Morning Hearing on 13 December 2011

Lawrence Abramson and Julian Pike gave statements at this hearing

Hearing Transcript

(11.30 am) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Jay, I'm very sorry to everybody for keeping them. I was not in control of my own timetable. MR JAY The first witness today, please, is Mr Lawrence Abramson. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR LAWRENCE HOWARD ABRAMSON (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Sit down, please, Mr Abramson, and make yourself comfortable. Can you provide us with your full name?
A. It's Lawrence Howard Abramson.
Q. You have a file we have prepared for you and in that file, under tab 2, you will find your first witness statement, which you dated 23 September.
A. Yes.
Q. And your second witness statement in its final incarnation is dated 8 December; is that right?
A. I'm sure it is, yes.
Q. It's under tab 7?
A. Yes.
Q. There's a statement of truth which you've appended to both witness statements. Subject to a minor correction you wish to make to paragraph 7 of your first witness statement, is this your evidence, Mr Abramson?
A. It is, yes.
Q. The correction you wish to make, on my understanding, if you look at paragraph 7, 01128, the first page of your first witness statement, you wish to correct the date as to when you first started working for News which, of course, is News International and other related companies. You wish to correct that date, as I understand it?
A. Yes.
Q. To when?
A. It seems to be 2005 when I did my first piece of work for News.
Q. You, of course, are a solicitor. You were a partner at a firm called Harbottle Lewis as from 1 September 1998; is that right?
A. That's right, yes.
Q. And you left in May 2010 to join another firm; is that correct?
A. That's correct.
Q. Your specialism or specialisms, please, Mr Abramson?
A. I'm a litigator and I have particular expertise in the media and entertainment industries.
Q. Thank you. Now, waiver of privilege that's legal professional privilege has been given in relation to your evidence. For the purpose of preparing either or both witness statements, did you have access to Harbottle Lewis files?
A. I did, yes. Not the original but a photocopy of it.
Q. On 9 May 2007, if I can take you back to then
A. Yes.
Q. were you approached by Mr John Chapman of News International to perform a particular task?
A. I was, yes.
Q. Was there a telephone conversation on that day which is evidenced by an entry in your daybook, which we know is LHA5?
A. Yes.
Q. Under our tab 8. The transcript of it is 33448.
A. Yes, I have it.
Q. Can we run through this and see what interpretation you can provide?
A. Yes.
Q. It is necessarily elliptical since these are notes presumably you were taking during the course of the conversation, Mr Chapman, or
A. That's right, yes.
Q. "Work cut off emails." Do you know what that means?
A. I think he's telling me that he has a new piece and work and that he's telling me that some of the emails that he's about to give me access to have been cut off.
Q. In what sense cut off, please?
A. They're incomplete. We see that on the file itself. They end in the middle of a sentence, middle of a line, and they just don't go any further.
Q. Is that due to some IT glitch or did you have any idea why they were cut off?
A. It must have been some IT glitch at News. We were given access to the server, not the actual emails themselves, so there had to be some IT issue there.
Q. Fair enough. Then it says: 2 others." Can you help us with that?
A. Yes. I the short answer is I don't remember exactly what was being said at the time, but doing the best I can, I believe that he's telling me that Mr Goodman has made allegations that two others were aware of his activities.
Q. Fair enough. Mulcaire on books. Got paid TT plus cash." I think we can work out what that might be.
A. Very well.
Q. Then "cut off" again LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Help me with "TT", Mr Jay. MR JAY Telegraphic transfer.
A. That's right. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR JAY We know he was getting paid, under the contract, something in the region of 105,000 a year on a monthly basis, so that's probably a reference to that, and the cash maybe I should ask you about the cash. What understanding did you have about the cash?
A. He told me that Mulcaire was paid by News, both by telegraphic transfer and by cash.
Q. Yes. The "cut off", is that another reference to the cut-off emails?
A. I think so, yes.
Q. And then: "Other journalists used Mulcaire."
A. Yes, he was telling me that there were other journalists at News that used Mulcaire. Mulcaire was a private investigator, so I don't think he was telling me that other journalists used Mulcaire for phone hacking, but he's telling me that other just journalists are using Mulcaire for quite legitimate
Q. You think for legitimate or illegitimate reasons?
A. I don't know one way or the other but I think he's telling me that other journalists use Mulcaire for legitimate reasons. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm sorry, I've not got from this note the word "phone hacking" yet at all.
A. Sir, that's probably correct, but this what is not a complete transcript of what he's telling me. This is me making notes of things I might need to remember later. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I see. MR JAY The context is that we know from other evidence that Messrs Mulcaire and Goodman by this stage had received prison sentences on 26 January 2007 for phone hacking offences. Were you aware of that when you spoke to
A. Oh yes, that would have been the first thing he would have told me, "I'm calling you about Clive Goodman."
Q. So the context there is phone hacking or is it more general? Can you recall?
A. At this stage in the conversation, I'm probably not clear where it's going. He's giving me background information. He's explaining a few things that he that I need to be aware of and then he's going to tell me what he wants me to do.
Q. Yes. Well, we're going to see his letter of 10 May.
A. I think he would have told me that he's putting all this in writing anyway, so I'm only making a few scribbled notes to help me along because I know there's an email coming with a more full set of instructions.
