LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Yes, Mr Barr.
Sir, good morning. Our first witness today is Mr John Lloyd.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Thank you very much. MR JOHN NICOL FORTUNE LLOYD (affirmed) Questions by MR BARR
Mr Lloyd, could you confirm your full name, please.
A. It is John Nicol Fortune Lloyd.
Q. Are the contents of your witness statement true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief?
A. I believe so, yes.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Mr Lloyd, thank you very much indeed. I have said to all of the witnesses, if not all, that I am very grateful to them for the obvious work they have put into the questions we have asked and the contribution they have made and you are no different to the others; thank you.
A. Thank you.
You are a contributing editor to the Financial Times, where you have had a long history reporting on industrial and labour issues as a correspondent in east and central Europe and in the former Soviet Union. You are a founding member of the weekend FT magazine and more recently a contributing editor; is that right?
A. That's right.
Q. You are also the director of journalism at the Reuters Institute for the study of journalism at the University of Oxford. Could I ask you, please, to tell us a little bit more about the Reuters Institute?
A. The Reuters Institute was founded on top of an existing for some 30 years fellowship programme, which Reuters had funded, which brings journalists in mid-career, mainly from other countries, in Britain to Oxford for one, two or three academic terms, at which time they study, reflect on journalism and do a project. We built some six years ago the co-founders built on top of that what essentially is a think tank on journalism. It doesn't teach, it has no students, but it researches issues in journalism with a large international flavour.
Q. Your statement is taken as read and so I shall ask you only here and there to expand. Can I do so first at paragraph 8 of your witness statement, where you talk about the essential part that a free press plays in a democratic state. Perhaps we can explore that a little bit. First of all, would you agree that a fundamental role for a free press is to hold power to account?
A. Yes, I would.
Q. And it is to discover the truth on questions of public interest?
Q. And that if facilitates and promotes democratic debate?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. Is there anything else you would wish to add to that list?
A. Only to say that discovery of the truth is always difficult because truth in public affairs, as in private, is very complex and many journalists and commentators and others believe that truth is no longer possible, or never has been possible in journalism. I believe it is an aim that can be never be achieved. Rather like the holy grateful, it is there as a spur to endeavour rather than something that can be accomplished. But it is important to journalism because that, I think, is the reason why journalism exists and why it claims certain privileges.
Q. I've had the benefit of reading your book, "What the Media are doing to our Politics". In that book and also in your witness statement, you make references to practises in other countries. At the bottom of page 4 of your witness statement, you talk about the relationship between politicians and proprietors in the United States. Perhaps you could distill, in a few words, the differences in that relationship, in the United States compared to this country?
A. Yes, as in the statement, it was a conversation with an old friend who was editor of the New York Times called Joe Lelyveld, who, when I asked him about this, said that newspaper groups, including his own, the Ochs Sulzberger Group, which has owned for some time the New York Times the relationship between newspaper owners and indeed newspaper editors and politicians was one which was quite formal and distant compared with the UK, which Lelyveld knows well because he was a correspondent here for some years. Distant, and any attempt he said by politicians to make some kind of deal even, in the Prime Minister's words, a grand deal between them and the newspaper would certainly not be countenanced and would never be tried. The one exception he gave was Mr Murdoch, whose Fox channel and whose tabloid paper, the New York Post, did have much closer relationships, especially in the case of Fox News, with politicians of the right, the Tea Party in the Republican party. But apart from that, relationships, according to Lelyveld, were much more formal and distant and correct than they were in the United Kingdom.
Q. In relation to France, you describe in your book a very different approach to political interviewing to the one that we are used to in this country. Could you summarise the differences for us, please?
A. I think the different is that France, in a way, is even more there is more entanglement between politicians and journalists than there is even more than in the UK and much, much more than in the US. That is that as in Italy and other cultures, journalists quite often especially political journalists adhere to a particular political current and to particular political characters and are, in a way, part of their circle. So it is more collusive, much more collusive than it has been in this country, much more than in the United States. I think it is less the case now but has been the case that when a politician indeed, when a public figure is interviewed, say in Figaro or Le Monde, the interview is then passed to the politician or public figure for his or her approval, or at least comment, so that the interviewee can then amend or correct the interview after it has been given. That, in this country, would rarely be done. If it were done, it would never be admitted.
Q. Is there a difference in the usual tone of such interviews?
A. Yes. Generally, it has been the case one has to say that the presidency of Mr Sarkozy marked a profound difference, I think, and many French writers have marked that. Before then, it is well known that the private lives of politicians in France Mr Dominique Strauss-Khan immediately clearly comes to mind in this, but others too could enjoy an immunity from any publication of the details of their private life, even though, as is often the case, journalists knew them or suspected them. So private life, until Sarkozy, was something quite apart. Sarkozy marked a difference, because he coincided with the power of the Internet and there was much gossip and revelation on the Internet, which sometimes passed into the press. So now I think the French press is in a transition between a period where they marked a very sharp difference between public and private the way that our press and the American press used to do, some decades ago to one where it is closer to what they would call the Anglo Saxon.
Q. Returning to the substance of political interviews, is it usual in France for the whole of the interview to be published, or just a selection?
A. Much more I think rarely it would be the whole interview because they are often pages and pages, but much more of the interview is published. In news stories, certainly in the serious papers like Figaro and Le Monde and Les Echos, the politicians are quoted much more and at greater length in a news story. So a news story about a political issue would typically contain perhaps two, three paragraphs of direct quotes. Here, that is much rarer.
Q. In your opinion, which model serves the public interest better: the French model of publishing more extensively and less selectively, or the British model, the Anglo Saxon model, of being more selective?
A. I think in that particular instance the French is better. I think it is better to hear at greater length what politicians say, rather than the soundbite the soundbites to which they are now reduced. I think in general, the French press has been overly deferential. It is much less so now. It has been much more concerned with, if you like, questions of ideology, even philosophy. The origins of the French political press are much more in polemic debate and ideological argument, whereas the Anglo Saxon and British are much more fact-based, even, to an extent, scandal-based. So the two have been quite different. There are is now a certain amount of coming together. I would still prefer, I think, the Anglo Saxon approach.
Q. We may return to this a little later, but one final question before I move on this: would you agree with me that a choice between these two approaches is a matter for culture and not for regulation?
A. Very substantially, yes.
Q. You touch, on page 5 of your witness statement, at the bottom of paragraph 10, on issues of plurality and cross-media ownership, observing that in recent decades there has been a light touch. Do you have any views on where the balance lies between encouraging investment on the one hand and plurality and competition on the other?
A. Increasingly now, I think it becomes a difficult issue and Ofcom, as you will have seen in the last few days, has pronounced on this and said that to mandate pluralism, perhaps of the kind although it didn't refer to this that the leader of the opposition mentioned, I think in evidence here, is extremely difficult, difficult to get right and difficult to balance, as you put it, between the needs of investment and the needs of pluralism. Most countries, however, I think have some either regulation or general bias to believing that the greater the spread of ownership in newspapers and in television channels, media generally, the better. In some cultures again, America comes most to mind because it is so city-based and therefore the companies tend to be city-based there is much greater pluralism than others where you have a centralised national press nearly all the papers now national papers are coming from London and the tendency for large groups to have several papers, several media holdings. So I think it is difficult to legislate. My bias would be towards as much pluralism as possible.
Q. Do you have any view about whether regulation in this sphere is best done by reference to specific percentages of ownership or on a more subjective test, taking into account all relevant factors?
A. I think if any regulator were to make such decisions the regulator would have to use both approaches. It would have to be partly subjective but it also would have to bear in mind the needs of investment and so forth. I think that were a regulator to come into this area indeed they do, of course the Competition Commission issues of press are referred to that then they should bear in mind that a spread of ownership is valuable. But also it depends hugely upon who buys it. I mean, one of the examples that we have of press ownership here is by a man who had been an officer in the Russian Soviet state security, the KGB, but his ownership of the newspapers, the Independent, Independent on Sunday and Evening Standard, and of his holdings in Russia, especially Novaya Gazeta, has been, by all accounts and by my experience, exemplary. So a lot depends, I think, on observing the way in which newspaper owners and media owners observe what many believe to be a public trust, and that can come from a big company I believe that the Financial Times for which I worked for many years that Pearson, which is a very large publishing company, does have that view, that its press ownership is a public trust. Other companies don't have that view, have a much more interventionist approach, where the owner's opinions are much more a part of the newspaper's editorial output. They would not, I think, maybe go as far as Lord Beaverbrook, former owner of Express newspapers, who said his newspapers were purely for the purposes of propaganda, but they would go some way towards that.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
There is a difficult balance here, isn't there, Mr Boyd, because on the one hand there are those organisations that have a public trust, but on the other, running a newspaper these days is not necessarily terribly profitable enterprise.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
And therefore there has been to be a reason why people do it.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
To try to get that balance right is not entirely straightforward.
A. It is exactly the case, and increasingly what one sees and will see more of, I think and again, this is more evident in the United States is groups of business people or indeed one business person buying a newspaper, or indeed creating a newspaper, in order to propound their views. There is a very well known example in San Diego, where a wealthy businessman, who is a hotel owner, created a new newspaper there when the long established newspaper failed and said that he and his editors were strong Republicans, on the right of the Republican party, and that the editorial would reflect that and that he expected his editors, his reporters, his commentators, to reflect his views. I think that, which had been, after all, the model of the press back in the 18th and 19th centuries, may well return, since, as you say, an owner has to have some reason for maintaining a newspaper, if not profit.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Well, that is itself rather concerning, isn't it?
A. Yes, except if you think that then the media becomes a kind of agora in which a number of opinions left, right, liberal, conservative can clash. That, I guess, has been, to some extent at least, the model, the theoretical model, in western democracies.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
But the risk then is and I use a phrase which is not mine but has been used that there is a race to the bottom, because in order to sell your newspapers, you have to take certain lines about types of story which are going to sell and give you the opportunity to ventilate your views on topics that will not necessarily be quite so saleable.
A. That's not the model, I think, of the tabloids. The tabloids' essential existence is to make money, and now that they are becoming much less profitable or even making a loss, then the raison d'etre of tabloids particularly becomes much more shaky. But the existence of newspapers which to propound a particular worldview is, to some extent at least, independent of their sales and profitability. A well known example, a notorious example, is of Henry Ford, who founded the Dearborn Independent in the 30s in order, essentially, to promote his anti-semitic views. He kept that going at a huge loss, but then he was a hugely wealthy man, and it went, I think, until the outbreak of war. So increasingly, I think, one will see wealthy individuals with a strong worldview or particular view, coming into the marketplace and starting a publication of some sort in order to propound their view. One could argue that both Fox News and MSMBC if you like, the left wing equivalent in the United States are such vehicles.
Q. If you turn now to page 6 of your witness statement, please, paragraph 13. There you make a point that others have made, namely there has been a reduction in recent years away from the simple political reporting and more towards commentary. Your book put some statistics on this, saying that in the early part of the millennium a government official had counted 221 political commentators and was still counting. Is that a trend that has continued to date?
A. I would think so. I mean, one of the jokes that is common among journalists is that comment is free but facts are expensive. It obviously is the case that the more one invests in discovering information, especially that reporting which is called investigative and may take a long time, a good deal of travel, for no rapid result, clearly is much more expensive than formula stories which can be done on the day, and is more expensive even than an expensive and well-paid commentator, because that commentator would fill a fair amount of space and though he or she may have a high income, it would be a good deal less than an investigative report would command. So the trend in newspapers which are increasingly cash-strapped then does tend towards both commentary and, if you will, light journalism. You might want to come back to this journalism which depends a great deal on public relations. So I think the trend towards commentary of various kinds, not necessarily political commentary, will continue.
Q. If pure political factual reporting is on the decline, has the overall volume of political fact which has been reported, even if it is mixed in with comment has that increased or decreased?
A. Greatly increased, and greatly increased not in newspapers, where it has tended to decline, I believe but on the net. So the net now gives more information than any person can possibly absorb, including about politics, including about politics in many, many countries. So anyone who wishes to be well-informed about German politics, which is a good subject to be well-informed about these days, only has to go on the net to the Spiegel in English and other websites in English. The same is true in many countries where the language is not English. One can be hugely well-informed simply by surfing the net and learning which sites tell you what information, and certainly one can be hugely well-informed about British politics in the same way. So the volume of information available to people, at least the majority of people who have an internet connection, is enormously increased. In newspapers, it tends to have decreased.
