were expressing some additional concerns?
Keir Starmer: I do not think so. I have been trying to remember back. I had a three-hour meeting with Mr Perry on this issue. It was obvious that that was of concern to me. I spoke to Mr Yates twice early that evening. I then had a meeting with him the next Monday morning. This concern was my concern at that time. That is why I was spending time with counsel on it.
Mark Reckless: Mr Yates-
Chair: Mr Starmer.
Q1137 Mark Reckless: I was going to start a question. Mr Yates has told us that prosecution counsel led by Sir David saw all this unused material and then gave, according to Mr Yates, an unequivocal view that, as well as speaking to the News of the World journalist-to the police about no link between Mulcaire and News of the World, that was also his view on the basis of having seen all this unused material.
Chair: We do not want a long answer; we want a succinct answer. Did leading counsel see this information as Mr Yates said or not?
Keir Starmer: No. I have spoken to David Perry QC this afternoon. The quotation in Mr Yates’s letter that he put before this Committee on, I think, Monday or Friday of last week quotes an extract from Mr Perry’s note to me, but that was in August ’06, when at that stage only limited information had been given to the CPS. So what Mr Perry was referring to was the information that he had at that stage seen.
Q1138 Chair: So he had not seen what was unused.
Keir Starmer: He was not signing off that he had seen all the material. This is where the chronology is absolutely critical. I am sorry about the long answer, but if you elide a statement and put it in the wrong place in the chronology, it makes it look as if something happened when it did not. Read properly and in context, it does not support Mr Yates’s contention that David Perry saw this material. He has told me this afternoon that he did not.
Q1139 Chair: So Mr Yates is wrong.
Keir Starmer: It is true and fair to say that junior counsel would have had access to the unused material. We are currently going through the schedules of the unused material to try to ascertain exactly what was there and what was looked at. But Mr Perry’s note cannot be read as implying that he looked at all the material. He has told me this.
Chair: That is very helpful.
Q1140 Mark Reckless: You are now telling us that the junior counsel did not look at all this unused material.
Keir Starmer: No, I am not saying that. We are going through the process of ascertaining-
Chair: Then not now.
Keir Starmer: No. Ascertaining what was available then and what is available now when there is a huge amount of information coming to light. We are advising in real time on the police. It is the devil’s own job. We are doing it and we will, when we finish that exercise, be able to say, "This was precisely what was seen at the time and this is all the new material." But we have not finished that exercise.
Q1141 Mark Reckless: Looking at this Mulcaire material, if we see in that News of the World journalist names and phone numbers with pin codes, that is compelling evidence that a phone has been hacked, but it is not compelling evidence as to whether the hacking was before or after the recipient picked up the message.
Keir Starmer: I think it is highly unlikely that the documentary evidence would give very much of a clue about that. I do not know without looking, but I think it is pretty unlikely.
Q1142 Mark Reckless: All you did in relation to the legal advice was look at what happened back, but did you not in addition-I will not read this a fourth time-give an assurance to the DCMS Committee?
Chair: You know the point he is making.
Keir Starmer: I know the point you are making.
Q1143 Mark Reckless: Do you want to change the evidence you gave to DCMS?
Keir Starmer: I tried to deal with it in the letter I gave. That was clumsy because I was dealing with what I understood to be the advice at the time. To be fair, I wrote my evidence on the back of-
Q1144 Chair: What is not clumsy now? Tell us frankly.
Keir Starmer: I had a conversation with David Perry. The legal advice was not a big issue at the time. He had not the papers before him and I noted what I understood he was saying. What I wrote in ’09 was my understanding of the cautious approach that was being taken, namely that it is a dead cert in this situation, but not if it is beyond. That, if you like, was me trying to interpret at some speed what David Perry was telling me happened at the time. On reflection, I accept-I understand why you make the point-that, compared with the later analysis that I have done, the advice that was actually given needs to be considerably nuanced to explain it in its context. I accept that. That was an error between me and counsel working at some speed.
Q1145 Mark Reckless: This is my final question. You have put a lot of stress now on the uncertainty as to the legal position, and how it has not been tested in court, but is not that argument circular, to the extent that it has not been tested in court because the CPS has been putting up such a high hurdle for the police to get a case there?
