Afternoon Hearing on 29 November 2011

Nick Davies and Paul McMullan gave statements at this hearing

Hearing Transcript

(2.00 pm) MR JAY Mr Davies, we're still on "The Dark Arts". We're now onto Trojan horses, bottom of page 277. We heard evidence about this yesterday from Mr Hunter, as you're probably aware.
A. Hurst.
Q. Hurst. Pardon me. Can I ask you there about the example you give in the middle of page 278, the mirror wall device. That was used by a businessman, not a journalist?
A. Yes.
Q. Relating to the tax affairs of Dame Shirley Porter.
A. I can't remember this bit at all. Keep going. Oh, I see. It was not a journalist but a business yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON When you're talking about a mirror wall, you're not talking about a title? MR JAY No. This presumably is in the public domain since the person involved, Mr Stanford, who you name, was fined for an offence under the Interception of Communications Act?
A. Correct, so my source are the reports of that public domain trial.
Q. Certainly, and there's not a public interest offence, as it happens, to a breach of section 1 of that statute.
A. As I understand it, correct.
Q. Although you point out that there may have been a public interest in the underlying story, don't you?
A. I can't remember, but maybe.
Q. Can we move on to the art or craft of binnology, which you cover at on a page 279. There's some examples where this might have been done in the public interest. For example, page 281, you give the Jonathan Aitken example, don't you?
A. Mm-hm.
Q. This information in relation to the activities of Mr Pell, again, in general terms, where does it come from?
A. The best single source is a book who was written by a journalist whose first name was Mark and I'm embarrassed to say I can't remember his second LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Watts?
A. Could be. I think that sounds right. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I got it from your book.
A. Right, so a reliable source! Yes, so he wrote an entire book about Benjamin Pell, which is hugely detailed. So that would be one. Then there were news reports at the time of his activities and there are also reporters in the background talking about him. MR JAY You give us another example which you describe as "little gems" at the bottom of page 281.
A. I can't see it.
Q. Memos between the then Prime Minister and the late Philip Gould
A. Yes.
Q. published in the Sunday Times, the Times and the Sun. So we have a series of examples which you provide in "The Dark Arts". Then at 282 and following, you consider the wider public interest issues?
A. Yes.
Q. And some of the exchanges between the then Information Commissioner and the then chairman of the PCC, all of which we're going to hear about in much more detail, at least from one side of the horse's mouth, on Thursday. So if you don't mind, I'll leave off those. But I think we get a sufficient flavour of the sort of material which you bring together to distill and to buttress these writings; is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. Thank you. I'm asked to put to you some questions, Mr Davies, and to the extent to which I haven't already, I will deal with them specifically. The first general question, and I can put it quite generally: do you agree that you did not put any of your criticisms, whether it be of the Sunday Times, the Times or the Associated Newspapers titles, to any of the individuals concerned or to the papers concerned before you published this book?
A. Emphatically not to the newspapers concerned. The underlying thought if you look at the codes of conduct there's a popular belief that they say you always have to go to the subject of your story. None of them say that. And it's I mean, I've been doing this so long I now lecture young reporters in how to do this, and what I say is it's crucial that you don't behave like a robot. Story by story, case by case. You must remember you're here to try to tell the truth about important things. Will you be assisted or obstructed in that basic simple task if you go to the other side and tell them what you're working on and ask them for a comment? If you just look at it numerically, more often than not, the answer will be: well, it's going to help you to go to the other side. But there are a significant number of occasions when the answer is no. Sometimes that's for legal reasons, sometimes it's for ethical reasons and sometimes for practical reasons. In the case of these newspapers, it was practical. I believed then and believe now that if I had tipped them off about what I was doing, they would have gone straight to the Guardian and applied all sorts of pressure of various kinds to try to persuade the Guardian to stop me doing that. And I didn't want the Guardian put in the firing line. I'm a freelance, I'm writing my own book, I didn't want them brought into it and I also didn't want to be told to stop. I feel that there was a real jeopardy to the success of the operation, and so for that reason, I made the deliberate choice not to go to them. Sorry, did you want to say something? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON (shakes head)
A. The underlying thing is that if you go back to the process I'm trying to follow the public domain sources, the human sources, the early material what you're trying to do is to get yourself to a point where you can say, "Right, that's true, this statement is true, that statement is true", and then to put it out there, and if you've got to that point, and you can see that going to the subject of the story puts you in jeopardy, puts your ability to tell the truth in jeopardy, then you wouldn't take that extra step, or there might be ethical reasons for not going to the other side, or there might be legal problems. MR JAY You've covered just the practical probables or prudential problems. What sort of matters would fall under the categories of ethical problems on the one hand and legal problems on the other hand?
A. There are other practical problems that occur as well. Ethical, I think the classic case is you're covering its trial of a paedophile and he is accused of raping and abducting and murdering children and you're preparing the background story that's going to be published or broadcast once the trial is over. Do you really want me to go and ask this man what he says about his abduction and rape and murder of children? And I think the answer is you don't want me to do that. There's an ethical problem there. Do you ask Hitler what he thinks about concentration camps? For example, the BBC code of conduct, which is a particularly intensely thought-out, good one, uses precisely that expression, "overriding ethical or legal reasons". So that's a relatively unusual block, but it's there. If you follow me, anyway. I take that view. Legal is two categories. One, which I would come across from time to time, which is where I have obtained information which could be deemed to be confidential. There's a risk that if I let the other side know, I'm going to get myself injuncted and I did a story I might have referred to it in the statement, actually where I spent months digging into the tax affairs of a particularly wealthy man in order to exemplify the way in which very wealthy people don't have to pay tax because they hire clever lawyers and accountants to find their way through the law or they just break the law. When it came time to legal that, to get it into the paper, they had seven different lawyers working on it because of the fear of what this man could do to us in the court. On one side, there were defamation specialists, who were saying, "You have to go to him and put this stuff to him", and then there were very experienced lawyers on the confidentiality side, one of whom's now become a judge, saying, "Don't go near him. If you go near him, this story will never see the light of day." And in the end I had to go to him and have very carefully choreographed conversations where I was checking facts without him knowing quite what the story was about. It was an uneasy compromise. So confidentiality is one problem for us and the other is privacy, which I personally don't come up against so often, but insofar as the Human Rights Act now has Article 8 and Article 10 there, it can be problematic. There was an example where the Sunday Mirror did a kiss-and-tell job on a well-known public figure and they had bought up the woman's story. They'd got her letters and photographs. There was no doubting the truth, the accuracy of what she was saying about the public figure, but at 4 o'clock on the Saturday afternoon they went to the public figure and asked for a quote. In my book, this is a reporter operating like a robot who hasn't seen the danger and within an hour or two, the Sunday Mirror was injuncted and eventually they lifted the injunction. But by that time they had lost several editions, hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of income. Now, I have my own reservations about doing those kinds of stories, but what I'm trying to point to is the danger of automatically going to the other side. So legal, ethical, practical. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Of course, everything turns on facts.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And you will doubtless have seen in the press, if you didn't otherwise hear about it, of the evidence that we had from Mr Mosley about the need to check stories because once the cat is out of the bag, it can never be put back in.
A. Yes, and I think you have a powerful point, even more on privacy than accuracy. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Oh, there's no question, no question. Yes, but for him there's a twin question, isn't there, because there was
A. The Nazi element of the story. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Correct. But how does that play into your analysis of the circumstances in which you go to a particular target?
A. I think first, I don't think the Max Mosley story should have been printed, but if I were the reporter trying to get that story into the public domain, I would understand that if I go near Max Mosley, he's going to get an injunction on breach of privacy grounds and it's an interesting contradiction, actually, because the official story from the News of the World is: "Oh, well, we've got Article 10 on side here. This is in the public interest. This is our freedom of expression." But the underlying fear would be that that's not going to be the way the court sees it and that they are going to injunct. So I don't approve of the story, but I can understand why they didn't go near him. Have I answered your question? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, you have, and I also understand why they didn't go near him.
A. I think that's all they're saying. It's tricky you see, on the confidentiality thing, which is something we deal with more often, we did a long, complicated and probably deeply tedious series a few years ago about corporate tax avoidance. It was a very noble thing to do. I don't know whether anybody read it. It went on the for days. Now, towards the end of that, we were contacted by somebody who gave us internal paperwork from Barclays Bank which described tax shelters which Barclays was providing to corporate clients. We thought there were two reasons why it was in the public interest to publish this: (a) this is about the avoidance of tax, the frustration of the Parliamentary will as to what tax should be paid, (b) this was at a time where Barclays was in negotiation ultimately fruitless ones, but were in negotiation about taking taxpayers' money to bail them out of the credit crisis, and therefore the fact that they were it is selling tax shelters was particularly in the public interest. So we put those documents on our website with a story, and that went up late one evening. Alan Rusbridger will tell you the story in more detail but by 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning, there were powerful lawyers onto us and onto a judge, arguing that these were confidential and they got the injunction and that was it. We had to remove the documents. We were not able to publish that story. It comes back to this point about the difficulty of making these judgments about what's in the public interest. We felt very aggrieved LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I hope you've not just broken the terms of that injunction.
A. No, no, I haven't given you the detailed contents of the paperwork. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Your lawyer tells you you haven't.
A. Thank you. Just this once. No, but you see that again, you see the lesson from that incident for a reporter is the danger of a court interpreting the law of confidence in such a way as it to frustrate what you genuinely consider to be your legitimate function. MR JAY Thank you.
A. Can I just add, you know I said "practical"? Apart from the kind of intimidation question, the big problem is PR. If you go to the subject of a story and that subject has professional PR advice, if you give them the time to manoeuvre, they'll put the story out on their own terms. So they'll change the angle, and so to speak, scoop you, and Alastair Campbell, for example, who I know he's giving evidence, was brilliant at doing this if newspapers went to him too early. So more often than not you will want to go to the other side. You want to go to the other side in case there's some killer fact you haven't thought of and you want to go to the other side if you want to use the Reynolds defence. So I can't quantify it, but more often than not you will, but it has to be story by story, a judgment taking those factors into consideration.
Q. Thank you. A series of questions now from someone else, Mr Davies. Between which dates did you carry out your research for Flat Earth News, approximately?
A. Calendar years 2005/6 and fragmentary research in the first three months of '07. I finished writing it at the end of March '07.
Q. Would you agree to disclose your sources regarding comments about the Daily Mail so that your allegations can be properly investigated?
A. I can disclose those sources if the sources will agree to be disclosed.
Q. But not otherwise?
A. Really not, and I think the Mail would feel the same way about their own sources.
Q. I'm asked to point out, and so I will, that the Mail or Associated Newspapers generally wishes it to be made clear it strongly refutes the allegations that the Daily Mail had a policy of bribing policemen and civil servants in order to obtain stories as you allege. They also wish to make it clear that they refute generally the allegations you make against them in the book, which are incapable of specific refutation because they lack any meaningful detail. Do you follow that?
A. Mm.
Q. Do you understand also the difficulty they have, and to the extent that we have, that without you giving us your sources and we fully understand why you can't that which substantiates your book cannot be tested evidentially. Would you accept that?