Q. Do you think that there has been a trend towards fusing fact and comment in political reporting?
A. Yes, much more so. I mean, if one looks at the reports, say, typically, of the Times, which did probably the most political reporting of the 50s and 60s, and sees (1) the length and (2) the care with which facts are treated, and now compares that with the current Times and other papers, then one sees how much, almost unconsciously now, journalists will inject, if not an opinion of the kind this is good or this is bad, but much more of a forecast, that X has happened and this will mean that this will have this effect. So in one way, reporting has become more ambitious about making forecasts based upon the events it is describing, and it is usually the case that in the tone of the reportage, one can guess the political social position or political position of the reporter. That would be true, I think, in papers of the left, the Guardian, the Mirror and so on certainly the Mirror and of papers of the right, where the approval or disapproval of the reporter or analyst is fairly clear from the report.
Q. Has this trend towards mixed fact and comment come at the expense of accuracy or not?
A. That would take, as academics say, a good deal of research. But I would imagine two things: (1), it would be unlikely that reports now are more inaccurate. The reason I say that is that it is much, much easier to check. In the course of my time in journalism, checking has gone from a rather laborious finding a book, finding a reference book, which may or may not be in the newspaper, library, or going somewhere to check say Companies House to check companies' records, which meant, of course, an expenditure of time and therefore one wrote less. Now all kinds of tools are available at the touch of a mouse. So it is much easier to check and I think I would imagine that my colleagues in all newspapers, assuming that they do check and I think most of them do probably get things more right than they used to.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
It depends a little bit what you mean by "accurate", doesn't it, because you can put a whole series of facts in the article but you have been rather selective about the facts, which therefore drives to a conclusion. Every single fact you have mentioned is accurate, but it is not as balanced. I wonder whether part of what you are saying is that the balance which came from the type of journalism of the 50s is now no longer prevalent, perhaps in part because newspapers have to add something, and you can get your facts by looking at the internet, watching the 24-hour news cycle, and therefore people at least are perceived to require something rather more from their newspaper.
A. I think that is probably right, although I am not sure it is so new. I think probably in the 50s and 60s, certainly the popular papers let's say the Mirror, which then was selling four or five million copies and saw itself as a campaigning paper, and by that it meant that it was campaigning largely for issues which would be supported by the left and the Express and the Mail would be the reverse, to some extent. These, I think, would be highly opinionated papers then and have remained so now. I think you have a class of paper and the Times was it up until 70s, 80s where, because it saw itself as a paper of the establishment and was writing to and for and from the establishment, then it had to be right, or it had to be right as it possibly could. There are many memoirs and stories about how both the sub-editors especially and the reporters took great pains to make it right. Now, if there is an equivalent to that, it is in the business press, because the business press Financial Times in this country and the business press elsewhere has a pressure from its audience, who use it as a tool as much or more than a source of entertainment or passing the time, and therefore since their decisions may well be based upon what it says, then the pressure to get it right is much greater. So the business press, I think, has remained the repository of a fact-based discipline and others have become much less so.
Would you support the continued existence in the PCC code or any successor to the PCC code of a requirement to separate and distinguish fact from comment?
A. No, I wouldn't. I mean, I think it is necessary to do so it is a good thing that fact and comment should be separated, but I cannot see how an intervention of that kind, certainly one which had the backing of statute, would be anything other than oppressive of
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
I don't think it would have the backing of statute. We are just talking about whether an ethical code or a statement of principle should contain that as an aspiration.
A. Yes, as an aspiration, I think it would be fine, and I think to distinguish between what is verifiably factual and what is personal opinion would be is a reasonable aspiration. However, I'm aware that in most newspapers and elsewhere in the media, that is in practice quite difficult to maintain. It is quite difficult in papers say, for example, the New York Times, which does aspire, like many American newspapers, to separate the two. One can often find the bias of the newspaperman or of the commentator quite strongly there. It is quite difficult to do, but I think as an aspiration, it is a reasonable one.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
It goes back to the point, that it depends what facts you put in.
A. Yes, and that is true of all, since newspaper and all reporting it is an obvious point to make is perhaps what? 100th or 1,000th of the possible facts of any event. Every event has a huge complex of fact around it. What we do, almost, after a while, as a reporter, unconsciously, is to aggressively fillet from this complex of facts that which we believe are (a) the most important, (b) our newspaper wants to have and (c) what people will read. So that filleting process, that compression, is the essence of journalism, and must be so, otherwise it is simply a transcript. So therefore facts are always treated, to a certain extent, cavalierly.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
It may not be cavalierly, but potentially selectively, and that selection itself carries with it an opinion, as you just identified.
A. Always selectively, but one can at least, I think in theory and I think also in practice, imagine reports and read reports which are reports in good faith, I would say.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
A. And these reports in good faith are an attempt to say, "Here are the salient facts and most important facts of this speech, this event, this intervention, this revelation", and a report in good faith is one which, as far as is possible, does not select the facts for an opinionated reason but for one which wishes to give an accurate account as far as possible within the constraints of space of the event.
Staying with paragraph 13 of your witness statement, you describe the creation and development of a third power, that of the news media, which increasingly has come to regard politicians and politics as a dirty game and expresses constant cynicism about it. Can I ask you to develop that idea, that argument for us briefly?
A. I think what has happened and it was much of the burden of the book. What has happened, say, in the last 20, 30 years it's happened in this country perhaps more than in others, in part of this very strong tabloid tradition here, stronger than in other democracies is to devalue the political process, to see elected Members of Parliament and other councils and, above all, ministers and indeed opposition politicians, as people who essentially are in it for themselves, and to approach their actions and their statements with the view or always with the question, in the reporter's mind: why is he or she saying that and what benefit will he or she get from it, either personal or political? So the ostensible reason for, say, the speech or the proposal or the policy is increasingly subordinate to, if you like, the short term political reason. It is to court popularity of one kind or another. It is to advance the politician's career. Now, it seems to me that in any business like politics, as in other businesses, these considerations must be part of the assumptions and the calculations of the men and women in power. But to reduce it simply to, if you will, a cynical Occam's razor approach seems to me then to lose out on what is the most important part of it, and that is the nature of the intervention, the nature of the policy proposed and the merits or otherwise of that policy.
Q. Can I take it that you regard that as a negative development in reporting?
Q. And if so, what can be done about it?
A. Well, what can be done about it, I think, is to perhaps subject it to debate, to put aspirational to make in the Press Council or a future press council to put these aspirational aims more clearly, and I think above all to try to work on, most effectively from within the profession of journalism itself, to work on the culture of journalism. Looking at journalism cultures around the world, one is struck by how different they are, including in the democratic world, in western Europe or in North America. They have quite different ways of approaching things, and our way of approaching things, I think, has become overly cynical and reduces much of the complexity of everyday life, especially everyday politics, to a series of short term personal and political calculations. I think all that can be done in a free society is to argue against that, to propose different ways of approaching the coverage of events. I think in this country we are fortunate to have a public broadcaster which, by and large, reports, as I was saying earlier, in good faith and to an extent at least avoids the pitfalls of cynicism.
Q. We may come back to some of the cultural issues you have raised there, but for the moment can I move on to the question of the power that politicians hold over the media. Would you agree that one of the ways in which politicians exercise power over the media is in the control of the supply of stories?
A. Very much. Very important indeed, yes.
Q. And are there any trends or patterns in the way that this power has been exercised in recent years that you would draw to our attention?
A. Yes. I think there is something in the argument which a number of people have made, including in this court, that there was a shift which New Labour brought in. I think that the leaders of New Labour, when it was in opposition Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Peter Mandelson, later Alastair Campbell, who joined them as head of communications for the Prime Minister these men and many of their colleagues had a profound belief that two things had happened in the media: one, that John Major had been and was being destroyed by newspapers, or substantially destroyed by newspapers, and secondly, that before him, Neil Kinnock, the leader of the party before John Smith and leader of the party for much of the 80s, he also had been destroyed, most of all by the tabloid press and above all by the Sun. These were almost articles of faith and in talking to many of these people when I was writing the book, it came up again and again. It was, if you like, the foundation of the way in which they wished to project New Labour publicly, that they had to stop the newspapers above all, the newspapers, who, after all, were the opinion makers, rather than the broadcasters to stop the newspapers ganging up on Labour. Once that happened, once the newspapers ganged up on a prime minister or indeed a leader of the opposition, he or she was finished. That, as I say, was an article of faith. The way in which that was then prevented was to constantly I think I used the phrase, or someone of my interviewees used the phrase "feed the beast". Like a bird bringing back worms for its chicks, there would always be something to digest by the newspaper and therefore keep them on your terms, rather than you on theirs. I think also that the New Labour aversion to any kind of scandal, including private or sexual scandal, and the way in which, once that came up, they very quickly tried to solve it was an another indication of this. That then became the template. The belief that newspapers had to be kept, as it were, on the back foot by being constantly fed, the belief that 24-hour news, which had become a feature of the 80s and 90s, meant that they were under constant surveillance, 24-hour surveillance, and therefore could never relax, meant they had to armour plate their communication strategy and be constantly pro-active. I think, as has been said in this court, the Prime Minister, when the Prime Minister was Tony Blair, saw constantly newspaper editors, newspaper owners, reporters, commentators, and that was the practice followed by his successor as Prime Minister. It was a combination of feeding and of armour plating.
Q. The 24-hour news cycle remains with us. Indeed, if anything, it has intensified, particularly with use of the Internet. Has the government response to that environment changed in recent years, or not?
A. Yes, it has. I mean, as I say, because the 24-hour news cycle means that there is no pause, as there used to be, say, after 8 or 9 at night, when the first editions went to bed, until some time later the next morning it means, then, that the public relations exercise for governments therefore must be (1) more numerous, must be much more pro-active and must always have a rebuttal ready and, if possible, another story ready. "Why are you concentrating on this? Here is a nice bright shiny story you have missed, and which you can have sometimes all to yourself." So politicians and people who are concerned with public relations within politics would say and sometimes openly but always when talking off the record would say that is exactly what they are there to do. They are there to defend their masters or themselves from a press that has become, as they see it, ruthless, that they cannot expect any kind of good ride, if they are a left wing government, from a left wing press, or, if they are right wing government, from a right wing press. They can expect always a press hungry for scandal, who will find it sometimes in relatively innocent speeches, declarations and actions, and thus the politician must always be on his or her guard and must be extremely attentive to keeping the owners and the editors as happy as possible, so that the activities of both Mr Blair and Mr Cameron are explicable in that regard.
Q. Moving to the reverse side of the coin and the power that the media has over politicians, which you touched upon in your answer a moment ago, how powerful do you assess the option of personal attack against a politician by the media to be?
A. It can very powerful. It can be very powerful if it is combined with some kind of scandal, whether in his or her private life or perhaps in political life. A revelation, say, of an abuse or a supposed abuse, coupled then with a powerful polemic which says that this person is not fit for his or her post, then becomes extremely powerful. I think more powerful this may be the subject of another question, but more powerful, I think, is the position the newspaper takes over time. The example that comes to mind is that the Sun, which had been, when Rupert Murdoch bought it, a paper of the left, with its origins, I think, in the Daily Herald, which had been a left wing newspaper, in the 70s and 80s, created, if you like, a working class conservatism. It gave permission to people who had been born working class and who may remain working class to be aspirational, to buy their council houses and to be to consume more than they did he have before, and indeed therefore to vote for a party which expressed these aspirations, which had been seen much more a party of the middle class. That the Sun should both create some of that trend and run with a trend which was running in society anyway was much more power, I think, than any individual attack, any individual attack or revelation. It was a kind of constant underpinning of the journalism of all kinds, in the Sun above all, but also in some of the other tabloids, and which, as I say, gave permission to large numbers of people to think differently and to therefore choose politically differently than they or their parents and grandparents had done.
Q. If that sustained position is particularly powerful, how would you rate the power of electoral support of a newspaper at a particular election?
A. I think studies have shown it is less important, that for a paper to come out for X or Y party is less important. I think politicians I think there is something in the argument that politicians see it as more important than it is and that, for example, when the Sun very publicly and apparently damagingly changed from support for New Labour to support for Conservatives before the last election, that was assumed by many politicians, both right and left, to be very important. It probably was rather less important than they thought.