Q. I understand: "Alexander is code name." I'm continuing with this exhibit. That, we know, is the code name for Mr Mulcaire.
A. For Mulcaire.
Q. Then the next sentence it's not even a sentence: "Concern not to provoke Mulcaire?" What does that mean?
A. News were concerned not to he's telling me that they're concerned not to provoke Mulcaire either by Mulcaire making the same sort of allegations that Goodman was making, or, conversely, by Goodman's allegations provoking Mulcaire. That was obviously a concern that News had.
Q. "How do we contain it?"
A. What he's telling me there is that News are concerned to contain the publicity that will inevitably arise from Clive Goodman making allegations that there were others at News that were aware of his activities.
Q. So this related to what Goodman might say, and what Mulcaire might say as well; is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. Then the final fragment in LHA5: "Blank emails."
A. It's the same point as the cut-off emails and we see in the file there are some emails that are just blank. He's saying, "Don't be alarmed, that's how they are."
Q. An email arrived the following day from Mr Chapman. It's in LHA2, which is your tab 4, and it's our document 01171.
A. Yes.
Q. I don't know how good a copy this is.
A. It's not a very good copy, but I'm familiar with the email.
Q. There's a better one directly underneath your tab 11.
A. Actually, there's one on the screen as well. Yes, that's a better one. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just be careful. I think we just ought to leave this one onscreen because I notice the one on screen is redacted.
A. It is. MR JAY 01171 is the one we're going to be looking at, as it were, publicly, and we're going to be quite careful with some names. I'm not going to mention them, in other words, Mr Abramson.
A. Yes.
Q. But these are your instructions, that on 5 February 2007 you're told by Mr Chapman: "We terminated the employment of Clive Goodman, the royal correspondent of News of the World, following his imprisonment for conspiracy to intercept voicemail messages." There's reference to Mr Mulcaire. You're faxed a copy of the termination letter and then other letters, one of which we'll look at in a moment. "The letter of 14 March requests certain emails which Goodman believed to be potentially relevant to his appeal. This request was refused. However, both myself and Daniel Cloke, our head of HR, went through all the emails fitting into the above categories which our IT department were able to recover from archive. The purpose of this exercise was to find any evidence in such emails to support the contentions made by Goodman in his letter of 2 March, paragraphs I and II ie that his illegal actions were known about and supported [words redacted] and that [words redacted] and others were carrying out similar illegal procedures. We found nothing that amounted to reasonable evidence of either of the above contentions. Because of the bad publicity that could result in an allegation in an employment tribunal that we had covered up potentially damaging evidence found on our email trawl, I would ask that you or a colleague carry out an independent review of the emails in question and report back to me with any findings of material that could possibly tend to support either of Goodman's contentions. We will make available to you access to the emails in question as soon as possible." So your brief, as it were, was to identify material that could possibly tend to support either of Goodman's contentions. Do you see that?
A. Yes.
Q. Quite a low standard of proof?
A. In material in the emails.
Q. Yes. So we see the background, News International's letter to Mr Goodman, which is referred to here, was sent on 5 February 2007, and it's our document 01174.
A. I'm sorry, where do I find that?
Q. It's under tab 4 in your bundle.
A. Thank you.
Q. Just a few pages later on.
A. Tab 4, did you say?
Q. It's under tab 4 in your bundle.
A. It's the same
Q. Tab 4. I'm working from the tabs on the far right-hand side, Mr Abramson.
A. I'm sorry, tab 4 in my bundle is LHA2.
Q. That's correct.
A. Yes, I'm sorry, I have it, yes.
Q. This is from Mr Hinton to Mr Goodman on 5 February terminating I'm paraphrasing this Mr Goodman's employment but and this is the third paragraph: given your unblemished and frequently distinguished years of service it's been decided that upon your termination you will receive one year's salary." Do you see that?
A. I do, yes.
Q. Mr Goodman's appeal letter, which we have in redacted form, is really the next document, 01176.
A. Yes.
Q. Where he makes, as it were, four points the. The first point is: "The decision is perverse is because my actions were carried out with the full knowledge and approval of [redacted names]."
A. Yes.
Q. "The decision is inconsistent because other members of staff were carrying out the same illegal procedures." The third point relates to Mr Crone, as does the fourth point.
A. Yes.
Q. So you were looking at the emails in this context. On 14 May, you sent a standard retainer letter to Mr Chapman, which is directly under your tab 6. It's our document 01285.
A. Yes.
Q. In which you set out the basis of your charging, et cetera.
A. Yes.
Q. You were reviewing, pursuant to this instruction, approximately 2,500 emails for a particular purpose; is that correct?
A. Yes. I'm not sure the figure of 2,500 was something that was communicated to me at the time, but certainly I'm aware of that now.
Q. Was that review undertaken by you or by those for whom you were responsible under your supervision?
A. It was a team of junior lawyers, two paralegals and one trainee under my supervision.
Q. Could you confirm, please, in general terms what emails, if any, you saw at this stage?
A. The emails I at this stage? None. I went onto the server just to check that it worked. Are you asking me during the course of the exercise?
