The Leveson Inquiry continued the examination of the relationship between the police and the press, with appearances from deputy London mayor Kit Malthouse (pictured), the regional press, a number of chief constables from regional forces and the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
During the Monday morning hearing, Chief Constable Simon Ash told the inquiry Sunday Mirror journalists picked up a suspect to be interviewed at a hotel during the Ipswich murders investigation. He contradicted Desmond Browne QC, representing Trinity Mirror, who told the inquiry last week journalists had picked up Tom Stephens, later cleared of the murders in 2006, but had driven to a car park to interview him. Ash said:
“I’ve not been able to find any information to support the first assertion, namely that the News of the World were deploying surveillance teams against police surveillance teams that were following suspects. On the second assertion, that a newspaper picked up a suspect and took them to a hotel and interviewed them whilst they were under police surveillance, I have been able to find information to support that.”
The Chief Constable of Suffolk Police said he could not confirm the Sunday Mirror team had evaded a police team by using anti-surveillance techniques. The allegations came from Dave Harrison, a former Serious Organised Crime Agency officer, who gave evidence to the inquiry two weeks ago.
Ash went on to say he had a good working relationship with the local media in Suffolk, and said hospitality between parties was usually restricted to “light refreshments”. He said a new system for recording police contact with the press, called Spotlight, archived the date, time, place and purpose of meetings between officers and journalists. He added:
“I think there’s an acceptance that the mere fact of this inquiry that maybe things need to change. Our officers seem to be working with it and following the spirit of what is intended.”
Ash told the inquiry Suffolk police policy states staff and officers should give their name and rank to media and the attribution “police spokesperson” should not be used.
Anne Campbell, head of corporate communications for Norfolk and Suffolk police, also gave evidence. She said leaks from the police were damaging to the force in the “eyes of the public”. She said:
“I actually don’t think the public interest is being best served there if [people] don’t have the opportunity to understand the wider context. … It’s not about controlling information, there’s just far too much information swimming about the system, so we do have to exercise some judgments as to what is most appropriate… There has to be caution but I think a lot of it falls into that area of common sense.”
Campbell called the “drip of information” from the police press office to the press during the Ipswich murder investigation a “benchmark” for efficient contact with the media. She added:
“I don’t actually believe it’s acceptable to purchase alcohol [when meeting journalists] but I think for low-level refreshments, then those expenses are justifiable.”
The second witness statement of Anne Campbell can be read here.
The inquiry also heard from both the editor and crime reporter of the East Anglian Daily Times, which covers an area under the jurisdiction of the Suffolk force. Reporter Colin Adwent said he generally had a good relationship with the police. He said:
“Many officers may well see me around an over the years and come to understand the way I work, or the type of way we deal with things. It helps break down barriers in that regard.”
He expressed concern that requiring officers to log all contact with journalists would inhibit the flow of information to the press, and said officers had seemed “slightly more nervous “ about speaking to him.
Editor Terry Hunt said it was important for the public good that information is passed on from the police to the press immediately. He said a case in which three dangerous inmates escaped from a mental health unit in the early hours had resulted in the local press not being informed until lunchtime. He added:
“I thought was a matter of significant public concern… I would have hoped and expected that Suffolk police would have decided to put some information on that into the public domain as quickly as possible so that when Suffolk awoke that morning, the members of the public were forewarned that there was a possibility of these three being in the local area and not to approach them, or indeed if they saw them, obviously to contact the police. I felt it very unfortunate that that information didn’t reach us until lunchtime that Sunday.”
Hunt said he was concerned logging contact with the press “when enshrined will be a step backwards”. He criticised the national press for coverage of the Ipswich murders, saying some papers had printed misleading pictures of the town centre, describing it as unusually quiet. He said:
“My recollection, or perception at the time, was not that everyone was going home and locking their doors… it wasn’t anything exceptional. … There was a great deal of concern about what was going on in a very fast moving and frankly horrifying story.”
In the afternoon hearing, the inquiry heard from Anne Pickles, associate editor of the Carlisle News and Star, said her paper was consulted by the chief constable when Crime Reporters Association reporters asked for off-the-record briefings, following a murder spree by local man Derrick Bird. Bird shot and killed 12 people and injured 11 others before killing himself in June 2010.