Q. You touch, at the bottom of page 7 of your witness statement, on the issue of transparency in dealings between politicians and the media. Can I ask you to develop your thoughts and to tell us, first of all, at what level of contact do you think it is necessary for a record to be put into the public domain?
A. I think certainly formal interview. I think it would be reasonable for it to be in the public domain that the Prime Minister or a Cabinet Minister had met an owner, an editor, commentator, reporter, for that matter, although the reporter would very often reflect that meeting had taken place. I think that one enters into a much more difficult area where one talks about more casual meetings, and the kind of chat, if you will, sometimes social or even friendly friendly acquaintance kind of banter and chat that goes on constantly between contacts and journalists. In my experience, both working here and abroad, one gathers at least as much information from very often accidentally, by chance, something comes up which you had not gathered before from these off-the-record friendly, informal occasions as you do from what, after all, is, on the part of the interviewee, something which has been well prepared. So I think to regulate that would be adverse to both the freedom of the press, press freedom, and to the public interest, because it is from that huge undergrowth of contacts between journalists and people of all kinds in business, in politics, in institutions that one gets the first intimation of important stories, and indeed very often how they are developing, how important are they, what is being said in this or that circle, what is coming up, who is up, who is down. These things are very rarely the subject of formal interviews but they do exist in this substratum, into which journalists must link if they are to keep abreast of the areas which they cover.
Q. If routine encounters between a journalist and a politician are not to be recorded, would you agree that meetings between senior politicians and senior newspaper executives should be?
A. Yes, I think so. I think a record should be in the public domain that the meeting took place.
Q. Which takes me to the next question, as to the level of detail. Should it be simply the fact of the meeting, should it go further and identify at least the subject matter of the conversation, or should it go further still?
A. My bias is towards the first, that is that it took place. I think that ministers, prime ministers and indeed owners, editors and so on have a right to talk in private if they wish, but that at least it is logged that they were seen and then one gathers, as one has gathered, in meetings between the Prime Minister and executives of News International the very fact of the regularity of the meetings, the frequency, is itself a valuable fact.
Q. At page 8 of your witness statement, you return to the question of the culture of journalism itself, which you identify as a primary issue. In your book, you place considerable weight on the interview with Andrew Gilligan which led ultimately to the Hutton Inquiry. You say this is particularly illuminating as to modern media culture. Can you tell us very briefly what your concern was?
A. When I was beginning to write the book, it seemed to me an encapsulation of a major theme of it; that is that between the media and politics had developed a daily, indeed hourly struggle, and the struggle was over the minds of those whom we journalists call the audience or the viewers or the readers and whom politicians call the electorate, the citizens. In a way, we are fighting for the same thing. We are fighting for the allegiance of their opinion. We are fighting for their allegiance. That struggle, which I think is an increasing feature of the media from the 70s onwards, and became much more overt, seemed to me to have a kind of epiphany in the Gilligan affair, because although it became quite clear quite quickly that the BBC did not at the very least did not have the substance with which to back an allegation which essentially was that the Prime Minister knowingly lied to the country in the first report of that, just after 6 in the morning, it continued to defend that, although it no longer continued to put it out, and defended it to the point of pitting itself against the government. In his memoirs, Blair writes about the surprise he had that the BBC could not simply issue an apology which for something which, after all, could have been simply a footnote, but instead defended, right up to the level of the chairman and the director general, the report and rebutted any attempt by the government to have it corrected, and did so on the grounds that for it to do so would be to cave in to political pressure and as a free medium, part of the free media, it could not do so without losing part of its freedom. That seemed to me to be a very good example of the struggle which I was trying to illuminate.
Q. You say that the code of ethics needs to be internalised by journalists and that a culture of more ethical journalism should not and probably cannot be imposed. Let's look at some of the mechanisms by which a code of ethics might be internalised, starting with the code itself. You have already told us a little bit about how you think codes might be improved; is there anything further you would like to add about how to move ethics forwards through a code?
A. It is clear that the PCC code, which is by and large a good one, one which puts, in fairly unambiguous terms the underpinning of a free the free media in a democratic society and spells out the duties and responsibility as well as the freedoms it is clear that that really had little effect in the day-to-day life of many newspapers, and perhaps of very little relevance to any newspapers, since many newspapers already had, either explicitly or implicitly, a code of behaviour in their reporting and in their editing, which, in a sense, didn't need to have the prick the spur given to them by the PCC code. How to internalise a code of ethics seems to me to be a long-term thing. It depends very much on the way in which journalists, especially reporters all journalists see themselves, and what I have argued is that as long as they see themselves as, to a large extent, the servants of a news desk, an editor, a proprietor, at a distance at least, and that anything their boss or bosses tells them to do, any kind of story they tell them to get, any kind of methods they wink at for getting that, they should fulfil. The more that is the way in which journalists approach their work, the less ethics will matter and will be observed. Other we always say partly a defence, as well as elf-deprecation, we say journalists say, "We are not a profession; we are a trade. We are not like you lawyers, doctors, accountants. We are a trade." It is partly self-defence, and its self-defence because we implicitly assume that we therefore don't have the inhibitions which are upon you. We don't have the professional codes. We don't have organisations which can strike us off from being a journalist in the way that, say, a doctor will have. Thus our ethical observance doesn't have to be anything like as near the front of our mind as the professions do. Whether we are a profession or a trade, it seems to me, doesn't matter. What we do need, I think, is some sense that there are limits to what we will do for those who hire us, and that these limits depend upon doing journalism, writing stories which (a) are, as far as we can tell, observably true, and (b) do not, grievously, egregiously and for no real public interest purpose, impinge on people's privacy. If we internalise and have that as part of our ethic, then we can at least refuse maybe at the cost of our job or promotion, but we can, with some dignity, refuse to do the bidding of people who wish us to do things which are and would be regarded as being unethical, but that is what was in my mind.
Q. You identify a number of institutions concerned with the news media: the Reuters Institute, which you have told us a little bit about already, the Media Standards Trust and Polis at the LSE. What role do you foresee for such institutes in the maintenance and improvement of ethical standards in the media?
A. I think they are important, but so far, they have been important in a minor key. Most journalists are contemptuous of academics. To say that someone is academic is pejorative, rather than a compliment. They are contemptuous of academic media studies or journalism studies, although increasingly now, journalists not true of my generation, but of younger generations increasingly, journalists come out of journalism schools. But still that contempt remains, that academics, scholars, people who draw up codes of ethics and so on, essentially are not in the real world, that they are abstract, they don't know what happens, they don't know the difficulties of getting stories out of reluctant politicians or others. They simply and indeed also don't know anything at all about the market and what people wish to read. So it is very difficult.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Some people have said that about the Inquiry too.
A. Indeed. Well, you have so far borne it. So far, I think sorry, the difficulty then is to get the debate and the research and the proposals of what are academic or quasi-academic institutions the Reuters Institute is part of Oxford University, POLIS is part of LSE, the Media Standards Trust is not part of a university but brings out material or publishes material which is rather similar to much of what POLIS and the Reuters Institute does. The problem is getting that into, if you like, the journalistic discourse. There is no, if you like, general meeting place for journalists who then discuss these issues. There are the usual suspects, who will come to academic conferences or seminars and give their views, but by and large they don't. Reuters Institute have tried extremely hard to get editors of tabloids to speak, and they simply will not come. Sometimes when they do respond, which is rare, they will say that there is no point in having a dialogue because it would be a dialogue of the death. So what does happen in other cultures again, especially in the United States, where there is, at least to some extent, a mingling of the academy or journalism studies with the profession hardly happens here at all, and I think that is a shame, because although some journalism and media studies, in my experience, are almost impenetrable because they use a particular kind of academic jargon, much of what is published is of great use and interest and elevates the debate as well as the profession. So it is difficult to get these things across.
Q. You also raise the idea of a journalism society. Whilst one can see for the person motivated to join and to participate that might have great benefit, would you accept there is always going to be an Achilles' heel to something like a journalism society in that the less principled journalist simply won't join?
A. Yes, I think that is right. I think that is not a reason for not doing it, because that would be true in many walks of life, but I think it is worthwhile now and it is worthwhile now especially for one reason. My profession my part of the profession is declining. There are fewer and fewer newspapermen and women around, and that will continue to be the case. But there are vast millions and millions of people who, in one way or another, use the report to report, to publicise, to comment. Some of them might well claim to be journalists and some of them, I think, are at least doing a journalistic job and for them I think a journalism society, a kind of voluntary institute, probably with a virtual existence more than a real one, where issues of what do you report", when do you report, how much privacy should you observe, to what purpose, what is the public interest, can be debated, I think, again, it would raise the game and would give this new journalism, which is still developing and we barely understand and many of us are hostile to it because it impinges upon our traditional role as gate keepers it would help, I think, develop citizens' journalism a great deal. So I think it is a good idea. How one gets it off the ground, how one pays for it is another matter.
Q. At the bottom of page 9 of your witness statement, you discuss self-policing by the media and you point to the perhaps seminal example of the Guardian and its pursue of the hacking story. But would I be right to understand that you think on the whole the media has not done a particularly good job of policing itself?
A. No, it hasn't. I think that is a correct assumption. I think another watchword of Fleet Street was that dog does not eat dog and that meant that you didn't then reveal the egregious errors or indeed the egregious tactics of other papers, even if they were your competitor. Quite often, there would be an agreement between newspaper editors as, I think, again in this court, it was said that there was an agreement I have no knowledge if this was the case between the Daily Express and Daily Mail that they would stop criticising each other. These kind of either explicit or implicit assumptions that you don't go for other newspapers, you don't criticise other people's reports, were was the rule. The Guardian, to its great honour, broke that rule and was much criticised for doing so. In a minor key, when I wrote the book I was much criticised for doing so, for breaking the code which says you do not, in writing about journalism, do other than make some jokily self-deprecating remarks, and that is about the limit. I think now that the Guardian has done that, now that it is clear much clearer than it was before that journalism cannot merely be defended by saying by reference to the freedom of the press, and therefore anything we do is by definition correct since that, I think, has been fairly clearly, including in this room, has been pretty clearly exploded, I think now that both in newspapers or in television, still the dominant medium, and much, much more in the new internet sites, websites and so on, the watchdog of the watchdog function will be developed much more.
Q. Is there anything that can be done particularly to encourage that?
A. I think one issue is to make it this sounds minor, but actually it is quite important. A number of small NGOs have begun or have tried to begin correction websites. That is, they will take the one I am thinking of, which I had some hand in helping start, called Full Fact, which is now operating, takes speeches by politicians or by other public figures and reports on television and in newspapers and so on which it would deem to be possibly contentious and examine it for factual accuracy. Now, clearly, every day a vast number of facts or apparent facts are put into the public arena, so it must be highly selective, especially since these things work on a shoe string. Channel 4 has something similar to it as well. But the development of websites and they will largely be websites which at least are there as a record to say, "When X said Y, he was wrong, he got most of his facts wrong. When the Daily Beast reported this, it was wrong, and it was wrong for these reasons, and we have checked it out and we have found it wrong" that is extremely valuable and I think that should continue. The problem is that the Charity Commission is very reluctant to give charitable status to such an NGO because it sees it as being political and of course it shies away, rightly, from that. But I think that a looser approach to that kind of organisation, a more understanding approach that this in the public interest and not simply a political tool would help enormously and would allow these organisations to be more efficient because it would allow them to raise more money.
Q. We have spoken mainly so far about matters of culture and changing behaviour from within. Can we move now to the question of regulation and in particular to future regulation. If we start with independence. Would you agree that any future regulator needs to be independent, particularly of government but also of the press?
A. Yes, certainly of government. I think a regulator it is reasonable to have representatives of the press. It is not reasonable to have the press dominate, in the way they have, the Press Complaints Commission.
Q. In terms of the composition of the regulator, do you have any view as to whether serving editors should sit or whether it would be better for retired editors, without the commercial interest, to be involved?
A. I think probably the latter. I think serving editors inevitably, with the best will that they can muster, must pursue, since these are extremely busy men and women and must always look out for the interests of their newspaper, that their decisions would be very deeply affected by short-run advantage and must be so. So it would be better, I think, to have former editors.
Q. The question of an appointment system for whoever is to sit on a future regulator, would you agree that it needs to be an independent body?
