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

Examination of Witness (Question Numbers 2106-2119)



  Q2106 Chairman: Can I this afternoon welcome Les Hinton who is giving evidence to the Committee from New York. Les is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Dow Jones but was the previous Executive Chairman of News International at a time when the Committee previously took evidence in its last inquiry into self-regulation of the press. Les, thank you for making yourself available this afternoon. May I start by referring back to the evidence which you gave to the Committee in March 2007 because at that time in relation to the Clive Goodman affair you said that there had been a full rigorous internal inquiry, that you were convinced that Clive Goodman was the only person that knew what was going on but that the investigation continued. Can you say what the final outcome of that investigation was and if it remains the case that you are convinced that only Clive Goodman knew about the tapping of phones by Glenn Mulcaire?

Mr Hinton: Yes, Chairman. As you have already heard, when Colin Myler took over as Editor he continued studying the events there and had the assistance, as you know, of a firm of solicitors, and I know from recollection he went through thousands of emails. He never delivered any evidence that there had been anyone else involved. At the same time as that of course our biggest concern was that the News of the World, having gone through a pretty terrible time, that he was going to make absolutely certain that whatever lapses had happened in the past would not be repeated. I think he gave you some pretty detailed information about the measures that he took to be certain that everyone there was well aware of the rules and the boundaries, but, no, there was never any evidence delivered to me that suggested that the conduct of Clive Goodman spread beyond him.

  Q2107  Chairman: When you conducted the investigation were you aware of the email which the Guardian subsequently produced in the Committee, the "transcript for Neville" email?

  Mr Hinton: What I was aware of later after I had spoken to you the last time was that there had been a complaint from Taylor. I do not recall the detail of it and I never knew about any memo, no.

  Q2108  Chairman: So you were never aware of the email which was sent by a reporter at the News of the World to Glenn Mulcaire headed "Here is the transcript for Neville"?

  Mr Hinton: No.

  Q2109  Chairman: When you carried out these investigations, and you said you looked through thousands of emails, none of those emails related to anybody other than Clive Goodman having knowledge of what Glenn Mulcaire was doing?

  Mr Hinton: Look, I obviously did not look at those emails personally but I know that that scrutiny went on and no emails that raised any further suspicion were brought to my attention.

  Q2110  Chairman: When you conducted the investigation did you ask individual reporters on the News of the World whether they had any knowledge of what Glenn Mulcaire was doing?

  Mr Hinton: Not personally but remember that Colin had come in from New York, a very experienced editor with a clear remit to do two things: make sure that any previous misconduct was identified and acted upon and that the prospect of any future misconduct would be ruled out. So he was there in that position with absolute authority and no involvement in any possible conduct before that time. I thought bringing him in—and I still think it—was a perfect way to create an independent, experienced judge of what had been going on or what ought to be going on in future.

  Q2111  Chairman: But presumably the investigation did include asking employees of the News of the World whether or not they had any knowledge of what had happened?

  Mr Hinton: Look, again I know you had a conversation with Colin Myler. He spent a long time talking to lots of people and I cannot recall more reliably than he the nature of them. However, importantly, he did not come to me with any concerns relating to what had gone on other than, obviously, the Goodman matter.

  Q2112  Chairman: But specifically did you ever speak to Neville Thurlbeck about this?

  Mr Hinton: No.

  Q2113  Chairman: You did not?

  Mr Hinton: No because I was not aware of Neville Thurlbeck having been involved. In any event, I relied upon Colin as the independent newly appointed Editor to conduct that kind of questioning.

  Q2114  Chairman: Neville Thurlbeck was the author of a number of stories with Clive Goodman some of which appeared to have used material obtained from phone messages.

  Mr Hinton: I do not know, Chairman.

  Q2115  Philip Davies: Can I ask you about your suspicions about other people being involved at the time when many of the phone-tapping incidents had nothing to do with the Royal Family, and so given that Clive Goodman was the Royal Reporter did you or anybody else think to yourself if people who were not part of the Royal Family were being tapped then surely this must go beyond Clive Goodman?

  Mr Hinton: That is a good question but you have to put yourself in the position that we were in at the time remembering that the police had conducted an exhaustive inquiry that went on for many months, even before the charges were laid against Goodman and the private investigator, and I think it is reasonable, when we are looking at the work carried out by some of the best brains at Scotland Yard, for us to accept that that had found no evidence beyond speculation—and there was a great deal of speculation in other newspapers, as you know, some of it perhaps (but probably not) malicious—and there was never any substantive additional evidence produced. Although I have not followed meticulously all the proceedings since the summer I did look at the evidence that John Yates of the Yard provided to you only a couple of weeks ago and I think he said rather pointedly that the Guardian story that has so excited this Committee and certain parts of the media contained no new evidence and in the two months since its publication no new evidence had arisen. I think it is fair to say that since no evidence has come up it would be hard to find any because there are lots of very capable people I am sure from establishments such as the Guardian looking for it and it has never been presented. We were in a situation where there was no clear evidence, there was lots of gossip but the most important thing at that point, having gone through this really difficult period—and the News of the World is populated, I promise you, overwhelmingly by decent hard-working people—they did not deserve the difficulty they had gone through and I was attaching a lot of importance to getting things back to normal with Colin's appointment.

  Q2116  Philip Davies: Do you accept that even if you were unable to identify a particular individual, given that other people's not just people in the Royal Family phones were being tapped, that other people at the News of the World must have been involved in this?

  Mr Hinton: I am afraid I cannot quite follow the logic of that because whatever may have been happening in the offices of the private investigator, whether or not it was being relayed to the News of the World, I just had no reason to believe that, but there was a lot of gossip, there was a lot of speculation, there were a lot of accusations that we could never find any firm foundation for, so in the light of them we went, I promise you, to extraordinary lengths both within the News of the World itself and from my own position at the time—I was also Chairman of the Editors' Code Committee—we clarified the Code. There were a number of measures taken across the industry because there was only so much you could do retroactively.

  Q2117  Philip Davies: I want to focus on the payments that you have made to Clive Goodman and Mulcaire specifically since their conviction, or certainly after they were arrested and charged. First of all, did you in any way pay for any of the legal fees for Clive Goodman or Glenn Mulcaire?

  Mr Hinton: I absolutely do not know. I do not know whether we did or not. There were certainly some payments made afterwards but on the matter of legal fees I honestly do not know.

  Q2118  Philip Davies: The problem I have here is that whenever we have questioned anybody who was involved at the News of the World or News International, even including very senior people such as yourself, everybody has always said they do not know and they have also been able to further add that they have no idea who would know. This is all becoming rather incredible that some of the most senior people involved in News International either did not know or did not know who would know. Stuart Kuttner said that he did not know and he said that he did not know who would know. Now you are saying you do not know. Who on earth would know these things?

  Mr Hinton: That is a fine flourish of a question, Mr Davies, but I have answered your question: I do not know.

  Q2119  Philip Davies: Well, who would know in your organisation? You were a senior person in this organisation. Who in your organisation would know?

  Mr Hinton: If we paid their legal fees the company would know; I do not.

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Prepared 23 February 2010