Pickles said her editor had reinforced the police’s decision that information should be made available to all media outlets at the same time. The police later briefed the local press on the 13 inquests into the incident to ensure coverage was sensitive to grieving families in the area.
Gillian Shearer, head of marketing and communications for Cumbria Police, told the inquiry the national press had been “aggressive and very difficult to please” when approaching the press office for information after the tragedy. She added:
“We took an informed view in regard to it and I also spoke to [then Chief Constable Craig Mackey] about what our decision was going to be.”
Shearer said the press office had issued two statements to the media urging reporters not to harass family members who had been affected, but she had personally rung several journalists after they continued to use unauthorised photographs of the victims. The Cumbria force contacted the Press Complaints Commission, who said individuals would have to approach them before they could step in. She added:
“It was very difficult and the families were forced into the public eye through no choice of their own.”
Craig Mackey, former Chief Constable of Cumbria and now deputy commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, told the inquiry families had been able to identify bodies shown on rolling news channels before police had informed them. He said:
“The overwhelming feelings of much of the local community and the families is one of anger and dismay at the way they were perceived, they were treated, and the long-term presence of the media during this incident.”
Pickles, who gave evidence with the Carlisle News and Star’s crime reporter Nick Griffiths, said the national media often “sweep in and out” of local communities when reporting on major incidents. She added:
“We have to live with the people on whose lives we are reporting.”
Griffiths told the inquiry he had a face-to-face meeting at the police station every morning to gather news for the day, and submitted all expenses to the editor to be authorised. He said he would accept pints of beer from officers at social events “out of politeness” but would not discuss work. He said:
“I’m not there saying “give me a list of all the drug busts yore going to do in the next three weeks.”
“I don’t see what purpose can be served by a police officer filling in a form every time he or she speaks to a journalist… I don’t know why the rogue miscreants weren’t just dealt with existing law and without having to hall the rest of the industry over the coals for it. The stain from what has happened to trigger this inquiry and a number of reports tends to spread across all sections of the media… We’ve had ‘I ’ve been watching the Leveson Inquiry, I know how you people work’.”
Lord Justice Leveson replied:
“I can only say to those who telephone your office and say ‘well we know what you’re like’, it’s far more nuanced than that.”
Mackey told the inquiry new interim media guidelines under consultation at the Met would be signed off in April this year. He advocated a system where meetings and the general purpose of contact is logged, and said all management board meetings with press should be published online. He added:
“It’s easier to bring the bar back down than it is to raise the bar at a later stage, so I do think it’s almost inevitable, given the coverage of what’s been going on.”
The witness statement of DCS Iain Goulding was taken as read.
The first witness of the Tuesday morning hearing was Assistant Chief Constable Jerry Kirkby, who said the press have “damaged and hindered” the work of Surrey Police during the investigation into the disappearance. He said journalists were a “degree of distraction” when carrying out the investigation in 2002, but said the majority of his dealings with the press had been positive. Kirkby told the inquiry:
“It meant diverting resources to actually look at being about to respond in an accurate way to the press.”
He said senior officers involved in the case had described elements of press interest as being “immense” and “mischievous”, and officers were forced to cooperate with the Sun and News of the World offering money for information, after the papers threatened to go ahead without police backing.
Kirkby said an investigation into the hacking of Milly Dowler’s voicemail by the News of the World will be completed by the end of May and presented to the inquiry. He also pointed out two newspapers are potentially facing contempt of court charges over reporting of Levi Bellfield, who was convicted of the teenager’s murder in 2011.
The chief constable confirmed five of eight formal briefings given to the Crime Reporters Association between 2002 and 2010 concerned the Dowler case. He said six or seven informal briefings had taken place in a restaurant bar in Guildford, and while the force paid for food, the journalists paid for any alcohol consumed. He added:
“There’s one thing about doing an event with a large number and establish an association, and I think there’s something quite different between having social encounters with individual journalists.”
Kirkby was asked about the arrest of television presenter Matthew Kelly in 2003, saying it had been brought forward after the press became aware of the case. Kelly was arrested over alleged child abuse claims but was never charged. He added:
“It necessitated us bringing forward a planned arrest because we knew there was going to be coverage and publication material the next day.”
