Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360
WEDNESDAY 7 MARCH 2007
MR PAUL DACRE
Q360 Lord Peston:
And some of the others have to be put before politicians. I am
really going back to Lord Woolf's point. I certainly think the
judges ought to communicate better, that is not the problem, but
they are not in a position to solve problems. If there are problems,
they are not the ones who have the solutions to hand, are they?
It is the politicians who have the solutions.
Mr Dacre: Yes, but in the way of the world it
is up to the senior members of the judicial trade to make sure
this message is communicated to the politicians.
I would like to go back to your answer to Lord Lyell, if I may,
on the Human Rights Act. You have made it pretty plain that you
are not a great enthusiast and in some ways you are critical of
the Human Rights Act. Forgive my ignorance, but is that an editorial
line of the Daily Mail: we do not like the Human Rights
Mr Dacre: I think it fair to say that over the
last 15 years the Daily Mail has been in the Eurosceptic
camp of British journalism. Vast areas of British journalism are
not in that camp, mainly the BBC. I think it fair to say that
we have been very doubtful about the Human Rights Act from even
before it was introduced into British legislation. That is our
editorial comment line. If you are asking me if that view is reflected
by all our columnists, I would have to answer no. Some of them
support it, some of them do not. I think it is a bit of a myth
that the Daily Mail has a bit of a line that permeates
the whole paper.
We of course would not know exactly how that works, but if a columnist
or reporter came up with a warm endorsement of the way in which
the Human Rights Act had helped some oppressed minority or individual,
would that be spiked? Would it appear in the paper?
Mr Dacre: A reporter would not come out with
that view. A reporter reports; he does not give views. I have
referred to the Sweeney case. If you compare that with The
Sun's version, it is, as I say, a model of great classical,
fair, objective reporting. To put it another way: I employ some
of the best columnists in Fleet StreetI say, modestly.
But we do. Great minds. Great original minds. A great ability
to communicate. I am thinking of one, who it would not be fair
to mention, and I would be surprised to learn that he was not
a great supporter of the Human rights Act. He has total freedom
to express his views, as do all our columnists. If you think I
can control some of the very headstrong and independent-minded
individuals I have on my columnists' rota, you are living under
a misapprehension. You really are. I repeat, in the editorial
line and in terms of the leader column, we are consistently against
the Human Rights Act.
Chairman: Thank you for making that clear.
Q363 Lord Morris of Aberavon:
Mr Dacre, I am sure you would agree with the fundamental importance
of judicial independence. There is a cry from some for greater
accountability of judges. Can they be reconciled or are they compatible?
Mr Dacre: It is very difficult, is it not? It
is very difficult. They certainly should not be accountable to
politicians, that is for sure. I think I would go back to what
I said before. If the Human Rights Act has placed judges in the
position where they are making more and more contentious decisions,
decisions that seem to fly in the face of strongly held views
of politicians, of the populace at large, then I think the demands
for judges to be accountable is going to grow. As to whether that
is a healthy thing or not, I suspect it is not. I repeat, judges
have been put in that position, which I think is undesirable.
Q364 Lord Lyell of Markyate:
Perhaps some of the judges' decisions on terrorism may have been
criticised by your paper, I am not sure, but if the Government
of this country passed laws which locked people up without trial
for indefinite periods I would expect the Daily Mail to
speak up against it.
Mr Dacre: I can send them to you. I think we
have written a lot of leaders supporting the judiciary and the
independence of the judiciary. I passionately believe the free
press needs a strong judiciary, I really do. I do worry that the
press are not quite getting the support from the judiciary it
deserves at the moment. I am sorry, could you repeat your question.
Q365 Lord Lyell of Markyate:
If you take the people who were locked up in Belmarsh for three
years without ever being brought to trial and the judges said
it would not do
Mr Dacre: The Daily Mail did support
the judiciary on this and we have been on the side of civil liberties
in this. I do fear that the more terrorist bombs which go off,
the more these civil liberties are going to be under huge threat.
We have not been supportive of judges where they have seemed to
take perverse decisions over immigration, asylum, sham weddings
and things like that. We have been critical of those. But successive
Home Secretaries have tried to get hold of this shambles
and at every turn have been overturned by the judges. My own view,
for what it is worthand it is probably worth very littleis
that judges make wonderful decisions in isolation, which are intellectually
very pure, but they do not have the mindset, because they do not
have the knowledge of how ordinary people think, to place them
in the large context of national security, immigration and things
like that. I do not know what the answer is there but I make it
as an observation.
Q366 Lord Goodlad:
Do you think the judges ought to respond to public opinion on
that rather than apply the law as it is?
Mr Dacre: No, obviously not. If judges can keep
making decisions that fly in the face of what most people perceive
as common sense and common justice then they threaten the justice
process itself because people do not trust it.
Baroness O'Cathain: That is for the politicians.
Q367 Lord Goodlad:
Is that not more for the politicians?
Mr Dacre: We keep going back to Human Rights.
You are making judgments that we feel and a lot of people feel
Q368 Lord Goodlad:
When you say the press are not getting the support of the judiciary,
could you give the Committee one or two examples of that?
Mr Dacre: I think I have already referred to
the development and emergence of this judge-driven privacy law.
I do not want to go into specifics, but we were simply astonished
at the judgment recently which denied a man whose wife had committed
adultery with another public figure the right to speak about that.
That seemed shattering to me and everything I have understood
about newspapers. Injunctions are being handed out with greater
and greater frequency, as we have seen over the last few daysa
very unedifying spectacle, if I may say. Rightly or wrongly, we
feel that one or two judges are very anti-press. Very anti-press.
They do not understand newspapers. They do not like newspapers.
They do not like popular newspapers, in particular, and they do
not quite realise that, in their dislike of popular newspapers,
their disdain of popular newspapers, they are disdaining millions
of people who read those newspapers. I am afraid that is a feeling
very prevalently held by several editors.
Q369 Lord Lyell of Markyate:
I share your view about that judgment but it is worth recording
that it was overturned on appeal.
Mr Dacre: No, I do not think it has been.
Q370 Lord Lyell of Markyate:
Mr Dacre: I do apologise.
Thinking of your last remarks, could it be that the judiciary,
rather like Corporal Jones, "don't like it up 'em"?
Mr Dacre: You said it, sir. I think they like
dishing it but not taking it, but that is true of a lot of people.
I retract that commentI really do. One of the things I
was going to suggest is that there should be, maybe in the form
of forums, opportunities where senior editors and senior members
of the judiciary can cross-fertilise their views. Indeed, there
have been, on an informal basis, one or two very useful dinners
on that basis. I do think judgesand this sounds a little
patronisingdo need to be a little less sensitive about
the media, a little less defensive, maybe a little more magisterial
and Olympian and not worry so much about the hurly-burly and cut
and thrust of her Majesty's red-tops.
Chairman: Thank you very much. You have
been very generous with your time, and, like every good journalist,
you have sensed, I am sure, the blood pressure and adrenalin levels
of your audience rising considerably.
1 Mr Dacre was referring to CC v AB  EWHC 3083;
 Entertainment & Media Law Reports 11. Lord llyell of
Markyate was referring to a different judgement, AVB plc 
QB 195. Back