A. Yes, I would.
Q. Do you have any ideas as to the best way to fund a future regulator?
A. That is very difficult. PressBoF, which funds the PCC, is declining, not just because Richard Desmond Express Group newspapers withdrew from it and therefore withdrew their contribution to it but because every newspaper group now faces an extremely uncertain financial future and therefore will wish to cut back where it can. And although the PCC is not huge, it is, for some newspaper groups, several hundred thousand pounds, and I think they would try to limit that. So getting it from the industry becomes increasingly difficult. Then there is the state, and that, then, of course, raises the spectre of state interference. My own view is that in this country at least, the example of the BBC as other institutions, including the law itself, being funded by the state does not mean that independence is therefore fatally compromised. But the third, I think the third way could be for some voluntary or institutional contribution. That is, that the institution raises its funds from those who wealthy individuals, institutions, charitable institutions, funding institutions, who have a strong interest in a free and independent media. That, I think, would be better. That is not to say that these wealthy individuals or institutions have no agenda; very often, they will have a very powerful one. But if a number of them came in and they came in on the specific understanding that they gave money to a goal but not gave money in order to have their opinion served, then that, I think, would be the best outcome.
Q. In terms of
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Can you give an example of some such institution or body?
A. There is in I keep instancing the United States but it is the best example of it. The Committee for the Freedom of Journalism, I think the main body which, in a way, is rather like and is the inspiration for the idea of a journalism society is funded in this way by the Pew Trust. Pew is one of these big American institutes which were funded, often decades ago, by a wealthy individual and has a large foundation and a large fund. Sorry, I beg your pardon, I have remembered it: the Committee for Concerned Journalists. It is by far the most important body within the United States, mainly in the newspaper section, for dealing with issues of journalism standards, issuing a yearly and very influential account of how journalism has gone in the US say, for example, how many foreign correspondents there are, how many have been cut, how many bureaus remain and so forth. That is funded not by the industry, not by the state the state funds very little in the media in the United States but funded by a very well funded institute, the Pew Foundation.
In terms of what the future regulator might do, do you agree that one of its functions must be to adjudicate upon standards?
A. Yes, I think that is a reasonable duty for it to have.
Q. Do you see merit in it having power proactively to investigate?
A. Yes. I think that if and when newspaper groups or media groups bought into this, they should buy into a system where their protestations and their signing up to a code which all members, of course, of the PCC do sign up to should be examined and should be relatively transparent in the way that a newspaper editorial will routinely say that any institute should be at times investigated to make sure it is living up to its own claims.
Q. Do you have a position as to whether or not it would be a good idea to allow third parties to raise complaints about media coverage or should complaints be restricted to those personally affected. I am thinking here about pressure groups and so on.
A. I think it is reasonable for third parties. I think the restriction of the moment of the PCC, which is that the complaints will only be accepted if they are actually by the person who has suffered the real or imagined injury, is too restrictive. There is a problem, of course, that that may open the doors to all kinds of to simply an unmanageable flood of complaints, and therefore I think one would have to be discriminating. But I think that at the moment, restricting it to simply the object of the real or supposed harm is too restrictive.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
What you have to be able to do is tell the difference between what is itself an attempt to legitimately influence the debate
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
from what is a legitimate complaint about what has actually been done.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
That is the difference, isn't it?
A. Indeed, and discrimination could there must be some mechanism to discriminate between the two.
Do you think it would be a useful role for a future regulator to have a dispute resolutions function to provide a quick, cheap and effective way of resolving privacy complaints and defamation issues without recourse to the court?
A. The way you put the question almost demands a yes, but I think that is right.
Q. I accept that and so I am going to ask the follow-up, which is: do you think that is something which can practically and feasibly be put into place?
A. I think it can. Again, much will depend on the details and the practice and the devil is in the details, but I think it can be, yes. It can at least be attempted.
Q. As to teeth, what sanctions do you think it would be appropriate for a regulator to deploy in appropriate cases?
A. I think that one sanction is to make sure that the offending and the offence would have to be very clearly established, but once it had been clearly established the offence on the part of the publication or the broadcast should itself receive as much publicity as possible, that the regulator, the council, would have the power and should have the influence to put it in the public domain and expect it to get some salience in that public debate, especially on television. In other words, what one would seek to do is to raise the game. At the moment, of course, PCC the upholding of complaints to the PCC are published. They are published to the offending member. They can be published anywhere in the newspaper, but they are published and usually are published in fact, I think always published in full, but they receive little attention. I think what one would seek to do is to raise the game, and that is to give and this would be partly by example, partly by the leadership of the council, whatever it might be to say, "This is very important. An important breach of public trust has been committed by X newspaper and we wish to take some time to put it right." The function of ombudsmen in newspapers has been and in this country, there are very few of these, the Guardian is one has been to draw attention in a much visited part of the newspaper to something which has gone badly wrong within the newspaper. Again, the better example is in the United States, where both the Washington post and New York Times had ombudsmen who were exceptionally given huge space in one case, the ombudsman reported, at many pages' length, a piece in the magazine which, in his view, had been comprehensively been misreported. It is that kind of making a fuss about it, making sure that the audience understands that this is a large this is not just a routine matter; it is a large and important matter because a large number of people have been misinformed and that is a bad thing. That, I think, is the main sanction that should be developed.
Q. What about a power to fine?
A. If a voluntary organisation then gives the institution of which it is part the power to fine, yes. And I think for serious lapses then that would be the fines would have to be fairly substantial in order to actually deter, but yes, if it was agreed by the membership that should be the case, then yes.
Q. The qualification you introduced to that answer takes me to the next point, which is: what mechanism is required in order to ensure that all those who ought to be subject to a future regulatory regime are in fact subject to it? When we have, at the moment, Mr Desmond's newspapers outside the PCC and we have Private Eye outside the PCC for rather different reasons, is voluntary mechanism really feasible?
A. It comes on to I mean, this touches on something we haven't talked about much but which is increasingly important, and that is the huge amount of journalism and revelation which is simply not in the mainstream media, ie the net and the increasing weakness of the mainstream media may render some of these discussions not irrelevant but increasingly difficult to make any to elaborate mechanisms. But I think there are two methods if one is dealing with newspapers as they are now. One is to develop if one can develop carrots, to develop carrots, and one of these is one which the Irish press council has come up with, which is that members who are in good standing and shown to be in good standing will enjoy an assumption, I think is right if a libel case is taken against them, the judge will take the good standing into account and may reduce the damages. So that may be one reason why Mr Desmond's newspapers in Ireland are members of the Irish Press Council but not members of the British PCC. The other, I suppose, is
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Sorry no, you carry on and I will come back to it
A. I was only going to say that the other is statute, and therefore that membership is and the Media Standards Trust, as I understand their proposal, which only recently came out the Media Standards Trust has argued that under statute, all news media organisations, corporations certainly not individuals on the web but news corporations of some kind or another should be members.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Let me test the Irish idea. We might be going to this further. Is there not something which is not entirely satisfactory about a system which results in differential compensation for the victim depending upon who victimised the victim?
A. I agree entirely. I mean, I made the point myself. I think it doesn't really matter to the victim that the offending newspaper has been, in the estimation of his peers and the council, a good member, because his damage remains the same. It doesn't affect his damage. Therefore I talked to the Irish ombudsman and he himself sees this as a weakness. As I understand it, the issue has not yet been tested in court, but he would expect exactly that objection to come up.
Further on the question of statute, put out of your mind, please, any possibility of statutory regulation of content, which has very obvious difficulties, and consider a statutory underpinning to a regulator designed to ensure inclusion and to confer powers; what is your view on that?
A. I think, perhaps because I have been in newspapers most of my professional life, I still have kind of an aversion to it. To a degree, I would not wish to justify it rationally, but I think I would nearly all newspaper people, no matter what part of the jungle they have made their living in or make their living in, have a kind of built-in aversion and a kind of, if you will, preference for a part of society which remains which retains the right to be irresponsible.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
So it is emotional, rather than intellectual?
A. I fear it is. I will go on to be intellectual in a second, but just to deal with the emotion because emotions are powerful, as you will have seen in this court the way the press here developed was you can see it in novels, in Victorian novels like "The Warden" or "Pendennis". You can see how it developed as a kind of subliterary genre, and that is probably true in other countries as well. Certainly it was true in France. Therefore it grew as something which was organically Bohemian, anti-authoritarian, possibly overly emotional indeed, certainly overly emotional but nevertheless free. That, I think, remains an attachment by newspaper people to that kind of system and therefore there is a certain recoil from the kind of much more formal and careful calculations that have to be made and are made by people in the professions. Intellectually, I think, as I said before, statute in this country, underpinning statutory arrangement, has not, in the case of the BBC, in dealing only with the media, has not meant that it is that it has become a government voice very far from it or, I think, decreased its appetite to do difficult reporting, investigative reporting, reporting which has embarrassed both the government and institutions like the police and so forth. So I have no particular fears of a statutory underpinning, but I testify that there is this strong underpinning in the newspaper industry of a dislike of being marshalled into the same kind of more, if you will, responsible corrals which into which other professions are accustomed to work.
Thank you. Those are all my questions.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Thank you very much, Mr Lloyd. I can assure you that I have absolutely understood that last point. Thank you very much. We will take a break. (11.28 am) (A short break) (11.35 am)
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Yes, Mr Jay?
The next witness is Mr Tim Colbourne, please.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Thank you very much. MR TIMOTHY COLBOURNE (affirmed) Questions by MR JAY
Thank you, Mr Colbourne. You have given us your full name. May I invite you, please, to turn up your witness statement, which will be in the file in front of you. It is dated 17 May. It has three exhibits. Are you able to confirm this as your evidence to the inquiry?
A. I am.
Q. This is evidence that you volunteered, rather than provided pursuant to a statutory notice; is that correct?
A. That's correct.
Q. In terms of who you are, you have been a special adviser working to the Deputy Prime Minister since August 2010 and you are based in the policy and implementation unit at Number 10 Downing Street?
A. That's right, correct.
Q. And so if we are looking at the period particularly December 2010, what, in general terms, were your responsibilities?
A. I was responsible for four government departments: the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Culture, Media and Sports, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Cabinet Office. I was one of five special advisers in the Number 10 policy unit and I provided advice largely to the deputy Prime Minister on those portfolios. Very occasionally, in the early months of the job, I had occasion to provide advice to the Prime Minister, although around the end of 2010, that system changed, the policy unit expanded and the lines of reporting were clarified and my advice from that point onwards was solely to the Deputy Prime Minister.
Q. On 17 November 2010 this is page 13730, under tab 2 of the file you received an email from Mr Frederick Michel; is that correct?
A. That's correct.
Q. Had you any contact with him before you received this email?
A. No, this came out of the blue, as it were.
Q. It says, amongst other things: "It would be good to discuss the current agenda around the creative industry In a nutshell, what was that agenda?
A. Two things, largely. There was a piece of work being conducted by Professor Ian Hargreaves into intellectual property and copyright, which I had some familiarity with. I had a number of conversations around that time with various parts of the media and broadcasting industries about that work. Secondly, the Digital Economy Act, which was a piece of legislation passed at the end of the last Labour Government's time in office and for which various pieces of secondary legislation remained to be enacted and there are ongoing discussions within government, with industry and others about legislation. So those were the two topics of interest to me.
Q. We see no reference to the BskyB bid in this email. Had the BskyB bid been on the agenda, would you have agreed to see Mr Michel?
A. No, I wouldn't.
Q. We know that a meeting took place on 2 December 2010. There are two pieces of evidence which relate to it. First of all, please, your note, which is under tab 3, please, of the bundle. Page 13732. First of all, can you tell us, where did the meeting take place?
A. The meeting took place in one of the rooms at Number 10, which is known as the study. It is one of the state rooms on the first floor.
Q. The handwritten part which we see here, this obviously is your handwriting. May I ask you, please, when did you complete these notes?
A. They were completed during the meeting, so I wouldn't have made any further changes to them afterwards.
Q. Thank you. The note itself is self-explanatory. There is reference to the creative industry agenda but then it moved off to BskyB. Were you surprised when Mr Michel started to debate those matters?