A. That's true of some but not all. I mean, for example, where you look at the Motorman material, we know as a matter of public domain fact that the Mail came out top of the league table which the ICO published in December 2006. I was at the Select Committee hearing in September 2009 where the new Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said that the ICO had made it clear to newspapers that if they wanted to examine that material, they could, and he's then said in his evidence that no newspaper has come to the ICO to ask whether they can examine the material which we seized from Steve Whittamore. It seems to me that if the Mail want to discover whether there was law-breaking in that material, that was something they could this done/is something they can do. It may be that they have now I can't obviously say but certainly at that stage, if Christopher Graham is to be believed, that hadn't happened and that route is open to them without having to tangle with the confidential sources. There's a second possibility where Z is concerned about internal accounting. I just don't know what their internal accounting systems are like, so the payments that I was particularly being told about were cash, so it may simply be that you draw the cash and it leaves no specific footprint as to why it was being drawn, in which case that isn't going to help us. But if there is anything in the accounting system that actually shows a payment going from the paper to Z, then that would help the Mail to get to the bottom of the truth without running up against the problem of off-the-record sources. I mean, it's a pretty fine investigative paper. I think they can get quite a long way without me. There's also the whole business of what Scotland Yard has on that source. Again, it's in the public domain that Scotland Yard mounted a surveillance on him. I don't know what they came up with but it would be interesting to ask. So I do accept that there are real difficulties with the Mail dealing with some of the things I've been telling you, and it's frustrating, I accept that, but I think there's an area where they could try and see what they can find.
Q. In terms, generally, of the incidents of corruption which you list, I think from your evidence already we have some sense of the timescale.
A. Yes.
Q. We go back to the 1970s, Z is in the 1980s. The information gathered, page 272 this is surrounding The Wine Press in Fleet Street. You give the date for that, probably in the early 1990s; is that right?
A. I'm saying mid, up to about 1996/1997 I'm talking about there.
Q. Then page 279, which is the activities of Mr Benjamin Pell.
A. It's not really corruption, is it?
Q. No?
A. Can I just interrupt you, before you go on, while we're on corruption. My understanding of the position with Z is that he goes right back to the early 80s, kind of '82/'83, but comes a long way forward. My understanding is he was still active when I was researching the book, so that's a long span of activity of that kind. On the police corruption side, there's the investigator who you pointed me to at the top of page 269, who we haven't actually named in this session. That is materially about corrupting police officers. There's a lot of detail which has emerged about that. It involves three newspapers, not the Mail, but that's the period, late 80s through to '99, where he goes to prison, and then again, he's out and active from about 2005, although I don't know that there's evidence of police corruption in that second period. But there's that long initial period.
Q. I've already put the point to you about whether you put your allegations to Associated Newspapers and you've explained generally why you didn't. I think I've covered that.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. I'm invited to ask you to comment your view, really, of your fellow Guardian journalist Mr David Leigh.
A. Yeah.
Q. Apparently there are three instances that are given to me. The first, he procured House of Commons notepaper, using it in order to claim he was acting on behalf of Jonathan Aitken MP and faxing it to the Ritz hotel in Paris in order to obtain a copy of Mr Aitken's hotel bill. First of all, as a matter of fact, are you aware that Mr Leigh did that?
A. I think that's probably factually wrong. There was this famous incident it's referred to as the "cod fax". I think David was working at "World in Action" at that time and wasn't part of it. There was a senior executive at the Guardian who I believe was responsible for the cod fax and if you want to get to the issue rather than the individual I think you're wrong in putting David in the story, but is it the issue you're interesting in? Was that a bad thing to do?
Q. I think there are two layers to this. There's a factual layer, which you've addressed, but then there's a more general one, a conceptual one, I suppose, that even if it's true, which you say it isn't, would you approve of it?
A. I don't want to dodge the question. I think it's not true of David, but I think it is true of the Guardian. The Guardian did what you describe but I'm pretty sure David Leigh wasn't working for the paper at the time.
Q. Fair enough.
A. This is blagging, really, isn't it?
Q. Yes.
A. Section 55 of the Data Protection Act. Do you have public interest on your side when you do this? In this murky area, I think top of everybody's league table of what is in the public interest is the exposure of serious crime, and at the end of this long saga involving Jonathan Aitken, the Guardian eventually published this story which disclosed that as our Minister of Defence dealing with establishing arms deals, he was lining himself up to receive enormous bribes, and when the Guardian eventually got that into the public domain I'm not libelling anybody here; this is all already written they said that if there had been a more serious example of political corruption since 1945, they would like to be told what it was. So I would say you are top of the scale public interest on that piece of blagging.
Q. That's page 281 of your book.
A. Oh, is it?
Q. "If there's a more serious act of corruption in post-war British politics, we would be interested to know of it."
A. Not a bad memory.
Q. The second example that's put to me I think it's better if I just ask it directly of Mr Leigh when he comes next week?
A. Okay.
Q. The third one, that he apparently accepted information from Benjamin Pell that Pell had acquired from other people's dustbins. Is that something you know about?
A. I wrote about it a bit in the book. He was very LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Page 281.
A. Yes. He was very clever about it. David's a fantastic reporter and the good reporters the Martha Gellhorns, the James Camerons, the David Leighs have a kind of artful dodger about them, and he could see the exciting potential of this extraordinary man who was digging material out of significant people's dustbins, but he could also see that the Guardian were never going to pay for it. Out of a mixture, I think I said in the book, of poverty and principle, it wasn't going to happen. So he very cleverly passed Benjamin on to somebody else who could deal with him and this somebody else was a friend who was highly likely to tell him if anything interesting emerged from the bin. So I think he got himself very close to the line and just stayed on the right side of it. I thought it was clever of him. This is exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about. Is that in the public interest or not? Who knows where the line is? Really, really tricky judgments that many could up. He took a call on it.
Q. Could we look, please, to the future and press regulation generally.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. The matter which was, as it were, parked before lunch but which we promised or threatened that we would come back to. Could you give us some thought to that now and tell us your views?
A. First of all, it's really difficult. I think that as two starting thoughts we said the first one, that we have to consider the needs of media victims as well as media organisations. The second one is that just as an intellectual exercise, I wouldn't start with what we've got. We've got this horrible concoction of common law and statute and regulation and it's a mess. I think that it's helpful to start with a blank sheet of paper and you could conceptually draw a line down the middle of that piece of paper and say really there are two different kinds of problem. The most important problem is falsehood and distortion, within which there is defamatory falsehood and distortion, and on the other side of this line you put unethical behaviour, within which the worst is probably the invasion of privacy. So if you take the first of those, if you start with a blank sheet of paper and say, "What should we do about falsehood, distortion and defamation?" I don't think you'd come up with anything like the law we have. You wouldn't invent, for example, the concept that damages should be paid to somebody whose reputation has been hurt by a publication. Surely you would say, "If that happens, if I publish something which falsely damages somebody's reputation, what they deserve is a correction of equal prominence. Not the PCC's weasel words, 'due prominence'; equal prominence to what I published." That's a complete balance, and I think the same applies generally to falsehood and distortion. This is the thing that most upsets people about what we do, and so having crossed this line and abandoned the idea of self-regulation, I want somebody to pass a law that says: if you publish, in newspapers, magazines, books, wherever, and you make a statement which is demonstrably false, you have to correct it with equal prominence. First of all, this is good for the freedom of the press. The worst burden, I think it's fair to say, we suffer under is libel law. It constantly prevents us telling the truth about important things. It has a terrible, chilling effect, and I bet you every editor in Fleet Street, from Rusbridger to Dacre, would be happy to see the back of defamation law. There's a few learned friends here who might not be happy but it would be an enormous advantage to the freedom of the press. And yet we can satisfy the needs of victims, but I would do that not through the courts but through some sort of simple LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not sure that's not a bit simplistic because those who have been defamed obviously want to get the defamation corrected, but in the meantime they've been put through the grinder for the time it takes to get it corrected.
A. Yes, but LORD JUSTICE LEVESON They are entitled to some redress for that, and in our system, the only redress we have is the commodity called money.
A. But I wouldn't push this through the courts. I want an arbitration system that's quick. I would put statutory deadlines on it. If a newspaper publishes a statement of fact, they should already know whether or not it's true and be in a position to justify it pretty quickly. I would say if someone makes a complaint about a statement I have made you might think this is bonkers but within four weeks we ought to have a hearing. And that hearing shouldn't be in court; it should be in some sort of arbitration system. That system would make a finding of fact and it could be appealed to the courts only on point of law. You have a system rather like this in maritime law, where they have specialist lawyers who act as arbitrators. I've been researching it a little bit and it works. You see as a starting point if you start with a blank sheet of paper and just think it logically through, you don't run into the contradiction between the freedom of press and the need for regulation. You can actually make something happen which increases the freedom of the press and gives media victims a quick, effective reply. I know it's simple what I'm saying and it's a complicated argument. I'm trying to provide a starting point. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, no, I'm very grateful. Indeed, the idea of having some sort of arbitral system you may have heard that I've suggested to a number of people over the course of the last two weeks.
A. Mm-hm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But whether one removes the law of libel entirely is perhaps something rather different, and it would be a rather odd consequence, wouldn't it, of all the problems that have caused this Inquiry to say we should have even a greater licence for the press to print whatever they want?
A. No, because you take the McCann case, the horrific falsehoods being published about those people. They don't have to sue and go through that long, drawn-out process, expensive, exhausting process. They trigger the complaint. Within four weeks, they get an arbitration decision. Surely the newspapers are not in a position to justify the factual statements that were made about them. All those newspapers who have made them have to publish corrections with equal prominence. The Daily Express has to put it on their front page, where the allegation was. They get justice, fairness, truth, much, much quicker. They don't get damages. I don't think they wanted damages. And on the other side is my all the business of ethical behaviour, in particular breach of privacy at the core. Over and over again, you come back to that business: "It's all right if it's in the public interesting." LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So you want the arbitral system also to provide you
A. No, they're what I'm after LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm very content with a system that is professionally based that takes work away from the court. I'm not in the business of trying to get more work into court.
A. What I'm after there with the public interest is a beginning, some sort of advisory set up. It might be part-time specialists with whom I can communicate. I send them an email and say, "Here's the situation. Here's what I'm planning to do. Will you, in confidence, give me a guide? Am I or am I not operating with public interest on my side?" And then I have that and I then proceed, and if there is then a civil dispute or a criminal prosecution, that's disclosable. Up until that point, it's secret. Yes? And if it turns out that I've ignored that advice, that's going to weigh heavily against me. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Or not taken it.
A. Yes, or not even asked for it in the first place. That's a bit like refusing to do a Breathalyser. The presumption is that you've got something to hide. You see, I think Max Mosley has a point about it being too late to deal with the privacy problem after the story's published, after those horrific videos flashed around the world of his naked body. But his proposed remedy is too severe. It involves prior restraint, and all of us are allergic to that. So I'm trying to set up a system where the signal would be sent to us very clearly before publication that if Max sues, we're going to lose, so we know and furthermore when that's disclosed, it's going to make us look particularly bad. But there's another case I think it's all right to say that this which is the Blunkett case. The tabloids went after David Blunkett and said, "You're having an affair." That, to me, was prurient and unjustified intrusion into that man's private life. However, as they dug deeper into his private life, they found a bit of public interest. They said, "Ah, this woman's nanny has had her Visa application fast-tracked by Blunkett", and he had to resign. That's the counter case against Max's argument, that if you'd gone to Blunkett before publication, he would and should have got the injunction on the basis of what we know. If you give us the freedom to continue making the decision, then you leave it open to us to say, "Even though they've warned us against this, we've going to publish because we think we can get to the bottom of the pile." So I don't think it's such a bad idea. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, I'm not
A. I don't know any other journalist who agrees with me, I'll confess. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's an interesting fact too.