He said Piers Morgan, then editor of the Daily Mirror, sent the force a note saying:
“These stories are hideously difficulty for both you guys and us. Fame and crime sends most of the usual rules out of the window.”
Kirkby also told the inquiry an office had been suspended over suspected leaks to the media, under Operation Elveden. The incident was one of five investigated by the force.
The second statement of Assistant Chief Constable Jerry Kirkby can be read here.
Chief Constable Colin Port said evidence from Richard Wallace, editor of the Daily Mail, heard at the Leveson Inquiry earlier this year, including claims that the force had given off-the-record briefings on Yeates’ landlord Chris Jefferies, were incorrect. Jefferies was arrested on suspicion of the murder in December 2010, and later cleared. Wallace had said a spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police told journalists Jefferies “was their man”. Port said:
“It’s absolutely outrageous… I’ve never done that; it’s not my job to pass opinion on these issues. We don’t give off-the-record briefings and to behave in a collusive manner is just abhorrent.”
Port said Jefferies’ name had been accidently revealed to a journalist but that no on or off-the-record conversations had been given to the press during the investigation. He also said the retired teacher had not correctly remember how many people he told about seeing three people leaving Yeates’s flat, a key factor in the decision to arrest him. Port added:
“I’ve counted eight people, including some people who were paid by the media for information… His recollection is flawed, unfortunately.”
Jefferies claims the police leaked his statement to the media, and is in the process of suing the force for wrongful arrest.
The chief constable denied further police leaks, saying speculation on theories being considered by officers came from retired Metropolitan Police detective Peter Kirkham rather than from his force. He said a Sun article on a delivery from home store Ikea to Yeates’ flat had not come from police.
DCI Philip Jones called the media response to the Yeates’ case a “scattergun approach” and explained he refused to individually brief journalists until the trial of Vincent Tabak, found guilty of the murder last year, was complete to ensure proceedings were not prejudiced.
He told the inquiry Rebecca Scott, the best friend of Yeates, received over 160 calls and messages from the media and the Hampshire Police had been called after journalists camped out outside her home. Jones confirmed there was evidence to show neighbours of Jefferies may have received money from certain sections of the media.
He said he had a “feeling of deflation” after the force was contacted by the Daily Mail over information about DNA found on Yeates’ body, which was known to the investigating team and third-parties involved in forensic analysis. He added:
“This had a massive impact on the family because every time there was something speculative reported, in particular in relation to the Sun with the sock and also with the low copy DNA [in the Mail], then it would require us to make contact with the family, to make them aware of the fact this article was going to be published.”
Port admitted that the force could have released more information on Jefferies’ innocence but said the most important thing was to clarify he was not longer a suspect and had been released without charge. He added:
“There were a pair of trainers which we found in Mr Jefferies’ house which were hidden underneath a kitchen unit, behind a kick board. Those trainers had a blood spot on them, that was initially analysed… eventually a DNA profile was found and Mr Jefferies could be eliminated.”
During the afternoon hearing, the officer who headed an independent police review of the phone hacking investigation has said he had “absolute support” from the Metropolitan Police.
Chief Constable Jonathan Stoddart of Durham Police told the inquiry he was asked to carry out an independent review of Operation Weeting, the police investigation into phone hacking, by Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe. He said:
“It was about the process, the staffing and the resourcing, the appropriateness of the lines of investigation and inquiry, the priorities and the large number of victims, to make sure that we could provide some reassurance to the executives of the force that the inquiry was going far enough. … Clearly there were huge issues in relation to the number of potential victims, as you well know, but the matter was being thoroughly and proportionality investigated.”
Stoddart provided an interim report last September, and a final version in December but was unable to elaborate on the details.
Stoddart appeared with colleague Barbara Brewis, media and marketing manager at Durham, who said the concerns of the inquiry seemed “a little bit remote” from her force. She said:
“It’s business as usual. We hope we’ve always operated with integrity and from and ethical standpoint, so we will continues to do that.”
“We operate on a high trust basis with out staff and a high trust basis with the local written media… I don’t want breaches and any kind of allegations being made, but similarly I don’t want to inhibit the democratic principles of free speech.”
