Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 96)



  Q80  Mr Hall: You have already done that for them! (Laughter)

  Mr Edwards: But they did not listen to me! I did not go down there, you see, so I knew—

  Mr Hinton: What had happened was that there were a couple of plausible stories—and Arthur has added, with his great credibility, to the plausibility of them—that they were about to announce their engagement. That is what started it. It led up to her 25th birthday. So there was genuine interest at that point. Going to her home in order to take a photograph of her, in isolation, would be a perfectly reasonable thing to do. But when you see a crowd that will clearly create problems, that you cannot control and the only way we could control it—when I looked at it, it was "This is going to lead to trouble" and, I confess, it was a pragmatic decision too, "This is going to lead to trouble. Something is going to go wrong here"—the only way you can really do it is by saying, "We will not buy photographs from paparazzi". At that point, thankfully others followed and they immediately had no reason to be there. However, it is difficult, in advance, to anticipate every occasion when that might happen.

  Q81  Mr Hall: The real difficulty, of course, is—this is something else that was mentioned, I think by you, Paul—you said, "Self-regulation works, but big events help to change our thinking on various things". Clearly, we have an example here of where the protection of the privacy of Kate Middleton did not work. What you are saying is, "When it happens again, we will call them off". Should there not be something more proactive, to stop that happening again in the future?

  Mr Horrocks: What would you suggest? I think that at the moment what we have is a situation where, with an event like that, you cannot legislate for the number of people who may appear at a particular news event. You cannot do that. However, what you can do is, if things are getting out of control, have a mechanism to try and make sure that it does not happen the following day.

  Q82  Mr Hall: One of the mechanisms you suggested is making sure that the complaint is resolved. Again, that is reactive, is it not?

  Mr Satchwell: This is not a complaint that is resolved; it is the fact that she was put into that position. She was put in that position not just because the media is there, but the members of the public will be there. That is how the scrum develops. As soon as the issue was raised, I think that the industry acted very quickly indeed. Bear in mind that the papers do not have any interest in her being caused problems, certainly not her life being endangered, because here is a great story. We have had everyone laughing this morning, but it is about a royal prince and a fairytale story about a possible marriage. That is a wonderful story for all the papers. They do not want to do anything which will disturb that story. So the intention is always to try and make sure that the story is covered very responsibly.

  Q83  Mr Hall: So what you are saying is that news editors were not responsible for all of the scrum outside Kate Middleton's house. I think that is absolutely right, because you do not control every aspect of the media. Yet, on the strength of a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission, that scrum disappeared the day after, completely.

  Mr Satchwell: Once a situation is raised by the person concerned, the PCC would then talk to all the papers and the broadcasters. That is the part of the system which again goes unsung: the fact that the industry is taking this on board itself and involving everyone who might be involved, to try and get away from that problem—and it was a very quick reaction.

  Q84  Mr Hall: That suggests to me that the vast majority of people there were under some obligation to the Press Complaints Commission, because they actually moved.

  Mr Satchwell: It was also reported, was it not?

  Mr Horrocks: The fact is that the editors take notice of the PCC's request or passing on of information. That is the point: that the editors take notice. Years ago, that may not have happened; it does now, because editors do take notice. We can focus a lot on the high-profile cases, and inevitably that is what happens, but there are many, many cases going on throughout the country—regional, weekly, and local papers—where self-regulation and responsible reporting, photographers, et cetera, is regulated by the Code and it is taken notice of.

  Q85  Rosemary McKenna: In the Goodman case it was dealt with by the law and obviously would have been caught under the Code as well. The Society of Editors has said that the editors and the whole of the media have taken this very seriously and have said, "We condemn this offence and it is not representative of the media". We will accept that. However, journalists continue to use methods that are very dubious. There is no doubt about that. They are paying for information; they are trawling through people's backgrounds; and using other methods, like trawling through dustbins, refuse collection, and all that kind of thing. Can you justify that, when there is no public interest whatsoever in some of the kind of information that they bring up?

  Mr Horrocks: If there is no public interest, no, we cannot justify it; but the fact is that the Goodman case, in my opinion—and that is why I gave that statement—was a one-off. I do not believe that this is widespread activity. In my career, I have not come across this in a widespread way. Of course, there will always be people who go beyond what is acceptable, but in this case the law dealt with Goodman. The Code would have dealt with Goodman. The fact is, the law worked; and, if this was so widespread, why are there not more prosecutions? Why are not more people coming forward to make those sorts of complaints? In my four years on the PCC I can only recall one adjudication in favour of the complainant, where somebody had intercepted telephone messages. One case in four years. It is not widespread. We are not saying that it does not go on, but it is not widespread.

  Q86  Rosemary McKenna: So you would not accept, as was said earlier, that one of the reasons people do not go to the Press Complaints Commission is because the redress of publishing the story again is not worth it, because all you are doing is reminding people of the original story?

  Mr Horrocks: People will go to the PCC to make a complaint if they feel that there is a problem with accuracy, harassment, intrusion, and the PCC will look at that complaint; but then will, in conjunction with the complainant, agree the form of resolution. It may be that somebody does not want to have their name published again in the newspaper; they may simply want a letter of apology.

  Q87  Rosemary McKenna: That is fine, but the story has already been out there. The story is there. One of the problems is, once the story is out there, every single time that person's name is mentioned in connection with anything else, that is rehearsed. I have spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks, speaking to colleagues about why they have not made complaints or, if they have been involved, what their attitude is, and very many of them say, "Simply because it rehearses it again and again".