A. We're very old-fashioned people. MR JAY In the example of Mr Blunkett that you gave, the chance ascertainment of a public interest nugget, as it were, was a wholly adventitious by-product of a story whose initial basis, you say, was without a public interest justification; is that correct?
A. Yes, but there's something to be said for that maxim about publish and be damned. If there's a really difficult question underlying this, who should decide what we should publish? Should it be the court or politicians or journalists? And kind of at the end of the day, I think there is something in publish and be damned. Let those journalists make their judgement. MR JAY We can hear you very well but you're going too fast. The good news is
A. I'm nearly finished. I'm not sure quite sure what's happening now. Are we finished?
Q. I think you should complete the answer you were giving to your satisfaction and then maybe we will have finished?
A. About publish and being damned. So if the Blunkett story at first sight looks like a breach of his privacy, we should nevertheless have the freedom to carry on and make the mistake and take the risk and then if we can find the public interest gem beneath the pile, then we can justify it. I think it gets very difficult if you get into the area of prior restraint. I really do. I think that that's not that shouldn't be part of the solution. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Of course, one of the problems about getting advice requires you to make a value judgment about the facts. I'm not commenting one way or the other, but if you go back to the example concerning Mr Mosley, the News of the World argued that the facts were A, and Mr Mosley was saying most emphatically it was not
A. Okay. I think my system can cope with that because if this is the Nazi theme? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes.
A. That's all right to say that? That's all public knowledge? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's comparatively public knowledge.
A. So if, when I send my email in confidence to the privacy advisory folk, I say, "In this video which we secretly shot, he is acting out some sort of Nazi fantasy", and on that basis they say, "Okay, you've probably got some public interest", if then subsequently it's shown that we never even translated what was on it and we are wrong let's just say we were wrong in simple terms about that fact. That's going to weigh very heavily against us because that email is going to be produced. So if we've given the advisory group false facts, we're in trouble. So there is an incentive to be honest with the advisory people. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand. MR JAY Mr Davies, thank you very much for assisting the Inquiry. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much. Before you go, is there anything that you feel you've not had the opportunity to say on a topic which you've obviously thought about very deeply?
A. No, I think LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed.
A. Thank you. MR JAY Mr Barr is taking the next witness. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you, Mr Jay. Just give everybody a moment to move around, Mr Barr. Right. MR BARR Good afternoon, sir. The next witness is Mr Paul McMullan. MR PAUL McMULLAN (sworn) Questions from MR BARR MR BARR Mr McMullan, could you tell the Inquiry your full name, please.
A. Paul McMullan.
Q. And your address?
A. Um LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I don't think you need to give your home address.
A. The Castle Inn, Dover. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Fine. Thank you very much indeed. MR BARR I understand you are a professionally trained journalist?
A. Yes.
Q. And that you initially gained experience working for the regional press?
A. Yes.
Q. And then you moved and had a further experience in London working for the Fleet Street News Agency?
A. Yeah, I started with Thomson Regional Newspapers, which is I think they've now folded, and I was a journalism student with Michael Gough, funnily enough. I'm quite pleased to say I came top of my class and he came sort of bottom end and he's now the minister of education.
Q. Thank you for that. You then obtained a position as a shifter, working for the Sun and Today in 1992; is that right?
A. Yeah, under Kelvin McKenzie, yeah.
Q. And then you obtained a staff job working for the Sunday Sport?
A. I was news editor there for three months. It was a bit of postgraduate silliness but good fun.
Q. Then you worked for an agency, Eureporters(?)?
A. Eureporter, yes. It was in France.
Q. Before working for the News of the World for a period of seven years?
A. Yes.
Q. Including working for part of that time as a deputy features editor?
A. Yes.
Q. You then moved to the Sunday Express for a period of around two years?
A. Yeah.
Q. Were you the investigations editor there?
A. I was, yeah.
Q. You've also worked for the National Enquirer, I understand?
A. Yeah, about the last three years of my career, if you like, before they had a buy-out and couldn't afford a European correspondent any more.
Q. Is it right that you're now in semi-retirement as a journalist, working partly as a journalist and partly as a publican?
A. Yeah, I bought an old listed building, which is an inn which has seven letting bedrooms and unfortunately the fire services closed off the top floor, saying it's quite important saying we need a fire escape and the Listed Buildings Committee saying you can't have a fire escape. So yet again I've come up against government annoyance so that's why I'm working at two jobs at the moment, to keep that afloat.
Q. Thank you, Mr McMullan. I think we can concentrate on your experience as a journalist and not as a publican, please.
A. Yeah, I'm not
Q. Can I start by asking you some general questions about the pressures of the job as a journalist. You've mentioned in some of the interviews you've given byline counts?
A. Yes.
Q. Can you explain what the byline count process is?
A. Yeah, I mean you can do it electronically now, but before the days of wordsearch, you had to get more than 12 stories a year in a newspaper. That doesn't sound very many, but given we're a weekly newspaper and my longest investigation on a prison governor who was sneaking female prisoners out of the prison in Maidstone so he could have his way with them took three months to stand up I spent three months in a surveillance van doing that actually, 12 stories does become a bit of a burden, which is why, you know, I cut all of my stories out, just so if it ever came to the crunch, it's: "No, actually, I've done 15 or 35 this year."
Q. I see. Could I ask you to speak up a little, please.
A. Okay.
Q. So the consequence of not getting sufficient bylines was what?
A. Well, you got fired.
Q. And was the threat of the sack something which looms over journalists generally?
A. Yeah, I mean you can get a front page on Sunday, but by next Tuesday you have to have three fresh ideas and that's fine for a few months, but week after week after week, there becomes a real pressure to build up a list of contacts, from, you know, police officers to PIs to basically anyone who can give you a story and you lean on those fixers to help you keep your job. I mean sorry.
Q. Is there a sense of competition then with your fellow journalists?
A. Oh yes, massively. I mean, I think Clive Goodman fell foul of phone hacking because he was getting on a bit, he was royal editor, he had a really high salary there were plenty of people who were 25 years old who would have taken his job and spent longer on doorsteps and worked hardly, and were always constantly snapping at his heels, and to stay one step ahead of them, he got sucked into phone hacking.
Q. Is there also competition with competing titles?
A. Very much so. The whole problem with working for a weekly newspaper is you get a story on Wednesday and you've got three days to sit on it just hoping no one else is going to, you know, steal it from you. The number of times I spent the second half of a week locked in a hotel room in a foreign country with somebody for example, Princess Diana's gym instructor. I spent two weeks with him in Amsterdam of all places it was his choice just so no one else could get to him. So yes, you're constantly funnily enough, hiding in vans from other journalists. I remember buying up a couple who won a marriage it was a blind date marriage we flew them to the Bahamas. It was a lovely story and we spent two weeks there, but we spent the entire two weeks hiding them from the paparazzi so we kept it exclusive to ourselves. So we were sneaking them out of hotels at 2 in the morning and having car chases with them "Stay down", you know. It was good fun. I mean, it's been a really enjoyable way to spend my career.
Q. Flights to the Bahamas excepted, was there any pressure, in your experience, on the resources available to you to research stories?
A. Funnily enough, no. When I started at News of the World under Piers Morgan his brief was: "I don't care what it costs; I just want to get the defining stories of the week." No, our budgets were massive. When I took over as deputy features editor, I had a budget of ?3.1 million a year, which I think is the biggest budget of any newspaper department in the country. So I had a lot of money to spend on I thought we wasted it on PIs, to be honest. I preferred to give the money to people who could tell us a good tail about, you know, a corrupt politician or a sports star, because they do well in terms of circulation, but no, I never felt any financial constraints. But that was the joy of working for Murdoch. We had a big, big pot of money, whereas the Guardian has nothing so never pays anybody.
Q. On the question of editors you mentioned at the start of that last answer, was it a question of the editor setting the cultural tone in the newsrooms you worked in or did the editors a new editor come in to an established culture?
A. I suppose, you know, it's been there News of the World was 167 years old and when Murdoch closed it, I actually felt: "Look, it wasn't yours to close. It was a British institution. Just because you bought it " you know, I felt that was a bit LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm having difficulty. I'd be very grateful if you'd speak up just perhaps a bit louder.
A. No, my first editor, Piers Morgan, very much set the trend. He was: "I want that story at all costs." Pretty much: "I don't care what you have to do to get that story." He wanted to be number one. He was driven to sell over 5 million copies a week, which is a lot, you know. Guardian sells 230,000. That's nothing in comparison. At one point, you could say half the adult population of the country were reading what we had written and so I think, in a sense, we were in terms of the power of the pen, we were the most powerful journalists in Britain because we had the biggest readership. What I wrote was read by half the adult population.
Q. I may stop you there. You've said a little bit about the editor and his influence on the culture of the newsroom. Can I ask you now about proprietors. When you were working for the News of the World, was it your experience that the proprietor sought to influence the content that was published?
A. I mean, I can think of a couple of examples that actually would point to the exact opposite. For example, when Hugh Grant got caught with Divine Brown in LA and she was a black prostitute, and I was part of the features team Stuart White was in America and actually bought her up and we put her on the front page and I remember Rupert Murdoch saying, "Why are we putting that on the front page? Doesn't that bring the tone down a little?" Which was like: "Wow, don't you read your own newspapers? We are the news of the screws." You know, I thought it was a fantastic front page. I only met him once. He came into the newsroom and he's just a little guy with a tweed jacket and he didn't have a swipe card to get into his own building and actually got stuck between an airlock between two doors, so I had to get up and let him out, and I thought: "My God, this guy's in charge of the biggest media empire in the world and he can't get into his own news room."
Q. The sort of intervention you've mentioned with the Divine Brown story, was it usual to have an intervention or was that an exception?
A. Well, I mean he would have spoken to his editor, who was Rebekah Brooks or Phil Hall or Piers Morgan. He wouldn't have apart from having looked over my shoulder once just to see what I was up to for no particular reason, he would never have spoken to someone as lowly as me.
Q. Moving on to the topic of serious journalism, as it's sometimes labelled, I understand that you have, for example, covered the Gulf War?
A. Yes.
Q. Bosnia?
A. Kosovo, yes. Bosnia, yes, okay.
Q. Immigration stories such as Sangatte?
A. Yeah, I spent a night of Sangatte and I actually pretty much gave up investigative journalism five years ago, when I got hit on the head with a lump of concrete thrown by some asylum seekers from Iraq, pretty well intent on killing me, but before that I smuggled myself across the channel in just every way imaginable sometimes, with them sometimes assisting.
Q. And on the question of what happened to convicted paedophiles, you wrote a controversial piece, didn't you, as part of the News of the World's naming and shaming campaign?