The chief constable said he had been disappointed by evidence given to the inquiry by other senior officers. He said:
“I have very grave concerns about overfamiliarity with police officers from each and every rank. I would hope that we can establish something from this what would go some way eliminating that. I think the culture, just by this very challenge, will change throughout the service.”
Amanda Hirst, head of corporate communications at Avon and Somerset Police, said members of the press deliberately flooded the press office with “speculative media enquires” to get information on the Joanna Yeates investigation. She said:
“In the context of Joanna Yeates in particular, one of the constant refrains that we had from some journalists was that it was in the public interest, they had a right to know, and I think certainly our perception was very much that they wanted to be inside the investigation, which clearly was never going to be tenable.”
She later added:
“Whether it was a deliberate tactic, it certainly felt at the time as though it was, and certainly I think the point of it was very much to get to the heart of the investigation. We had multiple questions from many newspapers… they weren’t general, they weren’t ‘how is the progress of the investigation’. They were focusing on very particular themes.”
Hirst told the inquiry it was known Vincent Tabak, convicted of Yeates’ murder last year, had been following media coverage on the case on social media and the force’s website before his arrest. She added:
“It was very, very important for us to preserve the integrity of that investigation and ensure that anything that was inappropriate that shouldn’t get out into the public domain was contained.”
She said the press office had been approached by several journalists requesting interviews with Yeates’ parents, and said one feature writer wanted to spend a day with the investigation team.
During the Wednesday morning hearing, the inquiry heard from Jane Furniss, the chief executive of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said she had prepared a report on investigating corruption in the police for the Home Secretary that would be ready “imminently”, and said it could be provided to the inquiry before publication. She said:
“It doesn’t reveal endemic corruption between police officers and journalists. It’s much wider… it will provide a lot of context.”
Furniss said between 2010 and 2011 there had been 1,279 complaints about improper disclosures of information by police, but said some would have been “someone who’s looking to see whether his daughter’s new boyfriend is a suitable young man”. She added:
“There are often times when people believe that information has found its way into the press as a result of leaking when actually it’s the result of people both in the police, in the IPCC, in public bodies having information and other members of families, friends, individuals providing information, and journalists – who are good at this – add it all together and then it looks as if someone has leaked information.”
Furniss told the inquiry hospitality between press and police was appropriate as long as it is not frequent, regular or lavish, and said guidelines reflected that journalists meet with officers because they want information. She added: “I don’t think alcohol and work mix, generally, and certainly not when you’re dealing with very sensitive issues.” The second witness statement of Jane Furniss can be read here.
Sir Hugh Orde, president of ACPO and former chief constable of the Northern Ireland Police Service, said chief constables would gather to discuss new national media and hospitality next month. He said the Met was different from regional forces, and officers need more support in in dealing with the media due to the “sheer intensity and scale” of the force, but said standards should apply across the police service. He added:
“We need to be careful not to become so rigid and so bound by rules that we actually spoil what is a crucial relationship with the media and that officers don’t feel too fettered in having sensible, professional conversations across all ranks.”
Orde said a “silly story” he had designed his own uniform had left him with a sense the Press Complaints Commission and the press had a “powerful/powerless relationship”. He added:
“The current system of redress did not do anything satisfactory in terms of getting the story withdrawn, or indeed any sort of apology issued, my sense was that the commission didn’t really have the powers that would have influenced an editor in a way to change the story.”
Chief Constable Andrew Trotter, of the British Transport Police and head of the Association of Chief Police Officers communication advisory group, said he had several discussions with officers dealing with press in the Milly Dowler murder investigation, and high-profile serial murders carried out by Derrick Bird and Raoul Moat. He said:
“The sheer volume of the national media descending upon a small community can have quite an impact, in all sorts of ways. … The pursuing of witnesses, the pursuing of subjects, castings doubt on the ability of the local force to cope with this particular challenge, casting doubt on the ability of the senior investigating officer, putting up the long-retired police officers and other experts to comment upon a police investigation … There are a range of concerns raised by colleagues around the country about the conduct of the press in various major investigations and operations over the last couple of years.”
Trotter appeared alongside colleague Joanne Bird, head of media and marketing for the force, who said journalists sometimes obtained the names of individuals killed on public transport from social networking sites or witness, before the family has been notified.