A. I wasn't entirely surprised that he would take the opportunity, given that we were sitting in a room together, to try to pick my brains. If I recall correctly, he asked if I was aware of what was going on with the bids. I explained that I had no part in it and I knew absolutely nothing about the progress of the bid. He then asked whether I was aware of the stages in the process that were expected to come over the following months. As I was pretty sketchy about where those milestones lay and I decided it would be useful to understand the contours of the process, if not the content of the process, we then had a discussion around when those milestones were to be expected.
Q. There is reference to Ofcom's role, looking at plurality not at competition. That is correct: "Brussels looks at competition. Ofcom report to News Corp with questions. Ofcom report to Vince. Vince decides whether to go to the Competition Commission." Can I ask you, please, to compare your notes with the email in KLM18. This is under your tab 10. It is in the PROP file at page 01677. Do you have that to hand?
Q. You are referred to there as "Nick's adviser". The first three bullet points, are those, broadly speaking, correct or not?
A. Those are correct. So the meeting was an introductory meeting with a representative of industry who I hadn't met previously and I had, at this time, a number of introductory meetings with other bodies in the creative industries. That is, for example, with the BBC, with ITV, with some of the American networks. The purpose of these introductory meetings was first and foremost to set out the nature of the work which that particular body conducts and so there was a presentation in broad terms of what News Corporation does and what the range of its business interests are.
Q. Thank you. There is one point, which is the fourth point, which is in bold type: "Honest discussion on the importance for us of getting Labour on board/comfortable with the transaction as it will influence Cable a lot." Can you help us, please, as to whether that is accurate?
A. I have no recollection of that discussion. It is possible that Fred Michel mentioned the Labour Party during the conversation. What strikes me about the way in which this is phrased is there is a, to my mind, implication here that I was offering strategic advice to News Corp for the furtherance of their bid, which was, at that time, in progress, and that I was offering that advice with the implication that Vince Cable would be receptive if they took one stance or another in relation to the Labour Party. That I completely reject. I would not have offered advice in those terms. I have to say, I have no particular insight into the thoughts and workings of the Labour Party on this and most other matters, but in this case, I suspect that a passing reference has been over-interpreted and exaggerated in Mr Michel's record and it doesn't reflect the conversation which took place. The notes which I took of the meeting, the contemporaneous notes, don't make reference to this point, and as I say, I have no specific recollection of it being discussed.
Q. Might Mr Michel have said something along the lines that it was important for News Corp to get Labour on board?
A. Quite possibly, and if that was said, I imagine I would have politely acknowledged it.
Q. The fifth point: "He [that is you] will insist on the need for Vince to meet with us once Ofcom report published." Is that accurate or not?
A. That is not accurate. I have a distant memory, bearing in mind this was a half hour meeting 18 months ago. I have a distant recollection that there was a discussion of a desire by Mr Michel to organise a meeting with Mr Cable after the Ofcom reports had been published. I was not in any position to facilitate that meeting, nor would I have offered to do so, nor would I have said that I insist that Mr Cable held such a meeting. For the record, I don't think that it is the role of specialises to insist that ministers should meet with people they are not inclined to meet.
Q. You weren't, of course, Dr Cable's adviser in any event, were you?
A. No, nor was his department one of the departments for which I had responsibility.
Q. If I just touch very briefly, then, on the sixth point. This is the creative industry's issue again, I think. Is that right, Mr Colbourne? Might this be accurate, or not?
A. This undoubtedly refers to the discussion which we did have about the Digital Economy Act. As I explained earlier, there were various pieces of secondary legislation which flow from that Act. It may be that at the time there was an intention to bring something forward and we discussed the handling of that, but in the event, I don't think any such announcement was made, in January or at any other time. So whether Mr Michel has understood the nature of the conversation or not, I am not sure. These matters are still under discussion within government at the moment.
Q. Is it standard practice for special advisers to make contemporaneous notes of meetings?
A. It is not something which we are advised on one way or another. I was struck, coming into government, that there is a very strong culture amongst the Civil Service of note-taking and the paper trail is, as it were, the lifeblood of the Civil Service, and the way that it does business, the way in which decisions are minuted and arrived at. There is no such expectation of special advisers. Some do take notes and others are not in the practice of taking notes on a regular basis.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
There may be an issue there. I am sure you are aware of the concern that the Inquiry has heard about and discussed, about precisely what assistance special advisers should be given in connection with taking on what are, after all, brand new duties.
A. Personally, I think the level of advice and guidance which is given to special advisers is minimal, that a lot could be done to improve it. I recall that when I was employed I was given a copy of the code of conduct, special advisers, together with my contract but there was no more detailed guidance. On this specific point, I keep notes for my own personal benefit, as an aide-memoire. But I think it is also good practice if only to keep a short list of bullet points, so that it is clear to any third party who might have reason subsequently to ask about the nature of the meeting what exactly was under discussion.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
As would now transpire, one of the things about this note, which is not a million miles from a concern, is that on the one hand you are doing something for them this is the note, not you. I understand your evidence. You are going to insist on this. On the other, they want to do something for you, namely to support the Deputy Prime Minister, and that suggests something which creates an impression which I'm sure you would say simply is not right, in light of what you said.
A. No, I don't recognise that at all, and there was no discussion of a deal and there was no undertaking to carry out particular actions pursuant to the meeting. One of the things that I do and again, it is a personal note-taking habit is I scrupulously record action points with an asterisk in my notes. There were no action points recorded for this meeting and I had no discussions with either Vince Cable's department or anyone else about it afterwards.
The only upshot of the meeting is the email at tab 4 from Mr Michel to you, 7 December, page 13734, which makes no reference to anything apart from assisting the reform process as much as possible in your respective sectors, I paraphrase.
A. This was a typically warm communication from Mr Michel to follow up on the meeting. He indicates in it that he expects there to be future contacts. In the event, there was no such future contact.
Q. Yes, well, events changed a couple of weeks after that email, but I think we can leave it there.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Mr Colbourne, thank you very much. I am grateful to you for providing that piece to the jigsaw. Thank you. (The witness withdrew from the witness box) MS PATRY-HOSKINS: Sir, the next witness is Mr Giles Crown.
A. Thank you very much indeed. MR GILES HUMPHREY CROWN (sworn) Questions by MS PATRY HOSKINS MS PATRY-HOSKINS: Mr Crown, if you would just take a seat and make yourself comfortable. First of all, could you give your full name to the inquiry, please?
A. Giles Humphrey Crown.
Q. Mr Crown, you have provided an amended witness statement, now dated 25 June 2012, with 11 exhibits; can you please confirm this is your formal evidence to the inquiry?
A. That is the case, yes.
Q. Thank you. I am going to summarise the first three paragraphs of your statement just so that we have an understanding of who you are and why it is that you are here giving evidence to the inquiry. You explain at paragraph 1 that you are a partner in the law firm Lewis Silkin and you are head of media brands and technology department, and that you are here making this statement on behalf of Edward Bowles. You make clear that where facts are not within your own knowledge, you have stated the source of your belief, ie from Mr Bowles unless otherwise stated. You are a friend of Edward Bowles and you explain how you met, and you explain that you have been assisting Edward and his family in relation to the matters which we are going to discuss in evidence today
A. That's correct.
Q. on a pro bono basis and that Edward has asked you to make this statement to the Inquiry on his behalf. In the circumstances, which we will outline in a moment, he does not feel able to give evidence to the Inquiry himself. If I just explain who Mr Bowles is. He is a British national. His wife, Ann, is a Belgian national and their 11-year old son Sebastian tragically died in a coach crash on the evening of 23 March 2012. They also have and I say this because it is important for the chronology, which we are going to discuss a nine year old daughter, Helena, and you explain that the Bowles family moved to Belgium from London in 2009. I don't think we need to summarise any further their own personal circumstance. That is an accurate summary of the first three paragraphs?
A. That is all correct.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Mr Crown, can I just say I am very grateful to you for assisting the Inquiry with this evidence and I am also very grateful to Mr and Mrs Bowles for allowing you to do so. I take the opportunity to extend formally my deepest sympathy to them for the tragedy they have suffered.
A. Thank you, sir. MS PATRY-HOSKINS: In a nutshell, Mr Crown, the purpose of your statement is to describe the media intrusion suffered by the Bowles family in the immediate aftermath of Sebastian's death; is that correct?
A. That's correct. I have attempted accurately to summarise what happened.
Q. Right. I am going to take this statement in chronological order insofar as I can, in order to make it simple. We can start, then, at paragraph 8 of your statement. We will start with obviously the tragic accident.
Q. You tell us there that the accident occurred at 9.15 pm on Tuesday 13 March 2012, and that the families were informed of the accident in the early hours of the morning of 14 March.
Q. You explain that Mr Bowles travelled directly from London, arriving again, it is important for the chronology, which is why I read it out arriving at the Hotel des Vignes. This hotel, which you explain is located in a hamlet near Sierre, had been designated specifically by the Swiss authorities as the centre for parents whose children had been involved in the crash?
A. That's correct. I do understand from Edward that in fact that hotel was for the families of the victims who had died. There was a separate hotel for those involved in the crash who had not died.
Q. Right. So on that same day, 14 March, Mr Bowles was informed at lunchtime that Sebastian had not survived and he made contact with his wife at that time.
Q. The following morning so again, taking matters still chronologically
Q. Thursday 15 March, whilst some families were taken to identify the bodies of their children, the others, including Mr Bowles, his wife and his daughter, were taken to the scene of the crash. Now, I labour on this in some detail because the Helena photograph, as we are going to describe it, was taken at that time?
Q. You explain in paragraph 9 of your statement that the Helena photograph, which only came to Mr Bowles' attention some days after the family returned to Belgium, was taken while Edward and Helena were under the porch of the Hotel des Vignes, which is the hotel we have just been discussing, on private property, waiting for the coach to take them to the tunnel?
Q. The flowers, as you explain, that Edward and Helena carried in this photograph were placed at the crash scene in the tunnel. Now, we are not going to show today, during the course of this evidence the photograph, the Helena photograph, for obvious reasons
Q. but can you try and describe it for us?
A. It is a photograph of obviously a young girl crying, carrying flowers and a hand on her head, which is Edward's hand on her head.
Q. Right. You explain again, giving context to that photograph, that the photographers are not allowed onto the hotel property and had been kept at a distance of about 20 metres by police posted outside the hotel. You also explain that coaches had also been placed behind the hotel gate, between the families and the photographers, in an attempt to obstruct the view of photographers of the bereaved families. You say it is clear from the photograph itself that it was taken at a distance without the knowledge of those who were photographed.
Q. How can you tell that from the photograph? Actually, can you just pause there. I am just going to make sure the judge has the correct photograph. It is in the number of places, but if you look in exhibit 3, four pages from the back of that exhibit.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Yes. MS PATRY-HOSKINS: The bottom photograph on that page.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Four pages from the back? MS PATRY-HOSKINS: Four pages from the back.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Thank you. MS PATRY-HOSKINS: The photograph at the bottom of that page is the photograph.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
A. I would say it is clear that the photograph is not in any way staged. It is clear that the people in the photograph have no knowledge that they are being photographed, and in the context of Edward's explanation of how people were positioned, it would seem to me the type of photograph that had been taken at a distance.
Q. You explain at paragraph 10 that Mr Bowles has in fact confirmed to you that he would never have given consent for the publication of this photograph of his nine year old daughter grieving over the death of her brother in these terrible and distressing circumstances.
Q. Now, still on 15 March, please, Mr Crown. You tell us Mr Bowles was later informed by his neighbours in London and Belgium that around this time there were packs of press outside their homes. In addition, you tell us, to journalists calling at neighbours' houses, they also followed neighbours in London along the street, asking them about the Bowles family. In Belgium, the numbers of journalists were so great that the neighbours had to call police to have them cleared away and the police had to return every half an hour or so to move on the journalists that had returned.
Q. Again, going through the chronology, paragraph 12
A. Sorry, I would just say on that, that is how it was described to Edward and it is from some of the articles which quote neighbours and friends. I think the Mail article talks about the shutters being down at the house, so it seemed to be confirming that there were a lot of journalists around the house at that time.
Q. We will look at those articles in some detail in a moment. I just want to finish with paragraph 12 in this section. The family returned to Belgium, you tell us, late on 15 March, and rather than going to their own home, they decided to stay with Mr Bowles' wife and her parents for the first night.
Q. I am going to turn now to paragraph 7 in the chronology, because the next date we are going to be looking at is Friday 16 March, so by this stage we are three days after the accident.