A. Yes. That was Rebekah Brooks' one good idea and it was initially given to a (inaudible) girlfriend to research and she couldn't find any because she just went down the library, and being an avid listener of Radio 4, they'd recently done a programme on the boy scouts and their database down in Worthing. So as a bit of a blag, I said, "We'd like to follow up on Radio 4 and can we have a look at the workings of the database", and just went down there, basically plundered about 50 paedophiles who had raped and abused children and had served a sentence and were now out, and the whole point was that I might live in my house with my children playing in the back garden and for the first time ever, we know that Peter the pervert lives next door and he's just served ten years because he raped a child as young as like yours. So that's possibly the one good thing that well, no, I've done other good things, but that was the most visible.
Q. There are a number of things I want to ask you about that story. The first is that you referred to blagging some of the information necessary for that story.
A. Yes.
Q. When you did that, did you give any consideration to whether or not it would be in the public interest to blag?
A. Yes. It's always in the public interest. I mean, circulation defines what is the public interest. I see no distinction between what the public is interested in and the public interest. Surely they're clever enough to make a decision whether or not they want to put their hand in their pocket and bring out a pound and buy it. I don't see it's the job our job or anybody else to force the public to be able to choose that you must read this, you can't read that. So yes LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's not quite the point, is it? It's not that anybody is forcing the public to be able to choose; it's whether it is appropriate to do things which otherwise might be considered unethical in some wider goal, or maybe you don't think there is an ethical dimension?
A. No, absolutely not. I think the public is clever enough to decide on the ethics it wants in its own newspapers. It doesn't need somebody like Max Mosley to say, "Well, actually, I should make the decision what should be published." The reason why News of the World sold 5 million copies is that there were 5 million thinking people and that's what they wanted to read. That's what drove the paper. We were the mirror to society, the daily mirror, in fact if you want to dirty the mirror by putting lawyers in charge of what the public can see, I think you're going down the wrong route. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And the targets of your story, neither here nor there? Is that it? It's a serious question.
A. No, if the public found the targets of our stories distasteful, they would not have bought it. The inverse was true. MR BARR A test of what is of interest to the public?
A. What is of interest to the public is what they put their hand in their pocket and buy.
Q. The consequences of the naming and shaming campaign was that there was an episode of public disorder in Portsmouth, wasn't there?
A. Yes.
Q. Did you think that the coverage might have been such as to whip up a certain amount of hysteria?
A. Yeah, no, I in a bizarre way, I felt slightly proud that I'd written something that created a riot and got a paediatrician beaten up, or whatever was the case, due to the "paedo" aspect of what our readers latched onto. But in another way, the public was absolutely outraged that for the last 20 years you could have a child rapist living next to a family of four, perving over the fence at their children and never knowing, and sometimes even letting them babysit and the abuse would carry on.
Q. Can you LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm sorry, I just want to check whether I'm reading this correctly: "I felt slightly proud that I'd written something that created a riot and got a paediatrician beaten up"?
A. Yes, I suppose I'm being a bit frivolous, but in a sense, how do you judge what you do in your career? You like to have an impact and that was one story that certainly had an impact. I mean, you yourself wouldn't like to spend your career in a back room, never having, you know, created or achieved anything, and that was the achievement was not having a paediatrician beaten up, clearly, but it was writing a story of such an impact that there were riots because the public were so furious about the way the law was and it needed to be changed. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand. I read it back to you because I didn't think you meant what I'd just read. That was the point.
A. Well, it was a bit of a joke. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That may not be how it's reported.
A. No, I bet it isn't. I wouldn't. MR BARR Perhaps to pick up a little bit more about what you felt, did you feel that you had a certain power as a journalist who could write a story which would provoke a reaction from a very large audience?
A. Yeah, I used to love sitting on the train watching people read things that I had written. Isn't that one of the reasons why we do it? I liked the idea that this paper wasn't just the biggest paper in Britain; it was the biggest paper in the English-speaking world. Clearly we were doing something right, and given that, yes, there was a certain influence that went with that.
Q. And did it matter what the subject matter was?
A. No, because that was decided by the reader. We simply mirrored back what they wanted to read. I mean, the whole point of chasing circulation and nothing else, and to be the best paper you can be to achieve the number one circulation is you have to appeal to what the reader wants to read, and that's it. They are the judge and the jury of what is in the paper, and if they don't like it if they don't like the fact that you've written a story about Charlotte Church's father having a two-in-a-bed sorry, three-in-a-bed on cocaine, then they'll simply stop buying the product. But the reality was it was bought in its millions. This is what the people of Britain want. I was simply serving their need, their what they wanted to read. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And to that extent, you would have to say that the end justifies the means?
A. Yes, I think so. I think in order to I mean one of the things we had to do at News of the World was tape-record absolutely every interview we ever did. So in effect, it wasn't made up because every article I've ever written has been on is recorded and our legal department would sometimes want a transcript of it if we thought we were going to get sued about it. So all I've ever tried to do is to write truthful articles and to use any means necessary to try and get to the truth, and there's so many barriers in the way that sometimes you have to enter a grey area that I think we should sometimes be applauded for entering, because it's a very dangerous area. My life has been at risk many times at home more than in war zones. I used to get a death threat at least once a month for 15 years of my career. I never paid a bill in my own name, I never had a house in my own name. You know, my wife received death threats on her home phone. There were times when we had to have security guards living outside my house. I had to move out and live in a hotel. You know, it's not an easy life. My surveillance van was set alight. You know, it's huge sacrifices. For the first time in my life, I stepped out into the public when I bought a pub. Before that, no one had ever known what I had done for a living or indeed where I lived. I mean, I sacrificed a lot to write truthful articles, you know, for the biggest circulation English-language paper in the world, and I was quite happy and proud to do it, which is why I think phone hacking is a perfectly acceptable tool, given the sacrifices that we make, if all we are trying to do is to get to the truth. I mean, I'll give you an example. I went to cover the Iraq war as the embedded correspondent for the RAF and I was attached to the British Harrier force, and we spent five weeks in the desert at their base, living with the pilots and ground crew, and all of them were convinced that there were weapons of mass destruction, and so the pilots every night, sortie after sortie, were risking their lives because they'd been told by, you know, Tony Blair and John Prescott and the Cabinet that these were weapons of mass destruction, and you know, I spent half my time in a chemical suit. And they fired 17 missiles towards that base and the Patriots took out 11 and the other six missed, so all of us were under great risk of being killed. And indeed, as the war went on, some of these lads that I got to know came back in body bags, and so I think when I, you know, spoke to John Prescott and you know, I have no problem at all saying, you know, if I'd I didn't actually hack his phone, but if I had done to have proven that he was not an honourable man because he stood up in front of 200 people in a church and said to his wife, "I will love you, I will honour you, this is my pledge", and yet he nips around the corner and has sex with his secretary. So I want to know that the man who is partly responsible for sending our boys to their deaths is an honourable man, and to that end, yes, I would hack his phone. I'd put my hand up and say I hacked his phone and went through his bins because that is a more important truth than this nonsense, trying to send journalists to jail, which is not good for the country. If you look at the countries who have sent their journalists to jail, we have China with 34, Iran with about the same and the Turks have about 20 or 30 in Kurdistan. We laugh at those countries, saying, "Oh, we're so much better than them", but you know, I'm here because you served me with a section 21 notice that I could be jailed if I didn't turn up. Several of my colleagues are under arrest, and all they've ever done is try to write the truth, and pretty soon LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I am not
A. the people in Iran are going to be laughing at us, laughing at you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I am not threatening to send you to jail for speaking the truth. I am requiring you to come and tell me. If I didn't want to hear from you, I wouldn't have done that, and I am giving you a platform to say what you are saying. Isn't that what it's about?
A. Well, I suppose it is, but not all of your witnesses have been issued with a section 21 notice. But having said that, no, I'm quite happy to be here, so given that, thank you. MR BARR Could I just ask you if the views you've just expressed were commonly held in the News of the World newsroom?
A. Yes, I think most of us would have done what was required to get a story. It's very hard to get a story. You just don't go up to a paedophile priest and say, "Hello, good sermon, and are you a priest because you like abusing choir boys?" It doesn't happen. You don't say, "Hello, I work for the News of the World." You have to go to the nth degree to get to the truth.
Q. I'll come back to that particular example in a little while, but perhaps I could explore the methods that are used by the tabloid press, certainly in your experience, a step at a time. First of all, can we deal with the interception of conversations. Is it your evidence that before 2000 the use of scanners to intercept conversations and obtain stories was widespread amongst journalists?
A. Yes, it was.
Q. And that that practice has diminished as a result, first of all, of the switch from analogue to digital?
A. Yes.
Q. And secondly because of the ban on scanners?
A. No, you can still buy a scanner. I bought one the other day just as an example, but its use is really just for even the police have taken their radios out of the scanning range, but I mean, fundamentally what people seem to fail to realise is a mobile phone, all it is, it's a radio transmitter. So you transmit your words into the air waves and anyone can stick up an aerial with effectively a radio but with a much larger bandwidth, and listen. That's all it is. That's why Tony Blair didn't have one of these and it that's why Robbie Williams didn't have one of these. Not in the same category, but because it's just so easy for anyone to listen in.
Q. I've been asked to put the next question to you. I understand that when you were growing up you believed that your father's telephone was hacked and I've been asked to suggest to you that there is an irony between that fact and the willingness of journalists to intercept conversations. Do you see an irony there?
A. Well, my father was a journalist and he used to receive, when I was quite young, phone calls from a campaigning MP called Tam Dalyell, and he was looking after the sinking of the Belgrano and the fact that maybe Maggie ordered that to be sunk as a way to kickstart the war, and you know, I just remember my parents at the time saying, "We think our phone's being hacked", and I just what joy it was that, you know, that in the 1990s you could go over to Maplins, spend 50 quid on a scanner and hack them back. My understanding of it was that it wasn't actually illegal, and do we really want to live in a world where the only people who can do the hacking are MI5 and MI6 and they should target us as journalists? No. For a brief period of 20 years, we have actually lived in a free society where we can hack back, and if you start jailing journalists for that, then this is going to be a country that is laughed at by Iran and by China and by Turkey.
Q. Can I move now to the question of voicemail interception? In your experience, how common was voicemail interception by journalists at the News of the World?
A. By the rank-and-file journalist? Yeah, not not uncommon. These journalists swapped numbers with each other. You know, you might swap I think I swapped Sylvester Stallone's mother for David Beckham, I think, for example.
Q. I should stop you there and say I'm deliberately asking wide questions about the culture and you should not understand my questions as to be asking about what you personally did, unless you want to tell us. You don't have to tell us what you did. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The point being, which actually is ironic given what you've just said, that you are absolutely not obliged to incriminate yourself in any way whatsoever. You ought to know that. Now, how you choose to answer questions is up to you, but I'll give you the warning.
A. It makes a nonsense of my assertion that we were acting in the public for the public good if I now turn around and say, "Well, I'm not going to tell you about it." Isn't the point of this Inquiry that you treat me as a witness rather than, as the police asked when they asked me into Scotland Yard, to treat me as a potential criminal? I mean, surely to prove that our politicians are dishonourable men and, as such, may have dishonourable motives when they send our boys to be killed in Iraq and in Afghanistan is more important than jailing me for saying I hacked David Beckham's phone, for example, if I was going to say that.