During the afternoon hearing, Oliver Cattermole, director of communications for ACPO, said had occasionally accepted a meal or coffee from journalists in the context of work meetings. He told the inquiry:
“It’s perhaps just to provide an environment where you can take more time over a more detailed discussion to provide the kind of background that previous witnesses have discussed.”
He said communications were a critical part of policing, and the sections of the Filkin report on openness are important.
Chief Constable Matthew Baggott of the Police Service Northern Ireland appeared with the force’s head of corporate communications, Liz Young, who said national journalists could be ignorant of sensitive issues around Northern Ireland’s history. She said:
“Sometimes just actually using a word in the wrong context, a phrase in the wrong way, can actually be translated in a very different way than its actually meant… the national media aren’t aware.”
Baggott added: “[There are] consequences of creating a sound but without developing the context.” Baggott, previously chief constable for Leicestershire Police, told the inquiry he had written two letters to national newspaper editors urging them to stop printing speculative reports on the Madeleine McCann case. The second letter stated:
“We have an extensive audit trail of both headlines and reporting which have no apparent basis in reality.”
Baggott said he had not received a “hugely positive” response as stories had continued to be published. He said local residents had complained about the press intrusion. He added:
“There was a variety of complaints around disruption to daily life, which was caused by a large international media descending for the long term and the disruption that caused to peoples businesses. Secondly if I recall, [there was] the intrusiveness of asking residents about their thoughts, what had happened, and a degree of speculation… the media going in and asking questions.”
Several witness statements and submissions were taken as read, and can be found here.
The Thursday morning hearing began with a statement from Lord Justice Leveson, who warned core participants not to leak information to journalists, after a controversial ITN programme on alleged data breaches by newspaper groups was broadcast on Wednesday night. The programme made several allegations about the Operation Motorman files, detailing the use of private investigator Steve Whittamore by journalists from a range of newspapers and broadcasters.
The judge declined to comment on the accuracy of the programme, and reiterated his earlier statements made after the Hacked Off campaign called for the files to be published. He said he would consider publishing the files if there were any submissions made to him, but that information of victims of Whittamore should remain private, as the terms of reference of the inquiry are not concerned with “who did what to whom”.
Leveson said he was not interested in the possible source of the leak to ITN as several people have access to the Operation Motorman files outside of the inquiry, but reminded the core participants and their legal teams about their stringent confidentiality undertakings. He added:
“This is not because it is not important but not necessary to terms of reference… Having said that for avoidance of all doubt, the orders which I have made remain in full force.”
The files had been shown to the inquiry team and lawyers acting for core participants so submissions could be made over the course of the inquiry.
Deputy London mayor for policing Kit Malthouse said the number of staff working on Operation Weeting and other relevant investigations was expected to rise to 200 next year. He told the inquiry the total amount spent would reach £40 million, compared to the £36 million spent on preventing child abuse in the capitol this year.
Malthouse, former chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said he had continually questioned the drain on resources caused by the investigation, and was keen to make sure officers were not “overplaying it”. He said:
“I was keen to ensure that they were not undertaking this investigation to the detriment of, for instance, rape victims… I don’t think at any stage I indicated that I thought they shouldn’t be investigation. It was just a matter of speed and resources.”
Earlier this month acting Deputy Commissioner Cressida Dick told the inquiry she had reminded Malthouse it was up to her to make decisions on the investigation, as the police are operationally independent.
The deputy mayor said he remembered how former assistant commissioner John Yates, responsible for a review into the original 2006 hacking investigation, would “throw in” references to the investigation at the end of briefings on terrorist threats, usually as a response to further allegations in the media. He referred to a letter from Yates in 2009, which reassured executives he did not believe there was any new evidence to reopen the investigation. He added:
“In essence, to summarise the conversations it would be ‘there’s been something in the newspaper, you might wonder why we’re not reopening the investigation and this is why, because we’re satisfied there’s no new evidence’. I suppose it all came to a head in the July following the revisions abut the Chamy Media [company of former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis] contract but the whole thing then kind of snapped into place, if you like, in the public perception, and the rest is history.”