Q. You tell us that the crash received extensive media coverage at the time. A few days after the crash emerged, there had been a British victim, a fact which then also received extensive media coverage. You put out three particular publications as having published articles about the fact that there had been a British victim. So I am going to take them in turn if I can.
Q. I am going to start with the Sun, please, at paragraph 7(a).
Q. You tell us that the Sun published an article about Sebastian's death on the front page and continued on to page 5 of its Friday 16 March issue. That is exhibit 2. I am just going to ask you to look at that.
Q. We can see the date and the headline: "Tragedy of Sebastian, 11. Brit boy killed on the coach." With a photograph, which I will return to in a moment, which appears to be of Sebastian.
Q. Going over to the page 5 extract, it has a picture of a number of children and Sebastian in the bottom right-hand corner.
Q. And it has the following headline: "Dearest mama, papa, Helena and Flopsy, I can already ski quite well. We had hotdogs it is really great here". That appears to be a quote from Sebastian himself.
Q. Can you just give us details of where that quote was obtained from.
A. That quote was obtained from a blog that was on a website, not linked to the school website, but a website that was set up for the trip for the children on the trip to communicate with their parents, so their parents could find out what was happening on the trip. It was taken that quote was taken from Sebastian's postings on that blog, as was the photograph. One can see in the photograph Sebastian in his skiing outfit.
Q. Can I just make clear, a website that you say was not linked to the school's website?
Q. One which was set up solely for the purpose of allowing children on the trip to communicate with their parents?
Q. And text and photograph appeared on that website?
A. That's right.
Q. Do you know whether it was a fully accessible website or whether it had a password to enter it or
A. There was no password on that website. As Edward has summarised through me in the statement, his view was it was clearly a website that was intended for parents and not for the general public.
Q. You explain this in some detail at paragraph 24 of your statement. For the sake of completeness, you explain that neither Mr Bowles nor his wife gave permission for publication of any material from this blog. You explain the website wasn't protected by a password but it was clearly intended only for the parents of the children on the trip, so that they could communicate with their children and see what they had been doing each day.
Q. Then you tell us this: "Once it became known that the media had taken information from the website, it was shut down, but this in itself caused distress to Mr Bowles, his wife and other parents, because it was the only available record of their children's final days and hours. Happily, the school has now been able to make that information available to the parents by other means."
Q. Now, just for the sake of clarity, the Sun did not publish the Helena photograph that we have referred to?
Q. Or other photographs which may have been obtained from a Facebook page, which we will come on to later. That's correct, isn't it? While we are staying on the Sun, please, I would like us, please, to look at paragraph 21 of your statement. This means that the chronology is slightly askew, but while we are discussing the Sun's involvement in this story, it is important that we remain discussing the Sun. You explain there I will paraphrase this that the bank that Mr Bowles works for has its own PR firm.
Q. And a gentleman there called Matt Newton who works for that PR firm also has had some contact with the media in relation to Sebastian's death and the media coverage of the accident?
Q. Am I right in saying that what you relate back to us in paragraph 21 is from a conversation you have had with Mr Newton about his involvement with the media?
A. That's correct.
Q. It has just been repeated back to you. You didn't witness these conversations yourself?
A. Not at all, no.
Q. Again, if I summarise what he has told you about his involvement.
Q. He says that he dealt, on the bank's behalf, with a number of media inquiries in relation to the story. He asked all members of the media to whom he spoke to respect the family's privacy and in particular not to publish any photographs of the children or to reveal their names. He was told that a journalist from the Sun had shown up outside the family home in Belgium and he then left a message on the Sun's news desk, asking them to make sure the journalist left the premises and respected the family's privacy.
Q. In a subsequent conversation with the Sun, he spoke to one of its news editors and it transpired they were going to run a story about Sebastian's death. So two conversations well, one message and one conversation at that stage?
A. Yes, yes.
Q. And during the second conversation, it became clear that they were going to run a story. Mr Newton says, or told you, that he was firm in expressing the clear desire not to participate or talk to any member of the media and asked them in particular not to publish any photographs of the children. The Sun told him that a photograph of Sebastian was already online and therefore they were going to run with it in the paper.
Q. Mr Newton made clear that in his view a photograph appearing somewhere online was very different from publishing it in the Sun and repeated his request not to publish any photographs. The following morning, the Sun published a large photograph of Sebastian on its front page. Mr Newton called the journalist and asked him not to take the story any further and stressed the family's desire to be left alone.
Q. So can I just clarify the facts?
Q. This would suggest that Mr Newton spoke or at least left one message and had one conversation with the Sun prior to their front page and page 5 story that we have already looked at.
Q. During the course of those conversations and messages, he made it absolutely clear that the Bowles family did not want to participate in any story about Sebastian?
A. That is my understanding, yes.
Q. He also made it quite clear to them in particular that he did not want any photographs of the children being published?
A. That is what he told me, yes.
Q. And he was told that they would run with it?
Q. There was also a message about a journalist turning up at their property, and they were told again, in no uncertain terms, that that person should be asked to leave and should not return?
Q. Despite those conversations and messages, it is in those circumstances that the Sun did run with the story and did publish a photograph of Sebastian on the front page; is that factually accurate, to the best of your knowledge?
A. That is what I was told and I should just clarify perhaps that Mr Newton saw this paragraph and confirmed its accuracy.
Q. That is very helpful. For the sake of completeness, if we look at paragraph 13, we can see that in fact, despite all of this and despite the fact that they had run a front page that day, a further journalist appears to have come to the house of Mr Bowles on Friday 16 March. You tell us there that when Mr Bowles returned to the family home with his daughter, waiting at their front door was a woman who Mr Bowles suspected was a journalist. He spoke to her and she identified herself as Caroline Grant from the Sun.
Q. He told her he didn't have anything to say to her but she could leave a note. She then left the property and returned to her car, leaving no note. It is made clear that Ms Grant was at all times polite and somewhat apologetic, and the next day a police office in fact handed a note from Ms Grant, which is exhibit 5, together with her business card, which she had handed in at the police station.
Q. We can see that at exhibit 5. Paraphrasing it
Q. she apologises for being in contact but she says she wants to leave her details in case there is anything Mr Bowles felt he might like to say about Sebastian as a tribute.
Q. "If there is anyone you would rather to speak to me on your behalf, then please pass on my details."
Q. And she apologies again. So far as you are aware I know it is not entirely within your knowledge, but as far as you are aware, this visit from the Sun journalist took place at a time when there had already been a conversation between Mr Newton and the Sun news desk about journalists attending the property and after it had been made clear that they simply didn't want anyone to attend their property in that way?
A. That would certainly seem to be the case, on the basis of Mr Newton's evidence and what Edward says about this visit.
Q. Thank you very much. I am going to turn now to the Daily Mail, if I can. This is 7(b) of your witness statement.
Q. You explain that on the same day we're still talking about 16 March, the same day that the Sun article appeared. You say that the Daily Mail published an article and online, at dailymail.co.uk. The online article, a true copy of which you say is exhibit 3, included the Helena photograph, the family photographs which I will come on to describe in a moment and the photograph of Sebastian in his skiing outfit which was taken from the online blog and which we have already seen in respect of the Sun article.
Q. Can we look briefly at exhibit 3, just to look at that, just very briefly.
Q. Now, the online version of the article has the quote at the top from the online blog.
Q. It then has a photograph of Sebastian which and you have put "FP" by the right-hand side of that. I assume that means "Facebook photograph"?
A. Yes, that is a photograph taken from Facebook.
Q. We can then see a photograph on the right-hand page there I should say on the next page of Sebastian.
Q. Before we turn on to anything further, can I ask you to look very quickly at the text of the article?
Q. "A British boy killed in the Swiss coach disaster was known as 'the little cherub', his former headmistress revealed yesterday." Without reading out the whole of the text of the article, that would indicate that the Daily Mail or the Mail Online had spoken to a former headmistress of Sebastian Bowles?
Q. A lady who worked at a primary school in London?
Q. If we then turn over to the next page, again, there is a photograph of two adults which is also annotated with the ledger "FP"; do you see that?
Q. That appears to be a photograph of Mr Bowles and his wife
A. That's right.
Q. smiling and in a holiday situation.
A. Yes, that's right.
Q. And again, a Facebook photograph?
A. That came from Edward's Facebook page, yes.
Q. We will come on to ask questions about Facebook in a moment, but just for the sake of completeness, there is then a number of pictures also of the crash site.
Q. A photograph of some of the police officers carrying one of the coffins. It then has an extract again from the blog.
Q. Which we have already discussed, and a number of other photographs, including photographs of a child laying flowers, photographs of a number of victims of the crash and the Helena photograph, which we have already identified, four pages from the back of that exhibit, annotated "HP"?
A. Yes, that's correct.
Q. I should have said, for the sake of completeness, that the article also refers to, as you have already said, that the shutters at the house in Leuven had been down and therefore that it is apparent that someone must have looked at the outside of their house in order to be able to refer to that in the article?
A. Yes, that's correct.
Q. I understand from your witness statement at paragraph 17 that in fact Mr Bowles didn't become aware of this article, which is 16 March, until the next day, Saturday 17 March?
Q. And what you say at paragraph 17 is this: "The photographs could only have been taken from Edward's Facebook site. Edward is certain that he had placed all of his Facebook privacy setting on 'friends only'."
Q. Can you just explain to us what that means?
A. I don't have a Facebook site myself but I understand there are different privacy settings, one of which is friends only, which in theory means it should only be accessible to those you have accepted as friends on the Facebook site.
Q. Is your evidence that he has told he is certain that he had that privacy setting in place?
A. That is exactly what he told me, yes.
Q. You also explain that he has no friends in the media on his Facebook site. Is that intended to mean that it could not be the case that one of his friends had given permission to publish the photograph?
A. My understanding
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
All that is saying is he doesn't have anybody who he recognises as being in the media. Whether one of the persons who is his friends actually did is another matter.
A. Yes, indeed, exactly. That's correct. MS PATRY-HOSKINS: And perhaps the most crucial point: in any event, even if that were not the case, he did not give, nor would he have given, anyone permission to use or publish these photographs, which were obviously of a private personal and family nature.
Q. And you tell us, just for the sake of completeness, that once he found out these photographs had been obtained by the media, he first altered the settings to allow access to the site to him alone, and later he simply deactivated his Facebook account completely and it remains deactivated to this day?
Q. I am sure this is absolutely clear, but just so that we are absolutely clear, did anyone ever approach Mr Bowles to say, "Look, we have obtained these photos. Could we have your permission to publish them?"
A. Not as I understand it, no.
Q. You also tell us that this was really the final straw for Mr Bowles and it was at this stage that he contacted you and said, "Mr Crown, I would be very grateful for your help."
A. Yes. I mean, he was very distressed at this point.
Q. We will come back to how you dealt with this and the response when we get to it chronologically, I think.
Q. Because there is a number of responses to the PCC letter which we will come on to.
Q. There is also a very recent letter, which we need to address. We will come back to that. 7(c), for the sake of completeness. You tell us that the Daily Telegraph also published an article in its 16 March issue, which included quotes of Sebastian's postings from the online blog and you believe the Helena photograph. You exhibit exhibit 4, a copy of the online article
Q. because you haven't been able to find a copy of the sort of original.
Q. The Daily Telegraph there were, in fact, a number of editions that day. They have provided us with a number of different versions of the Daily Telegraph that day and they make the point, quite simply, that the Helena photograph does not appear anywhere in any of those editions.
Q. Is there anything else you want to say about that?
A. I, of course, accept that. As I said, we were trying to obtain a copy of that issue of the Telegraph, unsuccessfully, and so how this came about is one must remember at that point Edward called me and said he thought it was the Mail and Telegraph in particular, and I followed up on that and then had a conversation with the Telegraph, and that conversation is summarised in my statement. It wasn't during the course in that conversation, I wasn't told: "We haven't published the photograph." I mean, it may be that we were just talking at cross-purposes, but that was my understanding, that that photograph had been in the Telegraph, because that is what Edward had told me.
Q. I think you now accept that it may simply not have been published. We will come to your conversation with Mr Gallagher. What the final edition on that day did publish was photographs of a number of the children who had died in the accident.