Q. You were saying that the interception of voicemail by reporters by the rank and file, I think was a phrase you used was not uncommon. Were intercepted voicemail messages used as leads for the further investigation of stories?
A. Yeah, I mean, I will say I mean, what happened is that the mobile phone was invented in the 1990s and, you know, the Taiwanese industry caught up really quickly, so six months later you had a scanner on the market that could intercept that and then when analogues were switched off in the late 1990s they were actually only switched off about three years ago, finally it was a school yard trick practised by, you know, many teenagers across the country that we now call phone hacking. It is simply the act of ringing up a mobile phone, pressing 9 to tell the phone that you are the owner, and then, in the old days, you just put in four zeros because that was the default code for Vodafone. So a great many people from, you know, wives thinking their husbands were staying out late, for example, may have a little listen. I remember the programme "Friends" had an episode where one of them hacked into the phone of another of them to see if they were having an affair and it was all very jolly and what a joke that was. I'd say at least 10 per cent of the population, maybe 20, have just hit 9 on the girlfriend's, boyfriend's you know, perhaps your son or your daughter is staying out late and you want to the know where she is. Now, that is a criminal act if you hit 9 and listen to their messages. So obviously journalists were going to do that too to people who were going to give them stories. I mean, the problem came sometimes when they you did hit 9 when you rang them up and they answered the thing. So I can say in all honesty, once I rang up David Beckham, expecting his phone to ring because he would never normally answer the phone to me but actually did and it was: "Hello, who's this? How did you get my number?" And I went: "Argh, 9 oh, too late." So I didn't hack his phone in that instance because he answered really quickly. Then you have the other issue of call waiting and so but again, 2 in the morning ask Glenn Mulcaire. He was much better as these things than your rank and file journalist.
Q. An interesting answer but it digressed a little bit from my question. Can I take it then that these intercepted messages were used as leads to investigate stories?
A. Yes.
Q. You said that it was not uncommon for the rank and file to be listening to other people's voicemail. Can I ask you now about the extent of knowledge within the News of the World as to voicemail interception. At this stage, I'm not asking you to name names but I'm asking you to give us an impression. Was voicemail hacking within the News of the World would you describe it as widespread or would you go further and say endemic?
A. It depends what period you're talking about. If you're talking about the period when I think it was legal to do it, which is pre-2001, although there seems to a grey area here
Q. I'm asking about the period in which you were working for the News of the World.
A. Actually, it was something that might have been done as a last resort because, funnily enough, if you ring someone up and then do whatever you might do to get the engaged tone and yeah, self-incrimination. It's a shame you said that because I'd have quite happily spoken about it. Yeah, are you saying it was illegal to listen to someone's messages before 2001?
Q. I'm asking you how widespread within the News of the World was knowledge that people were intercepting voicemails?
A. Oh, well, paparazzi told me that it was done by my colleagues before I realised my colleagues might have been doing it, in about 1995-ish.
Q. Let me put it a little bit more bluntly. Did your editors know that voicemails were being intercepted?
A. Yes.
Q. Can I move now to the question of the Sunday Express?
A. I could go a bit further on that, in that we did all these things for our editors, for Rebekah Brooks and for Andy Coulson, and I mean, you only have to read Andy Coulson's column in Bizarre, where it would just be written, you know, that pop star A is leaving messages on pop star B's phone at 2 am in the morning, saying, "I love you. Shall we meet up for a drink?" I mean, it was that blatant and obvious. I don't think anyone realised that anyone was committing a crime at the start, so my assertion has always been that Andy Coulson brought that practice wholesale with him when he was appointed deputy editor, an appointment I couldn't believe. I thought, you know, he should have been made a junior reporter, not deputy editor, and they should have had the strength of their conviction to say, you know: "Yes, sometimes you have to enter into a grey area or indeed a black illegal area for the good of our readers, for the public good, and yes, sometimes our you know, we asked our reporters to do these things", but instead they turned around on us and said, "Oh, we didn't know they were doing it, oh heavens, it was all just all Clive Goodman", and then later, it was just a few others. They should have been the heroes of journalism but actually, they're not. Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, they're the scum of journalism for trying to drop me and my colleagues in it. If you look at what I've said, I've never said anything bad about anyone who worked with me or any one of my colleagues. Most of my colleagues were with me by saying, "How dare these people just throw us to the wolves and run off scot-free", as they did for about a year. It's only because I was jumping up and down in Canterbury going: "The police investigation is a fake, I hacked loads of phones, come and arrest me", that eventually, you know, they did a proper investigation and Glenn Mulcaire's notebook was unearthed and, you know, I have the scalps of two junior police officers, John Yates and the other one, you know, happily to my tally.
Q. If I could just stop you there. You've answered comprehensively, if I may say so, about the News of the World. Might I ask you about your time at the Sunday Express? Whilst you were working for the Sunday Express, to your knowledge, were any members of staff at the Sunday Express hacking voicemails?
A. Actually, I think the answer to that is no. I think there wasn't really the money available for the kind of investigation that there was at the News of the World. I mean, to park a surveillance van outside someone's house for three months cost tens of thousands of pounds and you might only get a page lead out of it.
Q. When you were working for the National Enquirer, to your knowledge were any members of staff hacking into voicemails?
A. No. I never did then, but this is post-2006, so no.
Q. I'd now like to move to the question of the conversation that you had with Mr Hugh Grant at your public house at which he tape-recorded, and perhaps we could have up on the screen, please, a document, the reference for which ends 31111. We heard evidence about this document earlier in the Inquiry. On the page that's displayed on the screen, on the left-hand column, about half of the way down, you were asked some questions about the Daily Mail.
A. Oh yeah.
Q. If I pick it up, there's a question which starts with Mr Grant saying: "And it wasn't just the News of the World; it was, you know, the Mail?" Then we see the conversation which follows. Are you familiar with that?
A. Yeah, I remember that. I think that's a bit of a misunderstanding. I was just trying to say that, you know, two biggest-paying papers in Britain who always had the best stories and therefore the highest circulation were the News of the World and the Mail. I didn't say that I wouldn't know if the Mail hacked any phones. I never worked at the Mail, so I mean, I sold stories to them. In fact, Hugh Grant breaking down in his Ferrari I sold to the Mail on Sunday, but and, yeah, I'd like to at least defend the Mail in that regard, in that I think I also have proof that the stories about "Ting Ting", as she's known, or Tinglan
Q. We'll come to that in a short moment. But having made clear your position on the Daily Mail, could I ask you first I think you wanted to make can clear your position as to whether or not you had ever hacked Hugh Grant's phone?
A. Yes. I don't recall I don't remember having his number, and I don't recall having been in a situation where it would have been useful.
Q. Moving now to the question of the Tinglan story, since Mr Grant gave evidence to the Inquiry, you've been in contact with us to say that you know something about the source of the story about Tinglan's
A. I just wanted to do Hugh Grant a favour, because he is actually quite a nice bloke, but he said and he refused to hand over the tapes to, I think, yourself and also to the police, in which I have sufficiently incriminated myself in fact, Hugh suggested at lunch for me to go into prison, possibly. So thanks very much, Hugh, but I think you also overruled him by ordering him to give them under a section 21 as well, in that he could go to prison; is that right? Or do I not a
Q. Mr McMullan, it's your job to answer the questions.
A. All right.
Q. Perhaps I can steer you back to the Tinglan story.
A. No, no, I remember it well.
Q. You had provided us with a letter. The technician should have a redacted copy of it letter. My solicitor has it and it's going to be passed up to the technician now to be displayed on the screen in redacted form.
A. I just wanted to say: Hugh, thanks for that, thanks for not wanting to send me to prison. You did your revenge number, as you said. I just wanted to say: well, in return, the source of the Tinglan your friends appear to refer to her as it "Ting Ting". Anyway, Tinglan maybe that's the nickname that was it didn't come from a phone hacking; it came from one of your friends. They wrote me a letter at the Castle Inn in Dover, saying well, you can read a bit of it there, but basically, you know, that you'd got her pregnant and maybe I'd like to stick a surveillance van outside and get a good set of pictures. And that was on April 12, two weeks before the News of the World broke the story, and something which I immediately sold to the Mail on Sunday, although there was a technical mix-up on that.
Q. Do you know who sent this letter to you?
A. I don't. It was done anonymously, but it was done so swiftly after Hugh Grant published his tapes that it was I don't know. It was kind of hilarious, in a way, but no, it was great. How often does a story about a star not only drop into your lap, but literally the star comes around and then the next minute he's got this a girl pregnant. I was actually going to build a new toilet suite based on this.
Q. So the bottom line is that based on what you know about the source of this story, so far as you're aware, it wasn't the result of any phone hacking?
A. No, it's just one of his mates getting up to mischief, really.
Q. Can I move now to some evidence which the Inquiry is expecting to hear from Mr Alastair Campbell in his account. He says Paul McMullan, one of the few former journalists to have admitted the extent of illegal activity, has described hacking as the tip of the iceberg. Have you done that?
A. Oh, I think I was just I meant in the context of the extreme lengths that we had to go to get a story. Is that getting back to the paedophile priest? Is that what you mean?
Q. I'm asking you whether you've told Mr Campbell it was the tip of the iceberg.
A. No, indeed, yeah. I mean, it was something that you wouldn't do at the start of an investigation because the last thing you do is you want to tip someone off that, you know, there is someone pretending to be someone who wouldn't ordinarily think because they've had a weird phone call. So that's where the News of the World went wrong, in the sense that that became the first port of call instead of a last ditch one, and I'd put that down to the inexperience of Andy Coulson, who didn't have a sure editorial hand, so you know, the first thing an editor asks when someone brings in a story is: "How do you know and where did you get it?" And you go: "Well, actually I got it from a phone hack. Do you want to have a listen?" So if you can actually play that tape that says, you know: "Meet me at midnight, we will have " or, in the case of one of these stories, "I will rugby-tackle you into the ground and have my way with you" if you can actually hear that from the horse's mouth himself, you know that that you're not going to get sued. If you remember, Elton John took the Sun for a million pounds and basically your job as an editor is on the line if you don't absolutely know that you're not going to get sued for a story that you run, so I would put Mr Coulson's inexperience at requiring that degree of proof and not just letting a story run because he had the experience to know that actually you probably wouldn't get sued for that. So instead of it became too commonplace and also too badly done.
Q. I see. He goes on, Mr Campbell, to say: "When making a short film for the BBC1 show on phone hacking, I interviewed Mr McMullan. Some of the remarks he made were not broadcast on the advice of BBC lawyers. They included his observations that phone hacking was widespread across Fleet Street and not confined to the News of the World Did you say that?
A. Probably, yeah. I mean, it was on video, yeah.
Q. when senior editors and executives at the News of the World were aware that this and other illegal practices were taking place, and on occasions listened to some of the messages." Did you say that?
A. Yes.
Q. Was the statement that you believed that phone hacking was widespread across Fleet Street true?
A. Yeah. I thought the News of the World was one of the least bad offenders. The others were much worse.
Q. And similarly, was your comment that senior editors and executives at the News of the World on occasions listened to some of the messages was s that true?