As Malthouse gave evidence, it was announced that Dick Fedorcio, head of Press at the Met, had resigned over allegations of an improper relationship with Wallis. Fedorcio was responsible for hiring Chamy Media to work with the directorate of public affairs after his deputy fell ill, and resigned after the Met began proceedings against him for gross misconduct. Malthouse told the inquiry he was “deliberately boring” in his engagement with the press, to prevent them contacting him for information. He added:
“My strategy generally was to accept, be boring, or largely talk about them… and therefore not give the impression that I was a useful source of information.”
He said he accepted Sir Paul Stephenson’s premise that he needed to engage with the media as commissioner, but said he was concerned over dinner meetings with News International. He said:
“My concern would be that it was fine to meet in the office over a cup of coffee at that stage, but whether it was appropriate to have dinner would be a matter of his judgment.”
The inquiry heard the MPA questioned acting commissioner Tim Godwin over other senior officers meeting with News International employees. Malthouse added:
“My judgment was that while it wasn’t necessarily the way I would have operated, Sir Paul Stephenson was a man of great integrity, the most senior police officer in the land. If I’d for one moment lost any trust in him then we had a fairly major problem and as I said earlier, our relationship had to be based on a very high degree of trust.”
Catherine Crawford, chief executive of the Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime and former head of the MPA, said Operation Weeting had to be balanced against a “whole range of activities that need to be pursued”, but said she had never witnessed any improper pressure on the Met to follow a particular line by the MPA or force commissioners. She stressed the need for simple and easily understood policies on police and press relationships. She said:
“I have heard evidence before this inquiry which suggests that the more that you try to define and set down rules and hamper discretion, the less likely you are to change a culture in a way that accepts a standard of behaviour as appropriate, rather than a rigid adherence to rules which can never define or set out every single possible contingency that you might come across.”
During the afternoon hearing, Chief Constable Mike Cunningham, head of the Association of Chief Police Officers’ professional standards portfolio, said three sets of ACPO guidance would be ready in draft form next month for consultation. He said:
“We clearly, I think, acknowledge and agree with HMIC that national guidance is required in these areas. We previously haven’t had national standards in relation to the three areas I’ve discussed. What will be a challenge will be to phrase that guidance in such a way as it can be applied to very different circumstances, yet sufficiently detailed to be meaningful. That’s the balance were trying to strike.”
“We are heartened but absolutely not complacent by the fact that HMIC , IPCC and other people who have scrutinised the police agree that corruption and malpractice is not endemic or systematic. However, the actions of individuals – particularly senior individuals – can be highly damaging.”
Cunningham, who heads the Staffordshire Police force, said unauthorised handling of information is a significant risk for the police. He told the inquiry family and friends were the highest risk in terms of unlawful disclosure of information by officers, along with former colleagues – with journalists identified as a lower risk.
Ian Fegan, head of corporate communications for Staffordshire, said less than five percent of media enquiries came from the national media, compared to 39 per cent from the three daily papers in the county. Cunningham said he would be “very disappointed” if all press enquiries were funnelled through the press office. He added:
“I’m seeking a much more organic relationship with the press, which allows officers who are closest to the issues to be able to speak to the press about what those issues are, and what we’re doing about them. It’s part of our accountability.”
The inquiry heard from Ben Priestley, from Unison, who said officers often lacked confidence to expose wrongdoing in police forces around the country. He said working environments could be “hierarchical and authoritarian” and work needed to be done to review whistleblowing mechanisms for officers. He said Unison, who represent approximately half the working officers in each force, bar the Met and City of London police, said the union saw no place for private dinners and hospitality within the service.
Julie Norgrove, director of audit risk and assurance for the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, said gifts and hospitality received by Met staff had been catergorised as risky in internal audits for several years. She said the hospitality register had been reviewed five times in 11 years and staff did not always provide proper justification for gifts despite the logging systems.
Next week the inquiry will hear from Mark Burns-Williamson (Chairman, Association of Police Authorities), Stewart Gull (Jersey States Police and Former ACC Suffolk Constabulary), Paul McKeever (Chairman, Police Federation), Nathan Oley (Head of Press and Public Affairs, Association of Police Authorities), Neil Wallis (formerly of News of the World), Derek Barnett (Police Superintendents Association), Dr Rob Mawby (Department of Criminology University of Leicester), Lucy Panton (formerly of News of the World), David Perry QC, Lord MacDonald (former DPP)and Keir Starmer (DPP). There will also be a directions hearing for module three.