Keir Starmer: No. What we said at the time is that it certainly did need to be resolved. What I have done is to make it absolutely clear on my watch that the fact that it is unclear should not inhibit an investigation. The investigation should be carried out, and we will then come to the legal interpretation. I would not, at the moment, be inclined not to prosecute for fear of a narrow interpretation.
Q1146 Chair: Very quickly, in terms of your press office at the CPS-we have asked this of all the witnesses-do you have any former News of the World journalists working in your press office?
Keir Starmer: No, but I want to be clear to the Committee: we have one member of staff who, years previously, had worked freelance for The Times. We also have one member of staff who, 20 years ago, worked with Mr Coulson on a local newspaper. That is the inquiry I have made.
Q1147 Chair: And since you have been DPP-are you satisfied that your contacts with News International do not compromise you in your position as the DPP?
Keir Starmer: Absolutely. They would not be involved in case decisions in any event.
Chair: Thank you very much. We are most grateful; that was very helpful. May we have our final witness, Mr Lewis?
Examination of Witness
Witness: Mark Lewis, Solicitor Advocate, Taylor Hampton Solicitors Ltd, gave evidence.
Chair: Thank you for being patient, Mr Lewis. This will not take long, you will be very pleased to know. You are our last witness in the inquiry. I want to ask you a few questions from the victims’ point of view. From what you have heard, and the evidence you have seen so far to the Select Committees-I think you were in for the evidence earlier on-what is your take on why we have not got to the bottom of this issue earlier, from the victims’ point of view?
Mark Lewis: From any point of view, including that of the victims, it is not just about assisting police with their inquiries. The DPP seems to have got it wrong, and perhaps needs to be helped out. The evidence then was that it was members of the royal family that the prosecution related to, but that was not correct. It was members of the royal household, not members of the royal family. There was a prosecution of Clive Goodman in respect of the royal household members, and there was a prosecution of Glenn Mulcaire in respect of the royal household members and in respect of five non-royal victims, one of whom was Gordon Taylor. I acted for Gordon Taylor in the first place. I know a little bit, and can probably answer some of the questions that were asked of the previous witness.
What happened was that the "for Neville" e-mail was a story that was written out beforehand. It was provided by the Metropolitan police pursuant to an order for third-party disclosure to my firm at the time as part of the Gordon Taylor civil case, which the DCMS is now looking at. That was there. The police at the time, for whatever reason-I have already made written submissions-did not look into the fact that there was only one Neville working at the News of the World and so on.
Q1148 Chair: Indeed. So is it your overall view that each of the agencies involved-the police, the CPS and others-did not do their job adequately in order to get to the bottom of this problem?
Mark Lewis: Quite clearly they did not, because the documents were there.
Q1149 Chair: Do you think that it was deliberate, or was it just disorganisation?
Mark Lewis: There were many reasons. Some things have to be investigated, in respect of the police’s involvement. There have been a number of resignations in the past few days, but I was actually the first person to lose their job over the hacking scandal. I lost my job two years ago, because I was not prepared to say, "No, I do not want to take this further."
Q1150 Chair: You lost your job with whom?
Mark Lewis: I lost my job as a solicitor. I was a partner in a law firm in Manchester. It did not want to pursue this case any further. In hindsight, the firm probably realises that it was worth pursuing. I was the person under the threat of an injunction from News International to stop me talking out. They did not proceed with the application for the threatened injunction after I gave evidence in September 2009. I find myself in possession-I have copies for the Committee-of a letter from Carter-Ruck solicitors threatening to sue me on behalf of the former Assistant Commissioner, John Yates. Well, he didn’t threaten to sue me; he just warned me off and referred to the evidence I had given to this Committee in writing. I am not sure that is constitutionally the right thing to do, but whatever the position was, what is worrying is that he threatened to sue The Guardian. He threatened to sue Chris Bryant, an MP. The costs of that action were paid for by the Metropolitan Police Authority, or by the taxpayer. That is a part of this that really ought to be investigated properly.
Chair: That is very helpful. I think we would like a copy of that letter.
Q1151Michael Ellis: We would like a copy of the letter, but can I just clarify? You are saying that you were threatened with a civil suit, presumably for defamation or libel, for what you said in a Committee of the House of Commons?