Q. Yes.
A. The emails I saw were those that were brought to my attention by the junior lawyers. They did the initial trawl and they would bring to my attention anything that they were concerned about, using quite a conservative approach to make sure that nothing fell through the net. There were also a bundle of emails that arrived about roughly halfway through the process from Daniel Cloke in hard copy that he wanted me to look at.
Q. I'll ask you a little bit more about that in a moment. You wrote a letter to the Select Committee on 24 August of this year, which is under tab 3 in this bundle.
A. Yes.
Q. Can I just ask you, please, about the last paragraph on the first page of the letter, which is our document 01133.
A. Yes.
Q. We see there that on 24 May, you had a longer conversation with Mr Chapman lasting between 18 and 24 minutes: "Having reviewed a limited number of emails that the junior emails had produced to me, I was able to satisfy myself in most instances that they fell outside the scope of what Harbottle Lewis have been instructed to consider. There remain somewhere in the order of a dozen emails that I had a query about. I therefore spoke to John Chapman and discussed these emails with him, and during the course of that conversation, John Chapman explained and I accepted why those emails fell outside the scope of what News International instructed Harbottle Lewis to consider." So can we be slightly more precise about these emails? Do these emails fall outside the relevant date or are these emails irrelevant emails?
A. It's not that they fell outside at this stage, the ones I'm talking to Mr Chapman about on 24 May don't fall outside the date range. They fell outside what I had been asked to consider because they did not support Mr Goodman's allegations of others being aware of his phone hacking activities. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What was your concern about them?
A. My concern, sir, was that I was aware that there was a possibility that this matter might reach an employment tribunal and that News would have much wider disclosure obligations if that happened than they would have just responding to the documents that Clive Goodman had asked for, and I felt that these emails showed News, for one reason or another, in an unfavourable light and were the sort of emails that I had to flag up to them, that: "If this came to a tribunal and you had to disclose these, they could result in adverse publicity for you." MR JAY You deal with this in paragraphs 19 to 21 of your second witness statement.
A. Yes.
Q. Which is under our tab 6. I think it's going to be document 33444. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON How about tab 7? MR JAY It's tab 7, yes.
A. Yes. I'm sorry, which paragraphs did you say?
Q. 19 to 21.
A. Yes.
Q. Paragraph 20. You were asked some questions specifically on the letter to the Select Committee we have just looked at. In paragraph 20, you say: "There were some emails that I brought to Mr Chapman's attention even though they did not show evidence of knowledge by others of phone hacking by Clive Goodman or show that others were engaged in similar illegal activities or were slightly outside the date range I had been asked to look in. This was because, having seen them, I wanted to ensure that Mr Chapman was aware of them in the event that the matter ever proceeded on to an ET, because in my view they contained potentially confidential or sensitive matters that News may not want to have to give disclosure of." Are you able to give us any idea of what these emails were about, apart from the fact that they might be potentially embarrassing?
A. I'm hesitating because I know you don't want to go into the content of the emails. They showed confidential sources, concerns not to reveal sources. They revealed cash payments will you stop me if you say something you don't want I'm not supposed to
Q. Yes.
A. They revealed quite an active involvement in Clive Goodman's prosecution. They showed the trying to influence the way the prosecution was being conducted or the defence was being conducted. And there is one email that's been redacted that I thought would not reflect well on
Q. Yes, I'll stop you there, Mr Abramson. I think that's a sufficient flavour. Can I be clear, though, about one matter, and I just want you to answer this question, please, "yes" or "no". At this stage and we're on 24 May 2007 had you seen any emails which went back as far as the year 2003?
A. No.
Q. So is this right: the earliest email you saw went back to 2005, possibly?
A. Yes, I believe that's right.
Q. Thank you. There's one slightly earlier document which you don't mind me referring to, Mr Abramson. It's under your tab 11, dated 16 May 2007. It's our number 20039.
A. Yes.
Q. This is an attendance note which covers the issue of unfair dismissal, which possibly was outside your specific area of expertise
A. Absolutely. I'd brought in another assistant to provide the advice on that.
Q. Was the concern at this stage, aside from the merits of any unfair dismissal claim, to limit any adverse publicity which might arise from whatever Mr Goodman might say in the ET proceedings?
A. Yes, I think that's right.
Q. You, I think indeed I know gave a draft of your advice to Mr Chapman for consideration by him before it would be formalised?
A. That's right, yes.
Q. It is a document which, unfortunately, because of what it contains, we can't put up on the screen. It hasn't been redacted. But in order to identify it, it is 20087, and you will find it under tab 11.
A. Yes.
Q. What we see here is that at 13.13 hours on 25 May it says: "Draft for discussion this pm." It's been sent on your behalf to Mr Chapman. "Draft for discussion this pm. We have, on your instructions, searched the emails that you were able to let us have access to from the accounts And then I'm not going to mention names. "I confirm that we did not find any evidence that proved that [notionally redacted names] knew that Clive Goodman, Glenn Mulcaire or any other journalists at the News of the World were engaged in illegal activities prior to their arrest." The final advice was given on 29 May. Again, it can't be put on the screen. It's page 20134 and under the self-same tab 11. Do you see that?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. After the names, which have been notionally redacted, you say: "I can confirm that we did not find anything in those emails which appear to us to be reasonable evidence that Clive Goodman's illegal actions were known about Et cetera.