A. Yeah. No, I mean when I broke a story and if I wasn't actually in the office if I was away on the story, either in a foreign country or Northampton or something, I would occasionally play a tape of the words that would allow us to run that story without fearing being sued over the phone and then the editor would go: "Okay, we've got it. Yes, we've got it. We can go with that."
Q. Mr Campbell goes on to say: "In other meetings I have had with him, he has said that the use of private detectives was widespread across newspapers, and that in addition to hacking, private detectives and journalists on occasion sat outside the homes of targets, in vans fitted with technology, capable of listening in to conversations taking place inside, based on the assumption more people now use mobiles at home than landlines." Did you say that?
A. Well, we all know that. We all know we've read the Squidgy tapes and when Prince Charles rang up Camilla and said, "Oh, I'd like to be a tampon, darling." We all know that that was got actually, it's not just for mobiles, because if you use a landline that hasn't got a wire, that's acting as a radio transmitter as well. So I think the Squidgy tape came from a BT phone but on a cordless one.
Q. When you gave that answer, were you referring only to matters a very long time ago, or were you meaning to refer to matters in this millennium?
A. Well, I'm actually, I absolutely know that it still goes on because we were chatting over lunch and I said I've kind of come out in the public. Clearly, I cannot be an investigative journalist any more, but the other day someone came into the bar and offered me a digital scanner to buy, and said well, you know, I felt a bit like Ewan MacGregor out of Trainspotting when everyone keeps coming and offering him heroin. It's: "I don't want it any more, but thanks anyway." I was also offered a list of all the personal phone numbers of all the police officers in a particular force, which you know, five years ago, wow, that's a great source of information or a great story. But now, I clearly can't do that kind of thing any more, so yes, the criminal underworld still use that. Do journalists still use digital scanners? I don't know. You can, I think, buy them in America and there's a few little twiddles you can have done to make them work in the UK. But I mean, I haven't got one. I haven't used a digital scanner. It's technology that's beyond me and but no, I'm sure that as soon as you invent a new bit of technology, someone over in Taiwan will be inventing a way to listen in, be it an app or but, you know, that's my days have gone, the last 20 years, not the next 20 years.
Q. Can I ask you now, please, about email hacking. To your knowledge, was the News of the World responsible for hacking into anybody's email account?
A. I don't know. Don't think I don't remember that. That's certainly nothing I ever needed to do to do a story.
Q. I understand that you've been made aware of a technology which allows information from smartphones in particular, from iPhones to be taken surreptitiously. Is that right?
A. Yes, I mean, it's always going to be the case I mean, actually, Hugh Grant kept going on, "Can they read my texts?" I think now the reality is now there is an app that yes, when you get texts it can be transmitted to someone else's phone so they can read it.
Q. Do you know whether or not journalists are using that technology?
A. No, I don't know. I'm out of the loop for the last couple of years and I don't do investigations any more, but yeah, to be honest, you might be able to legislate against staff reporters and photographers, but you can't legislate against all the Italians, Mexicans, all the paparazzi from all around the world who actually gonna give a hoot about what you're saying here. They won't be watching it. They don't care. They just want to make money and get pictures of someone slightly more profitable than Hugh Grant and then send it back to Mexico, and it doesn't matter at all what you say or what laws you pass here because it won't stop it.
Q. Moving from that form of hacking to a completely different form of information-gathering technique LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Before we do, I think the shorthand writer is entitled to break and Mr McMullan's entitled to break, so let's have five minutes. (3.30 pm) (A short break) (3.36 pm) MR BARR Mr McMullan, could I resume by asking you, please, about blagging.
A. All right.
Q. You've already mentioned once an example of blagging being used. Was blagging a commonly used technique to obtain information when you were working at the News of the World?
A. Yes. Serious wrongdoers don't admit it. They're generally really pompous and overbearing people and it's an absolute joy to bring them down. My favourite example is the prison governor I've alluded to already. My second example is if I may, is a Catholic priest that we turned over. It just shows you the lengths that we had to go to to get this picture. This is a picture of the guy who stands up and gives sermons every Sunday without any pants on, about to spank a rent boy in a pair of boxer shorts. Now, you don't just get into that situation without being extremely devious and without inventing a persona, as I did for myself you know, this is 15 years ago. I pretended to be Brad the teenage rent boy and actually got him to hire me. So and at the time, in order to get the picture, I stripped down also to my boxer shorts and at the allotted time, this rent boy, who we'd paid ?2,000 to, got some of the priest's own ampule I think it's called GBH cracked it open, the priest sniffed it and fell back in his seat, at which point I got out my camera, took the picture and it was like: "Got it; scarper." So there's two of us, in our underpants, running through a nunnery at midnight after getting the priest. And it was such fun that that was under Piers Morgan. So that was the kind of lengths you would have to go to to get proof to run a story, and so would we hack phones? You know, yes, but it's not necessarily all the time.
Q. I'm asking you about blagging now. So was blagging reserved for particular cases which were thought to be
A. Is that not a blag? Saying I'm a teenage rent boy is not a blag?
Q. You're telling me you blagged your way into his presence by pretending to be a rent boy?
A. Yes.
Q. What I'm asking is: was blagging a technique that was reserved for certain cases or was it something that you would consider deploying wherever you thought it might get a result?
A. Absolutely, yes. You can't just say, "Hello, I work for the News of the World, tell me all the criminal stuff you've been getting up to." It doesn't work like that. You have to be cleverer than the criminals.
Q. I'm going to move to a related area, but perhaps before I do so, I should ask you: was blagging, to your understanding, a methodology which was used widely across the tabloid media?
A. Well, daily newspapers wouldn't have to use it half as much as a Sunday which deals in exclusives. So, you know, if you want to do an investigation, ie the slightly special story that will hold for a week, then yes, blagging would be completely necessary.
Q. Moving now to stings. I think the story you've just shown us would be an example of a sting.
A. I see; a blag is more like ringing up a hotel and saying because some of the stars, obviously, I've said didn't use mobiles but they'd check into hotels instead, so make use of the hotel phone. Very wise, except a blag might be: "Hello, I am Mr X's accountant, could you please fax the bill", and then you get a list of all the phone numbers that he's just rung and then you ring them all up and you find the mistress he's just rung.
Q. Without asking you who might have done that, do you know whether that sort of thing went on?
A. Yeah, of course it did, yeah.
Q. Stings. You've explained the sting that you used with the priest you've just shown us. Did you impersonate others to run stings?
A. Yeah. No, Mazher was always the fake sheik, and I was either a drug user, a drug dealer or a millionaire from Cambridge were my I was only a rent boy once. Hopefully I don't look too much like one, but you never know.
Q. Can I ask you now about the question of photographs and obtaining photographs. Was it ever considered an acceptable practice to steal a photograph of somebody to print in the News of the World?
A. Yes. Just looking for it now. That, by the way, is my surveillance van after I'd posed as a drug dealer. Luckily I wasn't in it when it was torched, but I mean anyway, I'm saying it was a difficult job and a dangerous job. Hang on, I can't here we go, I think this is what we're talking about.
Q. I think you may not wish to hold that one up.
A. That's the president's wife of France without any clothes on.
Q. It's a little early for that, Mr McMullan.
A. It's the News of the World. It's a family paper.
Q. Perhaps you could tell us a little bit about how the News of the World got hold of that photograph.
A. Yeah, it came from a really obscure Paris fashion photographer who published in a really small, low circulation magazine just for the fashion world, and found it and I thought: "Wow, that's pretty good", and copied it with my camera and both of those are going back a wee while and I'm fairly sure Piers Morgan was the editor then, and I said, "Look, I've got this. Here's Naomi Campbell topless and Helena Christensen and Sarkozy's now wife, but we'll never get them in a million years because the French are precious about that kind of thing." And he said, "It's okay, we'll just nick them." So we did that and didn't pay for them. And the other one I held up was John Major's mistress, that one.
Q. You needn't describe your personal role in that one, but can you tell us in broad terms how the News of the World obtained a photograph of John Major's alleged mistress?
A. Yeah, I was sent to France because I'd lived there and worked for an agency over there for a while to try and track down the woman who took John Major's virginity. This was a while ago. We found her but we couldn't get a picture of her with her new boyfriend. So the idea was she is traded in John Major, the British Prime Minister, for this French wrinkly. I think the cleaner was in the house, so I blagged my way in and pinched it off the mantle piece and then copied it. I remember at the time Rebekah Brooks said, "No, put it back, we're not allowed to nick stuff!" And Piers said, "No, who cares? Well done. We'll put it in the paper." Which is what we did. But it was in France, so I don't know what sort of legislation that comes under.
Q. Can I ask you now about the arrangements for payment that were made with sources? Did you ever come across instances where sources were promised money, the information was taken and the source was not then paid?
A. Oh yeah, all the time, yeah. In fact what, the De Niro thing? Yeah, I did a story about two girls in a bubblebath with Robert De Niro and one of them was foolish enough to tell me all about it and give me all the pictures without signing a contract. So you know, the normal thing is you promise 10 grand for a splash or 20 or whatever, 10 maybe for a spread and two or three for a page lead and that made a spread. I think that was at Cannes one year. And we didn't pay her. She was on my back for ages, but because we didn't pay her, as I recall, I got a 750 quid bonus for ripping off the source of the story, but we had the story already. That's why Max Clifford is so useful for people who need to approach the newspapers with that kind of a story, even though he takes a very large cut.
Q. Is it right that the News of the World encouraged people to come forward with stories in exchange for money?
A. Yes, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I used to say that we didn't just have 15 feature writers; we had 5 million reporters, because if you sit either at the news desk or the features desk at the News of the World, the phone would ring all the time, every few minutes. "Just saw Victoria Beckham walking into a doctor's surgery. I reckon she's pregnant. Can I have 10 grand?" Well, that's not good enough. "Hello, I'm the receptionist at a doctor's surgery. Victoria Beckham is pregnant. Can I have 10 grand?" You know, every few minutes. It is the British public that were supplying us with the vast majority of stories for money. It was what they wanted to read and what they gave to us to find a way of writing and get it in the paper.
Q. The next subject I'd liking to deal with is payments. I should be especially clear to you that I'm not asking you to tell me about anything that you personally might have done. Are you aware of the News of the World paying police officers for information?
A. Yeah. I mean I'm not I wasn't crime. I was kind of investigations, so I I have quite a I don't think much of the British police force. I think there are no Sherlock Holmes amongst them, there are quite a lot of Inspector Clouseaus and I would prefer to stick my surveillance van outside the home of a policeman and get some dirt on him, as a member of the establishment, to be ridiculed and knocked down than, you know, get into bed with the police. Whereas the crime guys, that's more their remit, and a couple of times I have been sent on stories that the crime guys have got from policemen who have you have to have a relationship for quite a long time with a copper for him to risk his career by giving you a story that's going to make him, again, two grand for a page lead, you know, 10, maybe, for a spread, and to yeah, I mean that's the risk. I mean, some stories are worth a lot. For example, Diana's whereabouts was worth much more than that because that would be, you know, a front-page story. So maybe if one phonecall saying as indeed we got from one of Diana's bodyguards, that yes, they will be landing at Helsinki airport at 3 o'clock this afternoon. "Can I have ?30,000, please? I need to pay my mortgage." Yes, no problem, because that was a defining story about as you know, Al Fayed married Miss Finland, hence the Helsinki link. So dangling a carrot of a lot of money was a very good way of getting the best stories, which the British public lapped up.
