Press standards, privacy and libel - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

Examination of Witness (Question Numbers 2080-2099)



  Q2080  Paul Farrelly: There were several hearings?

  Mr Lewis: That was the position. We started a claim based on an inference that Glenn Mulcaire got this information. That has been proven. Glenn Mulcaire's counsel had given evidence in the criminal case that he only acted for News International, that he would not have been getting information for the likes of Clive Goodman because Gordon Taylor is not King Taylor yet.

  Q2081  Paul Farrelly: When did the civil—

  Mr Lewis: Very shortly after. We sent some letters pretty soon after the prosecution to say, "Please provide us with lots of money and not to repeat these things; you have been illegally hacking his phone."

  Q2082  Paul Farrelly: When was the settlement reached?

  Mr Lewis: About a year ago, I would guess.

  Q2083  Paul Farrelly: A year ago as of now?

  Mr Lewis: It took a little while to get to that stage. The first stage in the case was News International saying that this was an open record. So at that stage all the documents which cannot be referred to now because the files are closed were in an open court file, so the claim and original defence which was put in said, "This never happened." So it was there and was a public document at that stage.

  Q2084  Paul Farrelly: You mentioned Mr Crone. Mr Crone came to us as part of a number of people from News International, and we were told they had not been able to correct the record, either with us or with the Press Complaints Commission, because of the confidentiality clauses which were in the settlement. Mr Crone was asked by the Chairman on what basis was it decided to keep the proceedings secret, was it at Gordon Taylor's request, and Mr Crone said, "Actually I think he mentioned it first." The Chairman said, "He mentioned it first?" Mr Crone said, "It was raised by him before it was raised by us but we fell in with it." Have we been given accurate evidence?

  Mr Lewis: The short answer would be no. The longer answer would be, and I have seen the transcript of that evidence, the position is that there are two different aspects to keeping something quiet. So the claim initially that was made sought an injunction to stop the repetition of information which was obtained illegally, so in that sense the existence of the information which was the subject matter of the story effectively which was the underlying aspect of the case. It was Gordon Taylor's suggestion, or my suggestion on behalf of Gordon Taylor, that we ask that that be kept secret. It was right and proper that that should be done, because sometimes people say, "There's no smoke without fire" and in this case there was no smoke without fire, but to stop that would be the usual libel type of practice to stop a story getting out. That is very different from stopping the existence of a settlement getting out, and that is a secondary point. That was not suggested by Gordon Taylor or by me on behalf of Gordon Taylor. That is not waiving any privilege or anything, that was the position that was put forward as part of the settlement offer.

  Q2085  Paul Farrelly: By News International?

  Mr Lewis: By News International or by their lawyers.

  Q2086  Paul Farrelly: On what sort of grounds might that usually be the case, in your experience?

  Mr Lewis: It would be hard for me to answer that question, what was in their mind, but I think the inference might be that it was part of the settlement offer.

  Q2087  Paul Farrelly: It would have been embarrassing had that been disclosed?

  Mr Lewis: I suspect it might have been embarrassing, it might have led other people to think, "Hang on a minute, there was a story about me. I wonder how they got that story?"

  Q2088  Paul Farrelly: On the rounds through your involvement in this case, are you aware of any other similar sort of actions which have been settled in this way by News International, in relation to this sort of activity?

  Mr Lewis: I do not think it had ever happened before. I think people had always looked at what the story said and, apart from a lawyer's point of view—and this is my job—if the story was true but infringed privacy, then it would be a privacy action; if the story was not true then there would be a libel action. I do not think anybody had ever stepped back and said, "How did the newspaper get the story in the first place?" What can be seen from some of these cases—I think you referred to the "Neville" email, et cetera—at around that time there was a story which had been drafted which suggested the story had almost been laundered afterwards, that once the story had been got by the newspapers it could be legitimised afterwards by getting the relevant quotes from people.

  Q2089  Paul Farrelly: You said that once you were successful in the court order requiring the evidence from the police, and I assume by extension from the Information Commissioner, that the situation changed in terms of readiness to settle and admit. I want to try and get to the bottom of the Chairman's question. In the evidence you have been able to get, was there any inference or reasonable suspicion that Mr Mulcaire was providing these intercepts in the Taylor case, or on the other counts to the extent you have some information about those, to other journalists within News International?

  Mr Lewis: Other than Mr Goodman?