  Mr Satchwell: But if there is an inaccuracy and a complaint is made, part of the procedure will be that cuttings files and library files are changed suitably, if there has been an inaccuracy. That is why it is important for people to complain: so that things are put right for the future.

  Mr Horrocks: We have an electronic log at the Manchester Evening News of complaints that are against the paper, or legal adjudications or PCC rulings. Any member of staff, any journalist, can look at that log and find that if person X complained or said there was an inaccuracy in that story, "Do not repeat that particular suggestion".

  Q88  Rosemary McKenna: That message is not out there. One other point—the growing practice of editors contacting people late on a Saturday, when a story will appear on the Sunday and it is too late to do anything.

  Mr Horrocks: That is a hard one. I think that people should be given the time to properly consider a reply. I do not believe it is acceptable to leave it right to the last minute.

  Q89  Mr Evans: Can I ask one final question of Arthur? You know your colleagues really well. Do you think that now, because of what has happened in the past—we have mentioned Diana—that Kate Middleton is unlikely to suffer the same sort of intrusion that Diana did during her lifetime?

  Mr Edwards: I would like to think that she would not. I really would. We are talking about self-regulation here. Mainly, the Fleet Street photographers—I mean the photographers employed by newspapers—do act properly. They do try to be organised. They do try to work it so that there is no stress. But there is this gathering band of paparazzi now and they are just ruthless; they do not care; they are just going to do anything for a picture. If we can control those, and I think that not buying the pictures will help, Kate Middleton will probably have a much better time of it. Since that scrum on her birthday, I think it has got a lot better for her and I just hope that continues.

  Q90  Chairman: Les, can I come back to the Goodman case? The official version of events appears to be that Clive Goodman broke the law and has paid the penalty for doing so; that his editor was unaware that he broke the law but nevertheless took responsibility, because he was the editor, and resigned; and that is the end of it. Can you tell us what investigations you carried out to determine whether or not anybody else was aware of what Clive Goodman was doing?

  Mr Hinton: First of all, the police obviously carried out pretty thorough investigations, and the result of their investigation was the charge against Clive and against the private detective. Clive went to prison; the News of the World paid a substantial amount to charities nominated by Prince Harry, Prince William and the editor, who told me he had no knowledge of this activity but felt that, since it had happened on his watch, he should take his share of the responsibility, and he resigned. The new editor has been given a very clear remit to make certain that everything is done in the form of seminars and meetings. We were already doing this kind of thing in the past with all our newspapers. It has been re-emphasised. They are all attending. There is mandatory attendance at seminars, understanding the law and understanding the limits; understanding that, in the event that there is a judgment that the public interest might warrant some stepping over the line, it has to be authorised by the editor at the very least. That is all being done now. I believe absolutely that Andy did not have knowledge of what was going on. However, he is no longer the editor and what matters now is that we have to start somewhere. What we are doing now is a very rigorous programme to make sure that the conduct of the journalists there is as impeccable as it reasonably can be expected to be.

  Q91  Chairman: I commend what you are doing now, but Clive Goodman was paying for some of this information. Those cheques presumably required approval, did they not, from somebody else?

  Mr Hinton: There were actually two issues involved in the Goodman case. There had been a contract with Glenn Mulcaire, during which he was carrying out activities which the prosecutor and the judge accepted were legitimate investigative work. There was a second situation where Clive had been allowed a pool of cash to pay to a contact in relation to investigations into Royal stories. That, the Court was told, was where the money came from and the detail of how he was using that money was not known to the editor. That is not unusual for a contact, when you have a trusted reporter—which Clive was—to be allowed to have a relationship which can lead to information and which involves the exchange of money. That is what happened in that case.

  Q92  Chairman: If self-regulation is to work, if a reporter suddenly comes back with some pretty exclusive stories, is there not a procedure where somebody says, "You can give me an assurance that this hasn't been obtained illegally or in breach of the Press Complaints Commission Code"?

  Mr Hinton: In the case of Clive Goodman, the stories he apparently obtained were small items in gossip columns, and therefore there would be no particular need to. In other areas—when Trevor Kavanagh came into the office and said, "I've got a copy of the Hutton Report", I know Trevor and I know he had a copy of the Hutton Report, and I was not about to ask him where he had got it from—because it was clearly a matter of public interest. Those lines exist all the time and editors, when they are running aggressive, investigative newspapers, are forever having to judge the wisdom or not of stepping over the line. And—do you know what?—they do not always get it right.

  Q93  Chairman: I think that we can probably make a guess where Trevor got the Hutton Report too!

  Mr Hinton: I know your guess, Chairman, and you are wrong!

  Q94  Chairman: You can assure us, therefore, that in future there will be checks in place that senior reporters, however experienced, who suddenly produce stories, will be required to give undertakings that there have been no breaches of the Code?

  Mr Hinton: Anything that can make the new regime more rigorous, we will do; but we are running aggressive newspapers. Their job most of the time, as I said earlier, is to find out information that other people do not want them to find out.

  Q95  Chairman: You carried out a full, rigorous internal inquiry, and you are absolutely convinced that Clive Goodman was the only person who knew what was going on?

  Mr Hinton: Yes, we have and I believe he was the only person, but that investigation, under the new editor, continues.

  Q96  Chairman: And presumably with the Press Complaints Commission?

  Mr Hinton: The Press Complaints Commission have in fact been in pretty detailed communication with the new editor.

  Chairman: Thank you. I think that is all we have for you.

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