Q. You've told us in that answer about security guards. Could I rewind just for a moment to police. Do you have any feeling, based on your experience, for the extent to which police officers are prepared to accept money in return for information?
A. Yeah, not as much as they did in the 1980s, but now I think it would be very difficult to offer a policeman pretty much anything for anything. But certainly, as well, the 70s was a notoriously corrupt time, but then it got stamped on and got progressively harder to get information from the police unless it was in an official way. But yeah, I mean a couple of stories. The one you might be referring to, Denholm Elliot's daughter, came from a policeman who was paid, and I wrote that story but it was the crime guy who facilitated the payment.
Q. We may come to that particular story in a little while. Can I ask you now: in your experience as a journalist, have health workers ever been paid by a newspaper you have worked for for medically confidential information?
A. When I joined, about two years prior to that, there was a girl whose name I can't remember. She'd in about 1992, wasn't she jailed for selling or a PI who specialised in medical records. There is a difference between you answering the phone to a receptionist at a doctor's who has just, for example, seen a positive pregnancy test of a big star because what do you do? You can't put your fingers in your ears. There is a difference to paying someone to go into that office and to flick through the records maybe. So did we do that? I do know that there was that PI who specialised in medical records, but yeah, I mean I have a vague I haven't really thought too much about that question because no one's really asked, but I wasn't told I mean, generally Rebekah Brooks' door was open all the time, but occasionally
Q. If you don't know, I won't press you, but perhaps I could ask this ethical question: however the information comes to you, if it's confidential medical information, if the story is published, is there an ethical difference?
A. Again, I my feeling is that, you know, I'm a journalist. I am there to, you know, catch people out who lie to us and who rule over us, and any means is fine by me. I would have no problem at all, if the target was worth it, with looking at someone's medical records. I can't actually remember if I have or if I haven't. I'd better say I haven't because I'd be implicating myself again, but no, if the end does justify the means no, I mean Kelvin MacKenzie said, "If you get the story and you don't get caught, you get a Pulitzer prize. If you get caught and not the story, you get sent to prison." So I don't know where you're going by that question.
Q. Perhaps I can ask you now: are you aware of any of the newspapers that you have worked for paying for information from credit card companies?
A. Yeah. Actually, I'm fairly sure that at the start, there were PIs who were able to track people's credit histories or where they'd been with credit cards. Again, a vague recollection, not something I've thought about particularly. But again, you know, I see nothing wrong with knowing, for example, if the governor of the Bank of England has huge debts, because that might be relevant to the way he operates in his job and is something worth publicising, for example. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's twice you've given the same sort of example.
A. Yeah LORD JUSTICE LEVESON "People who rule over us" is one, and now the governor of the Bank of England. But do you distinguish? Because a moment ago you were talking about a celebrity.
A. Yes, this is the whole point about circulation and the public getting what the public wants. They want that because the circulation stays high, therefore it is what the public want to read, and I think the public are clever enough to be the judge and jury of what goes on in the newspapers and they don't need an external judge and a jury to decide what should and shouldn't be published, because if they had any distaste for it, they would stop buying it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON They may not but what about the person who is the victim?
A. The ordinary people who buy the product are set themselves up for, in a sense, being the victim also. There really is no massive difference between an ordinary man or woman, a celebrity or a you know, someone who rules over us, because it all sells the product. It is clear that this is what the British public want to read. There is a taste for it. There is a market for it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand. MR BARR The same sort of question in relation to telephone companies. Are you aware of any of the newspapers that you have worked for paying for information from, for example, British Telecom or from a mobile phone company?
A. That was more the kind of tricks that news got up to. The people we employed were more into blagging to try and trick people out of their PIN codes and that kind of thing, rather than actually paying someone who worked at Vodafone or whatever. I mean, that's Glenn Mulcaire. That's why he made so much money, because for some reason he was really good at that.
Q. Moving then to the question of private investigators: how extensive, in your experience, was the use of private investigators by the News of the World?
A. It was too extensive. I spent five years as a features reporter and then, as soon as I got made deputy features editor, I was suddenly confronted with the budget that Rebekah Brooks had had before me, and I really couldn't believe it. I mean, some weeks we actually paid Steve Whittamore ?4,000. I went, "Wow, that's a lot. We could have two senior features writers for that. Do we really need to be doing this?" And the answer was: actually, most of the time we didn't. And it was just the laziest reporters who would make most number of calls to the PIs because they didn't want to go to Middlesbrough, they didn't want to sit outside a footballer's house, they got an agency to do it for them, they used the PIs to turn around the numbers and the number plates so they got a picture without actually doing any work. In reality, all it really needed was someone to drive up there in a car to follow whoever it was we suspected of wrongdoing rather than waste all this money on unnecessary detail. Like I said, I would never want to ring anybody until I'd spent a week in a van outside the house, because you're just going to tip them off. Whereas if they're unsuspecting, you have a much greater chance of getting a kiss on a doorstep or whatever it is you're looking for. So I tried to rein it in, but not only that, I wanted to know exactly what they were doing. So I demanded the tapes of the blags that they'd had. "We're paying you between ?2,000 and 4,000 a week to do this, so how do you do it?" Now, they didn't want to answer because it was in their interest not exactly to tell me how to obtain a pin number for a mobile phone because that's where they were making their money, and when finally I said, "I'm paying you for that tape; send it in", funnily, when I listened to some of the tapes they were awful. They were so much worse than anything that I could have done and I thought: who are these people? Now, you look more closely into who a private investigator is. I mean, is he a failed professional footballer? In one case, he was a Hells Angel. And Steve Whittamore, at least, had a pedigree and was quite respectable, in a sense. So I stopped using the Hells Angel as soon as I heard the tape because I thought: this is really going to get us into trouble. And what a lot of trouble it did get us into.
Q. What sort of trouble did you think the Hells Angel was going to get you into?
A. Well, he was so bad at it, he was being paid by us for doing a lot of unnecessary things that were a waste of money and no good could come of it. Much as I tried to rein it in and put a bit of a break on it, there were other parts of the newspaper, particularly on the side of news, who were pressing the accelerator. I lay the blame there with Andy Coulson.
Q. Can you give us some indication of the number of different private investigators that you were aware were being used?
A. Well, they sort of came and went. I remember one of my colleagues did a mailshot to nearly every private investigative firm in Britain. I spent an afternoon at a private investigators' conference just saying, "Listen, sometimes some of your clients are going to have stories that the wife might want to get revenge by also selling it to the News of the World, which, A, would be good for your client, and make them another ?10,000", so we did actively recruit private investigators. And most private investigators will have one good story on their books maybe once a year or maybe once every two years, but if you tap up 50, then, you know, it wasn't it was quite a good way to go.
Q. Did the Sunday Express use private investigators as well?
A. We used a private investigator who was totally legitimate and, I think, was married to a police officer and knew exactly where the boundaries were and never stepped over them, and didn't commit any illegal act.
Q. Going back to the News of the World, can you give the Inquiry an indication about the range of different tasks that were required of private investigators?
A. One of the hardest things is when you're working to a deadline and you need to get an interview, you just want to know where that person is, so you can drive to the house and knock on the door, and it's quite hard. In the old days, when I worked for the Fleet Street News Agency, we used to go to the records office, get a marriage certificate, get the name of a first husband you know, the maiden name and then go to the mother and then but a private investigator can do that in about ten minutes and it's just amazing. They kind of triangulate where the most likely address is. They go, "We have this, the mother lives there, and they're almost certainly here." You drive to that and say, "Blimey, that's good." That's legal. That's using computer technology you can buy off the shelf. It's quite expensive, but and it's quite hard to operate it effectively, but the good, legitimate private investigators can, you know, spin around an address in a matter of minutes. And they're worth paying because the deadline is going and someone else is going to get there before you.
Q. You're giving the impression that it was for reasons of efficiency. Would that be right?
A. Yes.
Q. As opposed to trying to find a method of obtaining information that was perhaps at one step removed from the journalist and therefore deniable to some extent?
A. You're going to have to be more specific.
Q. Was there any sense that if you and I use "you" as the News of the World if News of the World commissioned a private investigator to do something, that if dodgy means were used
A. Oh yeah.
Q. it could be blamed on the investigator and not on the journalist?
A. Yeah, I can see that being one step away from it. I mean, yeah. I came across that, but equally I think there was a that was a mistake that some of my colleagues have made, and that is why there is a paper trail that links them directly. I'd say, as an investigator of some experience, I didn't need to go down that route. I felt a lot more comfortable using my own blags, that I was the only one who knew about it, I didn't have to pay anyone for it, there was no paper trail leading to anything that I'd done, and I think the decent investigators at the News of the World, I don't think you'll get anything on them. I think unless I was sitting here, I'd you know, I'd laugh at the police when they said, "Come in, we're going to arrest you tomorrow at Scotland Yard". It's like, "What have you got on me? You haven't got anything", because I know what I did and I know who I might have paid to do things and I wouldn't have been so stupid to have paid someone to do something illegal who is then going to bill me for it. One illegal act, Paul McMullan. There you go. So I don't think you're going to get people like myself or Mazher like that at all, because, I've got to say, he'd probably never do an illegal act anyway, but, yeah, some people did have that philosophy, let's puts it one step away, but that backfired big time, as we know.
Q. Turning to a new topic, that of pursuing celebrities. Do you have any experience of pursuing celebrities in cars?
A. Yes. Yes.
Q. Was that a common tabloid tactic?
A. Yeah. We had at the News of the World, we had a set of pool cars, about 12, that we could switch and swap around, because, I mean, you can park outside Paul McCartney's house on the Wednesday but if the same car is there on the Thursday, it was quite handy to mix and match. And yes, I absolutely loved giving chase to celebrities, I must admit. It was before Diana died, you know, it was such good fun. I mean how many jobs can you actually have car chases in? It was great.
Q. And afterwards?
A. No change there then, really, but yeah.
Q. Could you speak up, please?
A. There was a change. I mean, all News of the World photographers had to go to work wearing a suit and we were quite clear in distancing ourselves from the paparazzi. But no, I would be told by the features department, "Take a fast car, see what you can get."
Q. Was any consideration given to safety when pursuing a celebrity?
A. Quite often the celebrities would absolutely love it. I give an example of Brad Pitt, who I've been doing more recently. I mean, he's got a big chopper, big motorbike. I mean, his wife gave him a Ducati for his birthday present. He would come out invariably outside Brad Pitt's house, be it in the South of France or LA, there would be about 15 paps. That is his status as the number one star, and he's not one to complain about it. Sienna Miller should be cock a hoop there are 15 paps outside her house, because who's she? Occasionally he'd come out on his big chopper, "Hey, guys, let's go", and they'd just have a laugh going around LA and then he'd home again, and that was his sport for the evening. So I think he had a very positive attitude towards that aspect of the job, which was a whole lot of fun.
Q. Before pursuing a celebrity, was any thought given to ethics and whether it was a proper thing to do?
A. No. I think it was just great fun from both sides.
Q. Binnology. Do you have any experience
A. Oh, yeah.
Q. of journalists searching through people's rubbish in order to find information for stories?
A. Yeah. Probably ought to ask advice on whether or not this was legal at any point.
Q. There's no need to tell us about your own involvement. What we're interested in at this stage is whether or not the practice went on.