A. Yes.
Q. Your instructions, given to you on 10 May, had set out a slightly lower test, "possibly tend to support" rather than "reasonable evidence". Do you recall that?
A. Yes. I see the difference in the wording, yes.
Q. Do you think that there is a difference between the two formulations?
A. Yes. Yes, I can see well, there's plainly a difference in the two formulations.
Q. Had you asked yourself the question: "Was there evidence which possibly tended to support either of Goodman's contentions?" might your advice have been any difference?
A. In the emails that I had seen at that point, probably not. I don't think there would have been.
Q. Fair enough. We know from other evidence and I think I can take this quite shortly that it wasn't until 29 June 2007 that your firm received from the Central Criminal Court the transcript of Mr Justice Gross' sentencing remarks delivered on 10 January 2007; is that right?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think he got the whole transcript.
A. We got the transcript of the what I would call the judgment first, and then I wasn't aware of this until very recently, but it does appear that we got the full transcript of that day as well. MR JAY Yes. We know from what Mr Justice Gross said that in relation to counts 16 to 20, which were not the Goodman/Mulcaire counts but were counts relating to five other targets, that Mr Justice Gross referred generally to others at News International with whom Mr Mulcaire might have been working.
A. Yes.
Q. Do you follow me?
A. Yes.
Q. Had you had Mr Justice Gross' remarks available when you advised on 29 May 2007, might your advice have been any different?
A. My advice was limited to the content of the emails. So I don't think it would have been.
Q. Okay. Can I go back, please, to your second witness statement. Paragraph 23.
A. Yes.
Q. You indicate what your approach was and you have explained that approach to us. We need your help with a further batch of emails, which you refer to in paragraph 25.
A. Yes.
Q. Which were printed out on 24 May 2007. Did those emails relate back to an earlier period of time, namely 2003?
A. They did, yes.
Q. Were those emails considered by you at this stage, namely at all material times between 24 May 2007 and, say, the end of June 2007?
A. No, I don't believe they were.
Q. It's clear from your witness statement that those emails were considered by others in your office, is this right, working under your supervision?
A. Yes.
Q. And were attempts made by them to draw those matters to your attention, if I can put it in that general way?
A. Yes.
Q. It's clear from what you're saying in paragraphs 28 to 30 of your witness statement that owing to the intervention of a holiday and other considerations, and having regard to your billing records, which you have looked at, you're sure that you did not look at the 2003 emails which I'm referring to rather obliquely and generally; is that correct?
A. "Sure" is a high threshold to apply to something which happened four and a half years ago, but to my best recollection, I don't believe I saw those emails.
Q. May I put the question in these terms, being, I hope, very careful as I do pose the question. Have you since seen the 2003 emails?
A. Yes.
Q. It may be a bit of a hypothetical question, but had you seen those emails back in May 2007, would your advice have been the same or different?
A. Different.
Q. I'm not going to go into that any further, you understand, Mr Abramson. It might indicate to us whether you had seen those emails, because you've told us that had you seen them, your advice would have been different. But can I ask you, though, about one particular email that you sent to Mr Chapman on 25 May 2007, which again, I'm afraid, we're not going to be able to put on the screen for the self-same reason. It's number 20107, which is under your tab 11.
A. Yes.
Q. You can look at an email which is in the middle of the page from Mr Chapman to you, timed at 12.39 hours on Friday, 25 May. Are you with me, Mr Abramson?
A. Yes, I am.
Q. Mr Chapman is making a few suggestions to the draft email you had previously sent him and which we have looked at.
A. Yes.
Q. We can skim-read it, but the sentence which might interest us is the penultimate sentence, beginning, "Equally"; do you see that?
A. Yes.
Q. This is a sentence which Mr Chapman is suggesting might be added to your advice?
A. Yes.
Q. "Equally, having seen a copy of Clive Goodman's notice of appeal of 2 March 2007, we did not find anything that we consider to be directly relevant to the grounds of appeal put forward by him."
A. Yes.
Q. That was his suggestion.
A. Yes.
Q. It's clear that you rejected it because if you look just above the email I've just referred to, you sent him an email timed at 17.53 hours on 25 May, which says: "I can't say the last sentence in the penultimate paragraph, I'm afraid. Can we discuss next week?"
A. Yes.
Q. Why couldn't you say it?
A. I think the short answer is it wasn't the exercise we'd been asked to conduct. We'd been asked to look for whether there was evidence in emails that supported specific allegations, and to have then signed off on an opinion that was much wider than the exercise we'd been conducting would have been wholly wrong and I couldn't have done that.
Q. In terms of the narrow brief that you had been given, focusing on these emails in the context of (i) and (ii) of Mr Goodman's appeal letter
A. Yes.
Q. you felt that you could not go as far as Mr Chapman wanted you to go?
A. That's right. We hadn't been asked to consider grounds (iii) or (iv), so there might be any number of evidence there that might have been relevant to those grounds that we just hadn't looked at.
Q. Did you have a discussion with Mr Chapman about this additional sentence, or was it done entirely by email exchange?
A. I don't believe it was done I don't recall any further conversation. There's no reference in the time records to any further conversation, so the best evidence I have is no.