Mark Lewis: No. What happened was that I made comments earlier this year that suggested that Mr Yates ought to resign when Operation Weeting started, because I considered that the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport had been misled about the evidence that could have been found if the investigation by Assistant Commissioner Yates had taken slightly longer than eight hours and looked at paperwork that was held. Instead of that being taken on board and pursued, when I gave written evidence here-when I made that comment-I got a letter saying I wasn’t going to be sued. I think the reason why I wasn’t going to be sued is that I would have defended the claim and said exactly what the position was.
As for other people, The Guardian newspaper was threatened with being sued. I got the letter-you will see the letter; it might be helpful-that refers to the evidence that I gave to the Home Affairs Committee, warning me off for my future conduct. My reply-I will read out an extract-was, "Notwithstanding your gracious acceptance of my constitutional right to give evidence, I should be entitled to do so without such evidence appearing in a warning letter from your firm. Am I meant to be fearful of making future submissions?"
Chair: That is extremely helpful, and we would very much like a copy.
Q1152 Mr Winnick: The legal firm that you worked for-what case was it that they didn’t want to pursue and you did?
Mark Lewis: I had acted in the Gordon Taylor case and the other two, the first three phone hacking cases. When The Guardian exposed it, there were obviously people who wanted to pursue other claims. My firm, as it was, took the view that they didn’t want to pursue any phone hacking claims, so I was given an hour to give an undertaking that I would not act for anybody else in phone hacking or be expelled as a partner. I was expelled as a partner because I wouldn’t give that undertaking.
Q1153 Mr Winnick: Did they give any reasons why they didn’t want to pursue it?
Mark Lewis: I was expelled as a good leaver because, I think, they were fearful of the future ramifications of getting involved in something like this.
Q1154 Mr Winnick: As far as Mr Yates is concerned, how did the correspondence originate?
Mark Lewis: What happened was that after I had given evidence to DCMS in 2009, Baroness Buscombe of the Press Complaints Commission decided to speak out against me. She effectively accused me of lying to the Select Committee, because I had suggested that I had had a conversation with a police officer who told me that there were 6,000 victims. At that time, it was known that there were a handful of victims. People might look at it now and say, "Of course there were thousands of victims," but one has to go back to that time.
Q1155 Mr Winnick: She accused you of lying?
Mark Lewis: She accused me of lying. The basis on which I was accused of lying was a bit like Neville Chamberlain, but modernised. Instead of having in her hand a piece of paper, she said, "I have in my hand a letter from the Metropolitan police, and e-mails to confirm." That was the modern touch. I requested copies of the e-mails and a copy of the letter under the Data Protection Act. Basically, I had been set up by the Metropolitan police, providing information to the PCC, in order for a speech to be made about me to the great and the good at the Society of Editors dinner.
I ended up suing the PCC and Baroness Buscombe, who is still in her job but very silent at the moment. She paid me damages. I do still have a libel case that is in action against the Metropolitan police, because they facilitated the defamation of me. The Met police applied to strike out my claim on various issues two or three months ago, but they lost and have had to pay me costs. But that case is still proceeding, and it will be determined whether the evidence I gave the first time in 2009 was of a conversation I had had with the police officer. I said that he told me there were something like 6,000 victims of phone hacking: "You do not need everything. We’ll give you enough to hang them."
Mark Lewis: The police officer does not admit-he denies-having said that. He admits to the conversation, but says that he did not tell me anything about numbers and that what he said was: "Not enough to hang them. I’ll give you enough to load your gun." I am not sure that the choice of weapons helps.
Chair: Mr Lewis, that has been very, very helpful. Thank you very much. You have given us copious written evidence, which you will be pleased to know we are going to include in our report. Thank you very much for coming here today.
Also, we have noticed the fact that you have acted on behalf of the Dowler family. Would you pass on to them this Committee’s commiserations over what has happened? I congratulate you on the way in which you have represented them and dealt with all these very difficult matters. Please tell them that they have our good wishes at this very sad time. What has happened to them and their daughter has been truly horrific; I think that everyone is agreed about that. Please pass on our best wishes.
Mark Lewis: Thank you. I will do.