Q. The photograph of Sebastian taken from the online blog we have already discussed.
Q. And the quotations taken from the online blog as well?
A. That's correct.
Q. Sir, I am not sure whether you have copies of these. They were biked over to us recently. I am happy to hand them up. (Handed)
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Thank you very much. MS PATRY-HOSKINS: They should be put in exhibit 4 with the online version.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Thank you. MS PATRY-HOSKINS: Now, that deals with paragraph 7 and the three publications that I said we were going to look at.
Q. If we stay on Friday 16 March for the moment and just tie up some loose ends. From paragraph 14 onwards, you tell us that also on 16 March, apart from the visit from the Sun journalist that we have already discussed, it is also clear that a journalist from Blik newspaper had approached a neighbour
Q. and had asked him to approach Mr Bowles and again, a note was left in Mr Bowles' postbox by a journalist. That is exhibit 6.
Q. We don't need to read that out, but it is also clear that the newspaper is asking for an interview or some kind of comment
Q. on the fact that Sebastian has been one of the victims.
Q. You then explain, paragraph 15, that as a result of all of these visits, Edward's family lived with their external window shutters closed because they were concerned about media intrusion.
Q. Now, we now move to Saturday 17 March, so only four days on from the accident.
Q. We have already described a lot of things that happened in those days since the accident took place. Saturday 17 March is the day Mr Bowles became aware, as we have explained, of the Facebook photographs being available to the media.
Q. I would also like us, please, to touch on a visit that he received from a journalist from the Mail on Sunday. You tell us that Matt Sandy from the Mail on Sunday arrived without any prior warning at the Bowles' home. He carried a bunch of flowers. Mr Bowles actually opened the door not knowing who he was, because there were quite frequent deliveries of flowers to the family home.
Q. He was in tears at the time. Mr Sandy explained who he was and Mr Bowles relayed to him the same message as he had to Ms Grant and the other journalist, thanked him for the flowers and then closed the door. Then Mr Sandy from the Mail on Sunday left a note.
Q. Which is exhibit 7.
Q. Frankly, I don't really need to paraphrase it; we have heard it all before. He apologises for disturbing them but saying, essentially, that telling your world about loved one may offer a grain of support.
Q. And he says: "These are all my details. Please be in touch if you feel able to do so."
Q. Now, at this point, you become involved, and you explain at paragraph 17 why it is that he decided to contact you, whether you could help him in protecting his privacy at this exceptionally difficult time.
Q. The first thing you did was I am going to turn to the PCC circulated on the afternoon of the same day, 17 March. That is contained at exhibit 1. Now, first of all, you tell us that
A. Could I just clarify one point? The first thing I actually did was call the PCC.
Q. That is what I was going to ask you.
A. Sorry, I contacted them on their 24-hour helpline. I spoke to them.
Q. To Mr Milloy?
A. To Mr Milloy.
Q. Can you tell us about the conversation, please.
A. I explained the issues as I understood them at the time and I made clear Edward's concern over the media intrusion and he was sympathetic and I believe he asked me then to put the concerns in writing, which I was planning on doing anyway, to send out a letter to various media outlets, and so I then drafted the letter quickly, as quick as I could, send it to Mr Milloy and I also sent it to various media outlets that I had contact details for as well.
Q. Okay. Pausing there, do you know whether, prior to your contact with the PCC, the PCC had had any contact with the Bowles family, or attempted to make any contact with the Bowles family?
A. No, I'm almost certain they didn't. There was no mention of that when I spoke to the PCC.
Q. Mr Milloy advised you to draft the letter?
A. Yes. I mean, obviously I don't know what would have been the reaction if I had not been a lawyer. I mean, I made clear, as I made clear all along, that I was a lawyer but also a friend. So, as I say, I don't know he did ask me to put it in writing to the PCC, and then I believe he said he would then send that out to his contacts, as I believe happened.
Q. All right. So you sent it both to him and to a number of editors, you tell us?
A. That's right.
Q. Can we look very briefly at the letter that you drafted on that day.
Q. Bearing in mind, of course, that by this stage at least these three articles we have referred to had already appeared in the press.
A. They had, but when I drafted this letter I hadn't actually Edward had spoken to me, he had called me. I was coming back home at the time. I got straight home and I started to speak to the PCC and drafted this letter before I had had seen these articles.
Q. That is very helpful. Again, I am going to is summarise. You explain at the start who you act for. You explain that Mr Bowles and his family are suffering and they sincerely wish to be left to grieve the death of their son in peace without any media intrusion. You make that absolutely clear.
Q. You explain also that despite these pleas, intrusion has happened. You explain in particular at paragraph 4 that intrusive photographs have already been published of them grieving, including photographs of Helena in a distressed state, along with photographs from the Facebook site which we have already discussed.
Q. You explain that intrusion in this way and publication of such photographs is a grave infringement of their privacy. You then set out a number of provisions from the editors' code of practice
Q. including sort of more general ones, for example, that it is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent
Q. but also the more specific provisions relating to children and intrusion into grief or shock. Do you see that?
Q. I don't want to read them out, but I am sure we are all very familiar with the provisions.
Q. But it is important that you drew their attention to it. You say you alerted the PCC to the complaints and you say at paragraph 6 that one of the important concerns of the family is that there is going to be a funeral, it is a strictly private occasion and there can't be any reason or justification for the media attending that. Then you say: "We require that all private photographs of the family, including those photographs referred to above, are removed immediately from all media websites and there is no further publication whatsoever of any such photographs. In particular, but without limitation, there must be no taking or publication of any photographs of Helena."
Q. So it couldn't really have been clearer on that?
A. Can I clarify one point?
Q. Of course you can.
A. There was a state funeral for all 22 children, which was and then there was a separate memorial service for Sebastian. Edward's particular concern was that the memorial service would be private and so I was focused on trying to make sure that happened.
Q. So those were the two distinct concerns of the family at that stage, on Saturday 17 March. Those were the things you were particularly drawing to their attention.
Q. Do you have any recollection of exactly which editors this was circulated to? Was it just the ones who had already published articles or was it
A. No, I had I sent it to probably about eight contacts in the media, including these ones. But others as well, the main media outlets, those that I had email addresses for, as well as the PCC.
Q. You tell us at paragraph 18 that this letter was sent directly to, amongst others, Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail, by email on that same afternoon.
A. Yes, that's correct.
Q. The reason I refer to that is obviously we have left a loose end with the Daily Mail. You explain that there was no response or acknowledgement. You then sent a follow-up email on 18 March, which did result in a letter in response dated 20 March 2012?
Q. And that is exhibited at exhibit 8. If we can have a look at that, please.
Q. We remind ourselves, of course, that the Daily Mail and certainly the Mail Online article we have looked at had published not just Facebook pictures but also the Helena photographs.
Q. And the online blog photograph and the quotations from the online blog.
Q. So obviously a matter of serious concern to Mr Bowles?
Q. So it is in that light and in that context that we look at their response dated 20 March: "Thank you for your letter
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Just before you go to the response, you say this was sent by email. So there's no delay in anybody getting this letter?
A. No, it was sent to, I think, three two individuals at the Mail and a general editor's or news email address as well.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
That is the process you adopted presumably for all the press that you sent it to?
A. That's right.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Yes, sorry. MS PATRY-HOSKINS: So the chronology is the Mail Online article appears, the next day you send the letter directly to them.
Q. On 18th, you send a chaser email?
Q. And on 20th, this is the letter you get?
A. That's correct.
Q. "The photographs published of your clients on holiday (one of Mr and Mrs Bowles and another cropped to show only Sebastian) I will come back to the cropping in a moment: were taken from Mr Bowles Facebook page on Friday at a time when they were openly accessible. We note that the page's privacy settings have now been increased and as per your request, we have removed these photographs from the website." Then they say: "Your clients have our deepest sympathy and we have no wish to add to their distress. We have now circulated an internal warning detailing the issues raised in your letter of 17 March and setting out your clients' concerns."
Q. Now, first of all let's take this in stages this doesn't deal with all the concerns in the PCC letter and particularly not the Helena photograph?
Q. Secondly, is there anything you would like to say about the privacy settings or whether it matters whether they were full privacy settings or no privacy settings at all?
A. I can't add to what we have said about privacy settings, other than and as I've put in I was quite careful in the PCC letter. I put it that either the settings had been circumvented or these photographs had been obviously obviously private photographs had been published from a Facebook page.
Q. They say they have now removed the Facebook photographs from the website; is that correct, to the best of your knowledge?
A. I believe that was correct, yes.
Q. Did they remove at the same time the Helena photograph?
Q. If you turn on to exhibit 9.
Q. You tell us this is a true copy of the article currently on the website. Now "currently", that means when you were drafting this statement?
A. Yes, it is dated 19 June, so it was
Q. So as of 19 June, this was we can see that the Facebook pictures have indeed been removed.
Q. We still have the extract from the blog and we still have, we can see towards the end of that, the Helena photograph.
Q. Sir, it is not four pages from the back because a number of comments have been added, but it is five pages a number of additional photographs in fact appear, including the class photograph and so on.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Right. MS PATRY-HOSKINS: That is where we were with the Daily Mail and their response to the PCC letter until the fact that your witness statement prepared for this Inquiry appears to have resulted in a further letter from Associated Newspapers dated yesterday.
A. Yes. I received it about 7 o'clock last night.
Q. About 7 o'clock last night you received it. Now, I am going to pass you a copy, because it has only just come in. I saw it this morning.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Thank you. MS PATRY-HOSKINS: I am going to paraphrase it while I have it in my hand. Dated 25 June 2012. That is yesterday.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
That is yesterday. MS PATRY-HOSKINS: Yes: "It has been brought to my attention that a photograph we now know to be Helena Bowles was published on the Mail Online." I should be clear this is from Alex Bannister, the group managing editor.
Q. Just pausing there, when were Associated first aware, to the best of your knowledge when was it first brought to their attention that in fact a photograph of Helena had been published by them?
A. Well, certainly with the receipt of my letter.
Q. 17 March?
Q. "This photograph was not published in the Daily Mail and was removed from our website as soon as we became aware that its subject was Helena." Pausing there, that must have been at some point after 19 June, because we have just looked at the article as it was on 19 June and it contained the Helena photograph; correct?
A. That's right.
Q. "I would be grateful if you could convey this to the Bowles family, along with our sincere regrets." What they say, in essence they want to set out the circumstances in which they published the photograph of Helena. They say the photograph was taken by one of the largest press picture agencies in the world on 15 March and the caption only read "Relatives of victims leave the Hotel Des Vignes". The Mail Online didn't identify Helena in its caption because it was unaware who the subject was, they say. They then make a number of comments about the fact that they would expect a respectable picture agency like EPA to take steps to ensure that they asked themselves the correct questions and taken into account appropriate considerations and so on.
Q. "It wasn't until your witness statement to the Inquiry that we actually became aware that the girl in the photograph was in fact Helena And so on. I don't need to read the whole letter out.
Q. They do say essentially that they have now taken once it became clear to them that it was Helena, they have now taken the photograph off the website and it doesn't appear there anymore.
Q. Is there anything you would like to say about the contents of that letter, please, Mr Crown?
A. I have a number of comments on the letter, if there is time.
A. Firstly, it was clear to them that they say the caption was "Relatives of victims leaving the Hotel Des Vignes". As I have explained, that was a hotel specifically for victims who had died. They, to my mind, knew that the photograph was of a young relative of a victim. On its face, it is clearly a grieving young child at that hotel, so clearly must have been a relative of a victim. My understanding from Edward is that the Facebook photograph they took of Sebastian the cropping that is referred to in the Associated letter was actually cropping out Helena. It was a photograph of the two of them. The and the photograph itself, the other photograph, the Helena photograph, has Edward in it. I don't know how that cropping took place, but obviously Edward is with Helena with his hand on her head. So he would have been in that photograph as well, and I don't know how but certainly the Facebook photograph that appeared on the Mail Online of Sebastian, Edward has told me that was just Sebastian and Helena, and Helena was cropped out of that photograph. Just moving on through the letter, they say they didn't identify Helena but obviously they did name her in the article and they say unaware of who the subject was. As I have said I have made some comments on that. They talk about reliance on EPA. That is the first I had heard about the picture agency. We have referred to some of the provisions of the code that I had quoted in the PCC letter about my understanding that the newspaper should take responsibility for the pictures they published. They said "EPA inform us". It is not clear to me whether that is informing them now or whether they made any inquiries at the time of EPA as to the circumstances in which this photograph was taken. And they say that they were told it was someone standing in a public place on the other side of the road from the hotel. I can't say any more than what Edward has told me, as summarised in my statement, about where the individuals were and the circumstances in which that photograph was taken, and certainly Edward's evidence is that it was on hotel property and there were steps taken to shield the families of the victims from the photographers. They then say that they had no reason to believe the photograph had not been taken in a public place or that relatives did not wish to be observed and photographed, to which I would you know, the photographs speak for themselves and I find it surprising that they make that assertion. They then say the letter makes no reference to the photograph being published on the Mail Online. They say: "If the Lewis Silkin letter had alerted us that the photograph on Mail Online was of Helena, it would have been immediately removed." I mean, the letter was written with speed, a general letter to a number of media editors, as was necessitated by the circumstances. I would say that they could have inquired I did put in the letter my mobile number and my email address on the letter and said, "If there were any questions about the letter, then please get in touch with me", as indeed the Telegraph did, as I have summarised in my statement.