Q. Thank you. Can I just understand, in my final question, what you believe the purpose of your providing this advice in writing to News International was. It's evident that it would or might be of comfort to them for an external legal adviser to consider a batch of emails and to express an opinion about them, but was it your understanding that your written advice, which was ultimately given in the form of a letter, would be or might be more widely disseminated?
A. It was their the opinion was given to them. I would expect them to come back to me if they were going to disseminate any further than to them, any further than well, any further. MR JAY Thank you, Mr Abramson. Those are all my questions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. Thank you very much indeed. MR JAY Sir, the next witness is Mr Pike. I haven't been able to check whether he's arrived. He has arrived. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think Mr Rhodri Davies wants to have a word with you. MR JAY Excuse me for turning my back. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, of course. (Pause) MR JAY We can proceed with Mr Pike. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Very good. Thank you. (Pause) MR JULIAN CHARLES PIKE (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Mr Pike, I invite you to make yourself comfortable and to provide us with your full name.
A. Julian Charles Pike.
Q. Mr Pike, you provided the Inquiry with three witness statements.
A. That's correct.
Q. The first is dated 23 September of this year. It's under tab 1 in the bundle we prepared for you. The second is dated 2 December and the third is equally dated 2 December. Appended to each statement is a statement of truth; is that right?
A. That's correct.
Q. So this is your formal evidence to the Inquiry; is that right?
A. That's correct.
Q. There's been no waiver of legal professional privilege in relation to the evidence you are providing this Inquiry?
A. That's correct.
Q. Can I just understand, please, your professional background? You've been a partner at Farrer Co since 1999; is that correct?
A. That's right.
Q. And Farrers have been advising NGN and News International for about 25 years; is that right?
A. That's correct.
Q. In general terms, the sort of advice that you have been giving them, if you could give us a snapshot picture of that, please, Mr Pike?
A. It typically involves doing defamation claims, privacy claims, more recent times. Also involves advice in relation to reporting restriction hearings, contempt applications, et cetera.
Q. In paragraph 11 of your first witness statement, which is our page 01312, in relation to a question which was covering the legality of phone hacking, computer hacking and blagging, you say: "Separate from advising on an ad hoc basis as a question may arise in a particular case, the firm has never been instructed to advise [any of the relevant companies] on methods employed by journalists to obtain information." Then you deal specifically with one particular case, but then you make it clear in paragraph 13 that you have been advising in relation to individual phone hacking claims, in particular Mr Gordon Taylor's claim; is that correct?
A. That's all right, yes.
Q. Can I ask you, please, this general question. We know that News International were saying, if I can put it in these terms, that Mr Goodman was one rogue reporter. When did you believe that that was untrue?
A. That would be obviously when material came forward in the Taylor case.
Q. So if we can get our bearings, the application made by Mr Taylor to the Metropolitan Police for third-party disclosure was made in January 2008. It was provided to the defendant, for whom you were acting in April 2008, so are we to deduce that it was at that point that you no longer believed the rogue reporter defence?
A. That's right.
Q. Did you have any suspicions about the accuracy of that defence at any earlier stage?
A. I think we're beginning to tread into privileged territory. Unless Mr Davies is happy for me to answer that question, I think I'm going over the line into privileged information.
Q. Can I ask you the question in these terms: given that the targets of counts 16 to 20 on the Goodman/Mulcaire indictment were outside the bailiwick of Mr Goodman, who was the royal correspondent, did you not, as a matter of common sense and having regard to Mr Justice Gross' sentencing remarks, which must have known about, start to harbour doubts about Mr Goodman being only one rogue reporter?
A. Speaking generally, I think one can have suspicions, but one has to follow the evidence.
Q. Are you able to assist the Inquiry further as to that without going into privileged matters?
A. As much as I'd be happy to do so, I think the difficulty would be that I would be going into privileged territory; I'm sorry.
Q. Okay. Did you advise in relation to Mr Max Clifford's claim?
A. Correct.
Q. There is a publicly available document which covers his claim, so I can refer to it without there being any difficulties about privilege. It's in a file which looks like this, Mr Pike. I don't know whether you have it.?
A. File 4?
Q. File 4. It says at the front: "Tom Crone, Julian Pike and others."
A. That's right.
Q. If you look under tab 1, Mr Myler's evidence to the Select Committee which was sent as recently as 1 December, on the first page of that, Max Clifford settlement, second paragraph: "The settlement negotiations were overseen and directed by the chief executive, Rebekah Brooks. She knew Mr Clifford well and I believe it's likely that she spoke directly to Mr Clifford about his claim. Mr Crone and Mr Pike were also involved in the settlement discussions." Is that correct?
A. Not completely, no. I was not involved in any settlement negotiations as substantive claim. I did deal with the issues of costs.
Q. Okay. Reading on: "As far as I'm able to recollect, the only involvement I had concerning Mr Clifford's claim arose at a meeting I attended with Mrs Brooks, Mr Crone and Mr Pike in Mrs Brooks' office." Pausing there, do you remember that meeting, Mr Pike?
A. I think I know what meeting he's referring to, yes.
Q. Mr Myler can't remember when this meeting took place. Do you know approximately when it took place?
A. Probably some time around January/early February 2010, I think.
Q. "It must have been prior to the settlement being agreed with Mr Clifford, because I remember Mr Crone and Mr Pike advising Mrs Brooks that the amount she indicated she was prepared to offer Mr Clifford in settlement of his claim was more than they advised was necessary." Is that correct?
