Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
5 MAY 2009
Q840 Chairman: And what happened
after the three occasions on which you have had judgments against
you from the PCC? What actions followed from the adjudication?
Mr Myler: None in terms of me
personally, and in the last case it was my decision not to go
to anybody without prior notification, and that is what the PCC
ruled against us on. Singularly on that matter.
Q841 Chairman: On the fact that you
had not given prior notification?
Mr Myler: Yes, and that was my
Q842 Chairman: And has that altered
your practice in terms of prior notification, or do you just disagree
with the PCC decision?
Mr Myler: No, it does not carte
blanche say that we never warn anybody. Indeed, we did with the
MP in the example I gave you.
Q843 Chairman: But the fact you had
lost a PCC complaint about prior notification clearly has not
meant that in future you always prior notify, because you did
not in the case of Mr Mosley?
Mr Myler: No, and the reason I
did not go to this particular individual is because he is a self-confessed
liar and he had committed perjury on video.
Q844 Chairman: But it is arguable
that you say OK, you publish an adjudication, and you say I accept
that the PCC have ruled against me, but it does not appear to
make any difference to the future of behaviour?
Mr Myler: Yes, it does. Any editor
that has ruling after ruling or adjudication after adjudication
is probably not going to stay in his job very long.
Q845 Chairman: But three is OK?
Mr Myler: Well, three in forty
years is something that I think is not a bad batting average.
One is too many but three, over that period of timegiven
the way the industry has changed.
Q846 Adam Price: You yourself previously
resigned I think when you were editor of the Sunday Mirror
Mr Myler: "resigned"?
Q847 Adam Price: Resigned in the
passive tense, whatever, but you freely admitted the mistake and
you took the responsibility for your decision; your predecessor
of the News of the World also was resigned, or resigned,
in relation to the Goodman case. Do you think that actually there
would not be so much an issue of suspicion about the press if
more editors did the honourable thing and, where they made a judgment
call and they had got it wrong, they resigned? I can remember,
for example, a recent resignation of an editor of the Daily
Mail which, you know, is the greatest infringer against the
PCC code of conduct. Do you think people would have more respect
for the press if editors took responsibility for their actions?
Mr Myler: I cannot speak for the
editor of the Daily Mail but I have to say he is probably
one of the most distinguished editors we have had and been lucky
to have in our industry for many, many years. I think the simple
answer to your question is that you stand and fall by your judgment
and if you make a bad call you either go or you are fired, and
that is what has happened in my experience. But, again, we live
in a world where I think probably the only people who come below
journalists in the public's esteem are your colleagues, and I
think that we need a little bit of transparency and honesty here.
People who fall on their swords are few and far between. Editors
do and have, and some MPswell, let's put it this way, Members
perhaps have not when they should have done.
Q848 Adam Price: I think that criticism
absolutely applies both ways. In terms of the Reynolds
and Jameel defence of responsible journalism, do you think
it would help free expression and free press if that judgment
was placed on a statutory basis? If it was enshrined in law on
Mr Crone: Yes, I think it probably
would actually. The only problem with going statutory on a lot
of these things is that it becomes kind of rigid, and it loses
the kind of flexibility that you can occasionally get when the
judges are in a nice liberalising moodwhich is not very
often, I have to say! But yes, I think to have it recognised and
put into statute would be a good thing. Generally, you see, we
are very unhappy with the way privacy law has gone as a result
of judgments obviously primarily in this country but led, I suppose,
by the judges in Strasbourg, and what that has emanated from a
piece of legislation in 1998, the Human Rights Act, which was
introduced for all the right reasons, a much wider raft of basic
human rights, 18 altogether I thinkthe right to life, right
to liberty, right to freedom of expression and right to privacy,
privacy and freedom of expression just happen to be two of thembut
I do not think when that came in that many people would have foreseen
this massive and rapidly and progressively growing area of normal
privacy. In fairness there were those in the media, a few of us,
who lobbied hard and predicted that that is exactly what was going
to happen. The Junior Minister, the late Lord Williams, who steered
it into the House of Lords originally I think, introduced Section
12 of the Human Rights Act specifically to meet that concern.
The judges, again inimitably in their own way, have analysed Section
12 into nothing effectively. It is completely ineffectual. Completely.
So yes, perhaps there is room for a little bit more statutory
intervention, certainly in the area of public interest, where
the lines should be drawn. Part of our submission, in fact, is
an opinion we have submitted from Anthony White QC in which he
points out the absolutely glaring inconsistency and discrepancy
between the Data Protection Act civil liability and defences for
improper publication of personal data, which is exactly the same
as publication of private information, and what Parliament has
decreed is that it should be a defence in journalistic publication
that the publisher had a reasonable belief that it was acting
in the public interest. Now there is no such thing in privacy.
If you have gone into the area of privacy and the judge decides
you do not have a public interest, it does not matter what you
think or thought at the time, and that is absolutely contradictory
to the will of Parliament. In the longer term, of course, if public
policy undertaken by Parliament is contradicted by what the judges
are doing, then that is an attack on democracy effectively.
Q849 Chairman: Mr Myler, Mr Crone,
I think we have finished our questions. Can I thank you for your
evidence, and can I also thank you particularly for your willingness
to answer questions despite Mr Mosley's impending libel action.
Mr Myler: Thank you.