  Q2090  Paul Farrelly: Yes.

  Mr Lewis: Quite obviously they would have been given to journalists other than Mr Goodman. At the time, to put it into context, there had been stories about people at the FA, not the PFA which Mr Taylor is from, having been involved in sexual misconduct or whatever. At the time there had been stories about Sven-Goran Eriksson with somebody called Faria Alam, and then there was a story about somebody at the FA with Faria Alam as well I understand. If I have that wrong, I am sorry, Ms Alam. This was supposed to be the third story in the sequence of "More Scandal at the FA", but the story had been got by people hacking phones rather than actually doing proper journalism, so they had not bothered to check facts and it would have come out that actually it was a different organisation, different people and actually did not fit in anyway.

  Q2091  Chairman: Are you saying you have seen specific documentary evidence to suggest those phones were hacked?

  Mr Lewis: No, I am sorry, I am not suggesting that. It is just the way things were put together. I cannot stray on to documents I might have seen, but the answer is no.

  Q2092  Chairman: Have you seen any documents which came from anybody other than Clive Goodman?

  Mr Lewis: Anybody other than Clive Goodman? I have seen a "Neville" document.

  Chairman: You have seen the "Neville" document.

  Q2093  Paul Farrelly: You also asked for the Motorman files, can I ask why you did that and how helpful were they to you in respect of the particular grounds on which you brought the case for Mr Taylor, or generally to show a pattern of behaviour?

  Mr Lewis: Generally to show a pattern of behaviour. Naturally, the nature of the case as it started was inferential, there had to be inferences which were drawn. This is the difference between a criminal case and a civil case. In a civil case one was able to say to the judge, "Look, this is the inference. Mr Goodman could not be getting information because it would not make sense for a royal correspondent to be getting information about somebody involved in the world of football, for example." So to build up the inference, it was to say, "Look, here is an organisation, these are all the things it does wrongly in order to get stories", and that helps to weigh up the evidential proof to suggest that this is not a one-off as it was described in the criminal case.

  Q2094  Paul Farrelly: They refused to give us the figures in their response but there were payments made to Clive Goodman and Mulcaire after their convictions. Even though Goodman was dismissed and his internal appeal failed, they maintained it was still a compromise agreement and that he had employment rights and, likewise Mr Mulcaire, even though the payments to him and the contract, it was said in court, stopped before that case was brought. From your investigations, do you have any details or any information about the nature and the conditions behind those payments to Mr Goodman and Mr Mulcaire?

  Mr Lewis: The very short answer is no, I do not. On two issues, if it is helpful, in respect of employment law, which is not particularly my field, one could say that if somebody has committed misconduct, as in the case of Mr Goodman being sent to prison, that misconduct would be sufficient to end his contract of employment. It is very difficult to see how somebody would be compensated for that as a loss of office, so presumably there would be some other reason for paying him, if he has been paid.

  Q2095  Paul Farrelly: To keep quiet?

  Mr Lewis: That might be so.

  Q2096  Paul Farrelly: I have asked this question of the police: the News of the World editorial of 12 July, after the Guardian's first revelations largely on the basis of the settlement of Gordon Taylor, said, "So let us be clear, neither the police nor our own internal investigation has found any evidence to support allegations that News of the World journalists have accessed the voicemails of any individuals." The editorial goes on to say, "Nor instructed private investigators or other third parties to access voicemails of any individual." From your involvement in the Taylor case, would you say that was a truthful editorial or not?

  Mr Lewis: Gosh! Believing what they say in the News of the World is an alien concept. I cannot see they would pay out a lot of money to anybody if they really believed that themselves; I certainly do not believe it.

  Q2097  Alan Keen: Just to clarify, you mentioned the names of two people at the FA and a third person, who I obviously know the name of as well. You said you have not seen any evidence, why did you mention them? Did it happen at the same time as the Gordon Taylor case?

  Mr Lewis: It sort of happened at the same time, and also I saw a draft of an article that said, "More sexual mayhem ... " or such, " ... at the FA" rather than the PFA, because the person who had written the article had thought it was the next one in the stage of the stories but it was a complete red herring.

  Q2098  Alan Keen: It was just a red herring?

  Mr Lewis: A complete red herring.

  Q2099  Alan Keen: You had no evidence?

  Mr Lewis: No, not at all.

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Prepared 23 February 2010