A. I think sorry, I am just thinking as to whether or not privilege prevents me from answering that question. I think the answer is that I can answer that question and that is correct.
Q. Was it clear to you, Mr Pike, that News International were prepared to pay an overvalue to avoid reputational damage?
A. Again, we're treading into privileged territory. I don't have a waiver.
Q. But just looking at what we can see in this letter and going no further, and excluding from your mind, if you have to, any privileged matters, can you assist us, please?
A. I don't think I can, unless you know, I'm very happy to help the Inquiry, but the difficulty is my client has said it's not waiving privilege, so
Q. Okay. May I ask you, please, about the Gordon Taylor settlement. Did you tell Mr Mark Lewis: "He was negotiating [that's Mr Lewis was negotiating] with Mr Murdoch."
A. My position on this is very clear. It's on the record. The answer's no.
Q. The answer's no?
A. No.
Q. There are, again, as there were with Mr Clifford's claim, documents in the public domain, which you, I think, provided to the Select Committee. These are in the large lever-arch file, which has been called file 3, under tab 7. This is the sheaf of documents which includes leading counsel's opinion. Do you follow me, Mr Pike?
A. I do.
Q. Working on the pagination which either you or the Select Committee provided, if you could look, please, at document JCP5. Are these your notes?
A. They are.
Q. Do they relate, as we can see perhaps more clearly at JCP7, to a telephone call you had with Colin Myler on 27 May 2008?
A. Correct.
Q. Were they notes which were made at the time or subsequently?
A. They are exactly contemporaneous on the telephone call.
Q. I'll just ask you a few questions about the transcript. It starts by saying: "Spoke to James Murdoch. Not any options. Wait for silk's view." I'm not going to ask you further about that. Then it says: "One result of Goodman, CG [that, of course, is Goodman] sprayed around allegations. Horrid process." What did you take that to mean?
A. That is a reference to the employment claim that Clive Goodman brought.
Q. So he sprayed around allegations. We've seen them in a letter he wrote, I think, on 2 March of 2007. What did you think the "horrid process" was a reference to?
A. I think that was to the fact that these allegations had been made and those that News had to address them.
Q. Was it being conveyed to you that there was a need to close down these sort of allegations; in other words, stop them either being made in the future or, at the very least, entering the public domain?
A. No, I don't think that was being conveyed to me at the time, no.
Q. You didn't get that feeling at all from Mr Myler during the course of this call?
A. No, I don't think so, no.
Q. Can I deal lower down it's level with the upper hole punch: "Didn't believe culture in the newsroom editor." Can you assist us with interpreting that, Mr Pike?
A. I think, as best I can recollect, that that's a reference to Mr Myler saying that he didn't believe there was a culture in the newsroom to that effect.
Q. Then underneath it says: "Didn't know [indecipherable]." It looks to me, Mr Pike, that these are your notes. If you go to the manuscript, you say "didn't know a lot"; is that correct?
A. I think that's one interpretation. The reason why I put "indecipherable" in here was because I couldn't be certain, so I wasn't going to make a statement as to what the words were if I wasn't sure about it. "A lot" is definitely an interpretation. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Can you think of another one?
A. Not immediately, no, sir. But it could be "a bit", for example. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Except if you look at your Bs, you write them differently. There you are, previous line. Doesn't matter.
A. Yes. MR JAY Assuming, as I'm afraid I've done, that it says "didn't know a lot", are you able to assist at all with what that might be a reference to?
A. No, not now, no.
Q. I'm going to miss out some parts and look at the middle of the page: Assurances to PCC and then ditto assurances made by CM to staff." Do you know what that was about?
A. Yes, the whole of this section is referring to what Mr Myler told me that he had done, I think, once he'd come into the business. There's a whole series of them, as you can see.
Q. Yes. Then a little bit lower down: "CM, my position as editor, cannot ignore it. Back to CG plus. Appealed against his sacking, failed to give direct evidence. Had to be seen new editor couldn't be seen to dismiss their allegations." Again, can you interpret that for us?
A. Certainly. What Mr Myler was saying to me was that these allegations had been made. He'd come in as editor and he had to address those allegations. He couldn't be seen to be simply dismissing them, so he had to go through a proper process.
Q. Thank you. Then at the next page: "Les no longer here. James would say get rid of him, cut out cancer." I'm not going to ask you about what that may mean, Mr Pike. Can I ask you about another document, which is JCP10. So we get our bearings, this is covering it's a transcript of a call you had with Mr Mark Lewis, who of course was your opponent, on 6 June 2008. By that point, is this correct, you had obtained and read leading counsel's opinion, which we know to be dated 3 June 2008?
A. (Nods head)
Q. Is that right?
A. That's correct, yeah.
Q. We'll have a look at that opinion in a moment. So this is evidence of a continuing negotiation you're having with Mr Lewis with a view to compromising Mr Taylor's claim; is that correct?
A. That's right.
Q. At the top we can see: "1.2 million confidentiality." Could you help us with that, please?
A. That is the combined figure of damages and costs that Mr Lewis asked for in that conversation and obviously the reference to confidentiality is reference to the agreement being kept confidential.