A. And indeed the PCC or anyone else could have asked if there was any doubt about which photograph was being referred to and looking back over the article, I can't really see, to my mind, any other photograph in the online article that could have been of an eight year old grieving, as described in the letter. There are a number of photographs, of course, but if one looks through that article, to my mind, it would be fairly clear which was the Helena photograph.
Q. I am going to put aside that letter if you have finished making the comments you wish to make.
Q. I want to stick with EPA, the picture agency concerned here, because there is something raised by the Sun, which I think we need to address.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Just before we pass on from this letter, I think we ought to make clear that we will put it into the exhibits to Mr Crown's statement so that it adjoins the others and is available for everybody to see. MS PATRY-HOSKINS: Absolutely. We will call it exhibit 12 for those purposes.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Thank you. MS PATRY-HOSKINS: You will remember, of course, that the Sun newspaper did not publish the Helena photographs or the Facebook photographs; it published the photograph from the online blog.
Q. The Sun say, much as the Daily Mail do, that that photograph was distributed internationally by two picture agencies, one called Kos, the other agency being EPA, the same picture agency. The Sun want to make it clear that they obtained that picture from the picture agency and not from the original website, and it was in the context that the photograph was being offered internationally by two picture agencies that the Sun may have told Mr Newton in that case that the photograph was already available and that it published it; is there anything you would like to say about that?
A. I don't think there is anything I can add.
Q. All right. Just, again, taking you through the chronology we have hopefully almost finished it but you explain that was the response to the PCC letter from the Daily Mail.
Q. The response to the PCC letter by the Telegraph is described at paragraph 19 of your witness statement.
Q. Because you explain that the PCC's letter was also sent directly to Mr Gallagher at the Daily Telegraph by email that day. You explain that this resulted shortly afterwards in an e-mail from Mr Gallagher, enquiring whether the letter related specifically to them or was just a general warning. You then rang him and explained that Mr and Mrs Bowles specifically objected to the publication of the Helena photograph. We have now identified, I think, that it is unlikely that the Daily Telegraph did in fact publish the Helena photograph.
Q. Although as you have said previously in evidence, that wasn't made clear to you during the course of this conversation.
A. No, and in the light of that, it is perhaps slightly strange. This conversation was all around the publication of the picture of Helena.
Q. If I can summarise, he told you he told you you were "late to the party" in relation to this matter, that he had in fact known there had been a UK victim some days before it was public but he had held off publishing anything because he in fact knew Mr Bowles. He said it was legitimate to publish the Helena photograph because it was now in the public domain and had been taken in a public place. You explain that you disagreed with him because of her age and the circumstances in which the photograph had been taken. He explained that he didn't want to cause additional distress and would check that the photograph was not available on the Telegraph website, which, of course, pausing there, it is not.
A. It isn't, and I have attempted here to summarise as accurately as I can the conversation I had with him.
Q. I don't think we need to look at the rest of the paragraph, which details the relationship Mr Gallagher has with Mr Bowles. Moving on to paragraph 20, you explain that Mr Vincent of ITN News also came to the house in Leuven on Monday 19 March. Mr Bowles was out but his brother-in-law answered the door. He was also civil and left a note in the postbox, which is exhibited at exhibit 10 of your statement. A handwritten note
Q. asking if, at any stage, Mr Bowles would feel like giving a TV interview about his loss and terrible events, please to contact him. Do you know whether the PCC letter was ever sent to any broadcasters, Mr Crown?
A. I would have to check. I can't say for sure.
Q. You explain, then, at paragraph 22, for the sake of completeness, that the Inquiry should be aware that the Helena photograph, which is the one which obviously has caused Mr Bowles a great deal of distress, has also appeared in the Belgian media, including on the front page of a Belgian newspaper, and on the front page of a weekly magazine called Moustique.
Q. That is exhibited at exhibit 11. The reason why I ask you to turn that up is because of a distressing incident that took place in respect of it, which is that Edward saw the magazine in a supermarket whilst with Helena, as it was prominently displayed beside the narrow entrance to the main body of the shop, and they were both very upset by it. Not only that, but as they passed it another member of the public pointed to them both.
Q. We can see that very clear picture, which again we are not going to show on screen but which is obviously a blown-up version of the photograph showing Helena in a very distressed state. I then want to take
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
I think we ought to just comment that that is, of course, not a newspaper that is covered by this inquiry. MS PATRY-HOSKINS: No.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
But that you make it clear that the Belgian Journalists' Council is investigating certain aspects of the reporting of the accident by the Belgian media, particularly in relation to people in vulnerable positions, such as minors and victims and their families, and that identification must be weighed against the social importance of reporting. So something is happening on that side as well.
A. That is what Edward has told me as well, yes. MS PATRY-HOSKINS: Let's move to witness statement, paragraph 24 onwards.
Q. 24 has already been covered. This is the section on the blog.
Q. Paragraph 25 is the real small grain of comfort, if I can call it that. Following the PCC letter, you tell us that the level of media activity at the Bowles' home greatly reduced and there was happily no apparent media presence at Sebastian's private funeral service.
Q. Then you tell us a bit about the PCC's further involvement. Mr Dewar at the PCC sent you an email on 26 March, following up on your call with Mr Milloy, in order to check how the service had gone and whether there were any ongoing concerns which the PCC may be able to help with.
Q. You have told us about a bit about your interaction with the PCC. On this particular occasion, did you consider the PCC to be helpful in your aim of assisting well, the protection of the family's privacy.
A. I thought they were sympathetic. I thought it was helpful to be able to get hold of someone on a Saturday afternoon to assist in getting the message out quickly to the media. I thought the point about me as we have gone through before, it was me drafting a letter for them. I don't know how they would have dealt with it if it hadn't been a lawyer on the line, but certainly one has to remember that if Edward had been trying to do this, there is absolutely no way that he would have been in a position to draft anything and indeed, I do doubt or I am not sure quite how well known that 24-hour helpline is. Certainly Edward wouldn't have known anything about it. The reason I know about it is because I am a media lawyer. But and I know I think probably their circulation of the letter to whoever they did circulate it to may have been helpful in dampening down the media issues. As I say, all I know for sure is that at the memorial service, there didn't seem to be any
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
So you say it is they who circulated it to editors or did you?
A. Both. I sent it to the editors that I had details of, but I believe or certainly what Mr Milloy said was that he would also send it to the PCC contact list of editors and other PCC contacts. So I think both happened.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
All right. MS PATRY-HOSKINS: Do you know if the PCC did circulate
A. No, no
Q. Did they ever tell
A. No, they didn't. That is just what we discussed in the conversation, that if I got him a letter then he would sent it round to the PCC contacts. I think he said he would sent it round with a comment from the PCC alerting the editors to the relevant provisions of the code. But I don't actually know first-hand whether that actually happened.
Q. Can you think of anything else that they might have done that would have been helpful?
A. Well, I mean, obviously by the time you call that number the damage has effectively been done. I mean, it was helpful to make sure as I said, one of the main aims was the memorial service. But, you know, Edward was very distressed by that point. I was calling them to try and help, but there was a lot of damage already done. The pictures had already been published. So I suppose the main point to my mind is why what appeared to me fairly clear code provisions hadn't been complied with by the media, because in these sort of situations there is only so much you can do once the photographs and information is out in the public domain.
Q. What could the PCC have done to prevent that happening, if anything?
A. I think all that they could really have done well, I suppose, have a structure that means that the press are more likely to comply with those code provisions which would be to my mind some sort of commercial incentive or fines, or something along those lines, that means because part of this, as one can see, there is a certain degree of competition amongst the media to get the story, to get the photograph, and there seems to me a lack of a consideration from the individual media as to whether they themselves are doing the right thing or whether just because someone else has published a photograph or just because a photograph is available it gives them a right or a get-out in publishing it themselves.
Q. I understand. All right. Is there anything else you would like to say about the PCC before I move to the final paragraphs in your statement?
Q. Paragraphs 26 and 27, then, please. I am just going to paraphrase these because they are important. You say Mr Bowles would like to make it clear that he did not object to the media's reporting of the accident in itself as he recognises it was a tragedy of national importance for Belgian and also Switzerland. He also acknowledges the fact that his son was the only victim of UK nationality provided the UK media with a reason to focus on the story more than it otherwise might and to draw attention to Sebastian's death in doing so. He observes that the reporting of the death had the effect, almost certainly unintended, that he had no need to contact anyone to inform them about Sebastian's part in the tragedy. However, he did and he does object to the nature of the media cover and the intrusion as you have already detailed.
Q. You also say, at paragraph 27
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Could you read this out slowly, please? MS PATRY-HOSKINS: Paragraph 27?
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Yes. MS PATRY-HOSKINS: I will read it out verbatim: "Edward has agreed to provide this evidence to the Inquiry, on request, solely for the assistance of the inquiry, and because the incident occurred whilst the Inquiry was underway. Edward and his family are not public figures, but have through personal tragedy been caught up in a public event. The Bowles family have not made and will not be making any public statement to the media in relation to these matters. Their agreement to provide this evidence to the Inquiry in no way should be taken as waiving their right to privacy or their desire to be left alone by the media to continue to grieve over their son's tragic and untimely death." Is there anything, Mr Crown, you would like to add to that final paragraph?
A. I would just like to try and make clear that Edward and the family have no wish to have a fight with the media in any sense. They gave evidence reluctantly and after much consideration to this Inquiry because they felt it was the right thing to do. They are disappointed that with regard to such an immense tragedy they would have expected some greater restraint from the media in the way the tragedy was reported and in Edward's view that wasn't the case. Just to emphasise, their overriding desire that their privacy is maintained as it is still, as you will understand, a very recent event and additional publicity at this point would greatly aggravate the family's briefing.
Q. Mr Crown, thank you very much. Is there anything else you wish to add?
A. No, thank you.
Q. I have no further questions.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Thank you very much. Mr Crown, I repeat my gratitude to you and the Bowles and my expressions of deepest sympathy.
A. Thank you, sir.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Yes, Mr Caplan.
Can I mention one matter in relation to the PCC, and that is they do have the contact numbers for managing editors, both telephone and email, for urgent inquiry and contact. I don't know, obviously, what email address was used on the Saturday. But if it was to Mr Dacre it is unlikely it would have reached him on a Saturday. The managing editors have the responsibility on that day, and it is open and available to the Commission to contact the managing editors if that is a matter of urgency.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
Yes, well, it might be there are a number of questions, aren't there, Mr Caplan. Firstly, I am slightly concerned that the PCC left it to Mr Crown to draft a letter; one would have thought they could have done that with the barest of details, and one could then have thought that they would say "Don't you bother sending it to anybody, we will send it to everybody who needs to know". It may be that we will receive some response about that. But I am sure you will appreciate why, in the light of the fact that this occurred in March, after we had been going four months, if not nine months if you take it from last July, I felt it was important, if the Bowles were prepared to allow this evidence to be deployed.
Yes. All I would say is the photographs that we understood were the subject of concern were taken down on the Monday and this letter, which I leave you, sir, obviously, to read, deals with the Helena photograph. I do apologise to the family, but my clients did not appreciate that that was her; it would have been taken down earlier.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
There it is. Thank you very much, Mr Caplan. Right. 2 o'clock. Thank you. (12.56 pm)