Q. Then immediately underneath that it is very difficult to decipher your writing it does possibly say "a part" in the manuscript. Are you able to help us at all as to either what it says or what it means?
A. No. I think it does read "a part", which is why I put it in the transcript of it. I can't help you now as to what that means.
Q. Did Mr Lewis give a breakdown as between damages and costs relating to the 1.2 million?
A. Yes, it's there in the transcript. He wanted ?1 million damages and ?200,000 costs.
Q. On an indemnity basis; that's right, isn't it?
A. That's right.
Q. What was your assessment of that offer?
A. It was a demand which was way over the top.
Q. You didn't have leading counsel's opinion at that stage as to quantum, did you?
A. I did.
Q. Sorry, you did. My apologies, yes. It came on 3 June.
A. That's right.
Q. And leading counsel's figure and we'll see it it was 250,000 or perhaps a bit more, wasn't it?
A. That's right.
Q. So we can do the arithmetic ourselves. It's way over the level your leading counsel was advising. Did you have any other view as to the offer apart from the fact it was well over? Perhaps I shouldn't ask the question in any tendentious form. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But if this transcript is part of the public domain, this offer wasn't a genuine pre-estimate of the value of the claim; he's identifying two possibilities, isn't he?
A. Sorry? Help me, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, he's not suggesting that his valuation of the claim as a claim for damages is a million pounds. He's identifying why he wants a million pounds, isn't he?
A. I think he was in the conversation, he was doing two things, sir. He wanted a million pounds and he was explaining why he wanted it. MR JAY Seven figures not to open his mouth. So in effect he's making it clear to you that you would need to buy him off. That's the truth, isn't it?
A. That's what it says, yes. I agree.
Q. Then when it says, seven lines from the end of this: "I want to carry on because of issues because NGN is wrong and carry on. One way or another, this is going to hurt." That's Mr Lewis speaking, is it?
A. No, I don't think so. If you look at the next page, JCP11, that's a typed transcript of the call and I think what that's a reference to is Mr Lewis quoting Mr Taylor.
Q. Yes. It's Mr Lewis speaking on behalf of his client?
A. Yes, that's right.
Q. And then: "Want to show News of the World stories, News of the World doing this rife in organisation." That, again, is Mr Lewis speaking, isn't it?
A. It's Mr Lewis speaking and saying this is what his client's views are. I think that's right.
Q. You knew that Mr Lewis, speaking on behalf of his clients, was right, didn't you, when he referred to "rife in organisation"?
A. Not at that time, no.
Q. But wasn't that what leading counsel was advising?
A. Certainly the evidence we had at that stage was suggesting that the rogue reporter line wasn't sustainable. We didn't have, at that stage, evidence of it being "rife".
Q. Leading counsel was advising and we have this at JCP21, paragraph 6 it's true he didn't use the word "rife". In paragraph 6, six or seven lines to the bottom, he says this: "In the light of these facts, there is a powerful case that there is or was a culture of illegal information access used at NGN in order to produce stories for publication."
A. Yes, but that's with reference more so to the Information Commissioner's office documentation, not to the police documentation.
Q. But leading counsel's advice was based on a number of factors, wasn't it? The first factor, if we can look a little bit earlier in the advice, was the disclosure of a contract between, if I can put it in these vague terms, someone at News International and Mr Mulcaire in 2005; that's correct, isn't it?
A. There was a contract at that date, that's right.
Q. Referred to in paragraph 4.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. It was based also on the "for Neville" email, not that it was described in those terms?
A. That's right.
Q. And it was also based on Operation Motorman, wasn't it?
A. That's right.
Q. So leading counsel's advice was based on three particular matters and led him to conclude, looking at those matters collectively, that there was a culture of illegal information access used at NGN. That's right, isn't it?
A. I agree with that, absolutely.
Q. He had also, in paragraph 3, referred to at least three journalists I'm not going to name them who appear to have been intimately involved in Mr Mulcaire's illegal research into Mr Taylor's affairs? We can see that, can't we?
A. That's right.
Q. It's possible that you didn't agree with leading counsel but I'll ask you whether you did in a moment. But the reference to a culture of illegal information access rather suggests that it was reasonably widespread, doesn't it?
A. I agree with that, but what you're basing it on in the main, in order to generate your culture, are the Information Commissioner's documents, more so than the two documents you have in relation to Taylor.
Q. Right. LORD LEVESON Is that right? Because Motorman was by now history, wasn't it?
A. It was historical in terms of it was relating to a period prior to 2003. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And it had been in the public domain?
A. That's right. MR JAY I just want to analyse the significance of the Operation Motorman material just a little bit with you, Mr Pike. First of all, we know from what's in the public domain and evidence given to this Inquiry that it had all been publicised in two reports from the Information Commissioner's office which came out in 2006; is that correct?
A. That's right.
Q. Did you know that at the time, in 2008?
A. Yes, I was aware of that, I think.
Q. Was not the significance of the Operation Motorman material only this: that it was capable of being used as similar fact evidence in relation to Mr Taylor's claim but it wasn't directly probative of Mr Taylor's claim?
A. I agree.
Q. Would you agree?
A. Yes, that's fine.
Q. Leading counsel's opinion was clearly saying: there's a culture of illegal information access used at this company, which we can interpret the word "culture" in as many ways as we like, but it does rather suggest that even if not endemic, it was widespread; would you agree with that?
A. I agree.
Q. So when we come back to what Mr Lewis was saying about it being rife, although one would not have expected you to agree with him during the course of without prejudice communication, he wasn't necessarily that far off the mark, was he?
A. If you were to describe the illegality as being the wider issues raised by the Information Commissioner, then no, he wouldn't be. I think, however, what is being talked about here in this conversation is the specific illegal activity of accessing voicemail messages.
Q. Was it clear to you by this point that it really was in your client's interest that these matters should not enter the public domain in the form of a contested piece of civil litigation?
A. Self-evident, I'd say.
Q. Was that a view which you knew Mr Crone to share?
A. Yes.
Q. Was it a view which you knew Mr Myler to share?
A. Probably. I don't recall having a direct conversation with him about that, but probably.
Q. You, of course, were not at the meeting which took place on 10 June 2008 with Mr James Murdoch; is that correct?
A. That's correct.
Q. You can't assist us as to what was discussed, although we do know from JCP13 that following that meeting, you had a telephone conversation with Mr Crone; is that right?
A. That's correct.
Q. And again, following your normal practice, you were taking a note during the course of the telephone conversation, which we see at JCP12, and that's been transcribed for us; is that right?
A. That's right.
Q. To the best of your recollection, was this immediately after the meeting?
A. I couldn't say if it was immediately after. I don't know. It's quite likely.
Q. What the note as transcribed says is as follows: "Tom, meeting with JM and CM. JM said he wanted to think through the options." But all you've done there, presumably, is faithfully record what Mr Crone told you; is that correct?
A. That would be right, yes.
Q. In the next sentence there's some fairly frank language, but I can deal with it in these terms. Mr Myler, is this right, wasn't altogether convinced that one should go along with Mr Taylor's proposals; is that right?
A. That's right.
Q. Because by that stage there had been a Part 36 offer, ?350,000, hadn't there?
A. That's right.
Q. Which was above Mr Silverleaf's outer limit and in terms of managing the litigation risk would surely be plenty of money to protect the company against a judgment in court, wouldn't it?
A. That's right.
Q. Can you help us, though, with the first point after the dash? It says: "On the end of drip drip, do a deal with them." Can you help us with what that might mean?
A. I'm not entirely sure, no. This is three and a half years ago, so I can't be absolutely certain as to what that was a reference to.
Q. But it might be a reference to ever-increasing offers, that you've reached more or less the end because 350,000 was, after all, a very generous offer indeed you've made it clear that there is a bit more in the kitty for an early deal, and "do a deal with them" might mean: "Let's close the deal if we can"?
A. It might well be, yes.
Q. What does the next bit mean: "Paying them off plus then silence It either says "falls" or "fails".
A. I think it says "fails".
Q. What to that mean?
A. I think that's a reference to saying that you reach an agreement with them, but then the confidentiality around that agreement doesn't hold.
Q. Doesn't hold or does hold?
A. Doesn't hold.
Q. So was that Mr Myler's concern, that whatever confidentiality stipulations were agreed and of course, that was a sine qua non of the settlement it might not be much good because there wouldn't be silence; is that right?
A. I think that's what that's saying, yes.
Q. You may be right about the interpretation, but one is musing then about the point of reaching a settlement at a gross overvalue in order to achieve nothing. Can you help us with that?
A. I think the view would have been at the time that that was the best option open to the company at the time.
Q. Can we just explore this? One option would be to fight the case on the basis of a very generous Part 36, Mr Taylor loses and the cost consequences are catastrophic for him, but matters enter the public domain. The other option is you continue to negotiate, you pay even more over the odds to achieve a settlement, you sign it up with a confidentiality clause but that doesn't do any good either because you don't achieve the silence you were wishing to attain. It's not a great option, is it?
A. Neither, but those scenarios are obviously not great outcomes and we've seen what's happened since.
Q. Okay. What about the next is that "if" or "it"? It's probably "if". That's how you've deciphered it. "Intriguing process".
A. I'm not sure now what that's a reference to. I'm sorry.
Q. Then there's a reference to Mr Mulcaire, but the point that might be made in relation to him: it's all very well he's jointly and severally liable as second defendant, but you're not going to be able to enforce any claim across against him, are you?
A. That's right. MR JAY That may be a convenient moment to pause for lunch. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. I wonder whether we can't abbreviate lunch. I don't see why you should all suffer because of my lateness but I'm very conscious that we have a fair amount to do today. We can either go on a bit now or we can resume at quarter 2, but I'm perfectly happy if people object to that. Don't all speak at once. MR JAY We're making quite good progress in terms of the timing, but maybe if we were to come back at 1.45 pm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Anybody has any objection on that? Thank you very much. We'll say 1.45 pm. (1.01 pm)


Gave a statement at the hearing on 13 December 2011 (AM) ; and submitted 2 pieces of evidence
Gave statements at the hearings on 13 December 2011 (AM) 13 December 2011 (PM) and 20 December 2011 (AM) ; and submitted 38 pieces of evidence


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