A. I think most journalists, me included, would find the contents of people's bins incredibly interesting. I can only I mean, it gives you such a great starting point, much better, actually, than hacking a phone because that almost tips them off that you're looking. But is it illegal to go through someone's rubbish? Is he saying that it is, even if the 1990s?
Q. What I'm saying is there's no need for you to say what you did. What I would like to know is whether bins were rifled for information, to the best of your knowledge?
A. Yeah.
Q. Covert surveillance. Was covert surveillance used?
A. No, yeah, I just showed you a picture of my burned-out surveillance van. I was trying to break a cocaine smuggling ring and I remember I got to know the cocaine smugglers quite well. I remember sitting amongst them. In the old days, you didn't have these tiny little cameras or in phones and I had a big tape recorder. Sometimes you'd have a battery pack strapped to your back and a wire going up here to the video, and sitting with two guys who, you know, would knife me at the drop of a hat. It was a very dangerous job, and I had someone backing me up outside in that particular van, and I remember I was getting close to the end of the tape and I knew I'd been there for about 45 minutes and I thought, "Hang on, did I put in a 90 or a 45?" I was just waiting for the click and I had to get out of there, and I don't know if I should carry on, but it was like a test and I remember they rolled a big joint and put a lot of cocaine in it because I'd bought from them 3 grammes and when they weighed it, it was about 2 and a half left, and then, "As a sign that you're not a copper, there you go, smoke that". You know, I was in an extreme state of anxiety and indeed panic that, A, the machine was about to click off, and I was being tested, and that's the kind of pressure you're under when you're doing investigation. It's not easy. You just can't go up to someone and say, "You know, do you smuggle a lot of cocaine through Dover?" You can't. You have to be cleverer than that.
Q. We can understand the need for covert activity in those circumstances. Was covert surveillance ever used in relation to celebrities, to your knowledge?
A. Yes. Well, I mean, obviously it was.
Q. Presumably without the same threat to life and limb?
A. No, I must admit after I my closest near-death experience at the hand of a group of asylum seekers, I just backed away. I thought: I'm not getting paid enough to do this, you know, to get killed for people who don't really care. The most dispiriting phone call of my life was when I was the embedded reporter with the British Harrier force and they gave me a token, perhaps a joking, rank the squadron leader, so I could use the officers' toilets and I was really enjoying it and I used to pool copy, so I remember writing the front page of the Times once and long pieces for the Sunday Telegraph. I thought, "This is great, I hope I can stay here a long time", and I got a phone call from the news editor saying, "The war's not doing very well, can you come back and do a bit of showbiz?" I thought, Jesus, here I am in a chemical suit using a satellite phone and can I come back to London to do showbiz? So I lost my taste for putting myself out to enlighten the British public who now seem to have turned against journalists somewhat.
Q. When engaging in covert surveillance of celebrities, was there any consideration as to whether or not it was an ethically proper thing to do?
A. Oh no, absolutely, it's nothing it's just nonsense. I mean Hugh Grant, what's he do? He puts on a bit of make up, prances about in front of a camera and then complains about it. Stephen Coogan says, "Oh, I'm a serious actor, you know, and a writer and I want to talk about my privacy on telly", you know. Sienna Miller, what does she do? She's got a crummy film out and, "Ooh, here I am with Rhys Ifans oh, you're interfering with my privacy." She's got another one out: "Ooh, here's me with Puff Diddy oh no, you've caught me." I did a series of articles for the Enquirer on Robert Pattinson and, you know, I couldn't believe it there was Sienna Miller. It's like, "What are you doing here? Go away. I'm actually not going to do you this time." So there's no the joke actually I made to Hugh Grant when he walked in is, "blah di blah, I'm writing a book, the title is, 'I'd never heard of Sienna Miller until she started going on about her privacy'", and it's actually the same with Hugh Grant. I mean, the guy hasn't made a film for two years. The pictures I took of him were quite a hard sell. If I had been his publicist I might have advised him, "Why don't you go banging on about your privacy? You know, your career will do that." All of a sudden, ten times photographers are outside his house than ever there were before, so I have a huge amount of cynicism for both Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan who have really done rather well with their careers by banging on about their privacy.
Q. Certainly
A. You don't need to do that. All you have to do is jump off the stage for five minutes and people lose interest in you very, very quickly. It doesn't take long. But if you jump back on the stage and it happens all the time. It happens with Katie Price. I missed her once going to a hairdressers and she knew that I'd missed her, because she had a brolly down, she was being too good sort of pretending not to like the paparazzi, which is what I was wearing my paparazzi hat that day because I saw her going to a hairdressers. I was like, "Come on, Katie, be nice." She came out of the hairdressers and she gave me the finger through the hairdresser's door and I went, "Aw, thanks, love", and I sold it for 2 grand. And she knew exactly what she was doing, that I'd missed her and she knew that, "Oh, damn, I've actually gone to the hairdressers without being papped, what a disaster", so she came out and gave me the bird, which I won't do because it's 4 o'clock or whatever it is. And I'll give you another example involving Katie
Q. Perhaps I could just stop you there and ask you this, so that we can understand that. Are you telling us that in your view there should be no such thing as privacy?
A. Yeah. In 21 years of invading people's privacy I've never actually come across anyone who's been doing any good. The only people I think need privacy are people who do bad things. Privacy is the space bad people need to do bad things in. Privacy is particularly good for paedophiles, and if you keep that in mind, privacy is for paedos, fundamental, no one else needs it, privacy is evil. It brings out the worst qualities in people. It brings out hypocrisy. It allows them to do bad things. And no, once the British public wise up to the true perils of privacy, which, you know, one spin-off for example, if there is a privacy law, your secrets are going to be much more valuable than they were before. So I think of an example of somebody who lives in a free and open society who, for example, I gave this example at a lecture, wants to abort a child. Now, currently in Britain you can do that privately, but if that person goes on to get a part in Eastenders, that becomes a very valuable commodity and also gives a lot of power to the person who has that secret. Whereas if you live in a society where, yes, you can have an abortion but you must do it openly and you cannot have any privacy, in the same way as legalising heroin will get rid of the drug dealers, privacy will have some really bad consequences, not just for democracy but in a whole host of ways I don't think many people have bothered to think about yet.
Q. Could I test that against the article you wrote about Jennifer Elliott? Jennifer Elliott was the daughter of Denholm Elliott, wasn't she?
A. Yes.
Q. You wrote a story about her in 1995, didn't you?
A. Yeah.
Q. And the theme of the story was that Ms Elliott was begging and was working part-time as a prostitute?
A. She wasn't doing the second bit, but yes: although I yeah, anyway. No, I mean it's one of a couple of stories that I regret. I remember interviewing, also, Lena Zavaroni after she was caught stealing a 50p bag of sweets and then I interviewed her again and then she killed herself, I think, as well, and Jennifer Elliott went on to overdose after an article that absolutely humiliated her and it was unnecessary and I really regret it because I got to know her fairly well and I quite liked her and she was in a very vulnerable position. Her father had just died of AIDS and she had taken two she was on a methadone script, which I knew about, and she also there were heroin needles in her bin God knows how I knew that and also there were notes with the phone numbers of her drug dealers in her bin. So I knew exactly where she was at, and the fact that she was begging outside Chalk Farm station came to our crime reporter from a police officer, who was surprised, when he told her to move on, who he had told to move on, because in fact Denholm Elliott had been in Trading Places and had been had millionaire and, indeed, his daughter lived in a really nice flat in Camden, but she actually didn't have any money to get a ?10 bag or whatever it was she needed, and, yeah, I went too far on that story. She was someone crying out for help, not crying out to meet a News of the World reporter, and I yeah, and I said, "Well, here's a couple of quid begging, and if I gave you 50, would you come back to my place and would you have sex for ?50?" You know, tape recorder's running, photographer's hiding in a bush. And she went, "Oh, yeah, all right." And so was she a prostitute? It gets worse, but I don't need to go into the really sordid details of it because it's not something children should be listening to, but no. I then took her back to her flat and took a load of pictures of her topless, it turns out, and then I think she was a bit obviously in the grips of an addiction, and when she went on GMTV after, on the Monday morning, she said she described me as her boyfriend, so I had befriended her I mean I'd never gone anywhere near her in a sexual way, but I did actually really want to help her, but I was driven primarily to write the best story I could. The best story I could was: here is the golden girl on the red carpet as her dad goes to pick up a Golden Globe and he used to take his daughter with him and she was really pretty, and here she is with dreadlocks and covered in dirt begging at a tube station offering passers-by sex for in return for money. Also, a police officer had come across her and possibly should have helped her as well instead of ringing up the News of the World and getting paid for that. And then, when she did briefly beat drugs, but then when I heard a few years later that she'd killed herself, I did think, yeah, that was one that I really regret. But there's not many.
Q. Does that experience make you think that in fact there ought to be some form of protection for privacy?
A. No, because the News of the World readership didn't decline after that. It didn't put anyone off buying it. But this particular the judge and jury of our readership were okay with that. And I just don't think, if you want to live in a free society, you can argue that you're not allowed to read this. I thinking that people should have freedom of speech and people should be able to use their own judgments about whether or not they want to buy something, no matter how distasteful it is, and that is distasteful to me and I wrote it. But would I have bought it? Tell you what, sometimes I wouldn't have bought the News of the World even though I was working for it, but the British public carried on.
Q. Can I ask you now about prior notice? I understand that there was an occasion when you gave prior notice of a story to Jefferson King?
A. Oh, yeah.
Q. When you gave prior notice, and in that case, what was your objective?
A. He was a gladiator in a big show, Gladiators, and he had in his contract that if he ever had any problems with drugs, as it was a children's show and he was a role model, he'd be instantly fired. The Sunday Mirror had set up a sting to catch him buying coke and we had a mole inside the Sunday Mirror who would tell us exactly what they were up to, so we knew that he'd been done trying to buy coke so I rung him up and said, "you're in big trouble because you've been caught buying cocaine, but, you know, damage limitation exercise, tell me all about it and I'll turn you into how you know, 'Kids don't follow my route, do it like this'." And he went he wasn't very bright, and he said, "Oh, right, then." "But what you got to say, is you got to be honest, you've got to say, 'Yes, I've done a line of cocaine'." And he went, "I've got to say that, have I? All right, I've done a line of cocaine." "Thanks very much." So we immediately rang up ITV and got him the sack and he hasn't really worked since.
Q. Did you consider that ethical?
A. Yeah, I think people who buy class A drugs are responsible for a lot of misery around the world, so yes.
Q. Legal oversight. How much legal oversight was there of the work you did when you were working for the tabloid press?
A. Well, I said already, absolutely everything you read in my cuttings book is on tape, but you would not be allowed to get it was a sacking offence not to do an interview that wasn't recorded, and if there was any, you know, point of problem with it, if the editor was a bit concerned, he would make you sit down and transcribe it. Tedious. It would take three hours to transcribe an hour's tape. And then Tom Crone would want to either listen to the transcript or sorry, listen to the tape or read the transcript.
Q. Did you get the impression that the judgments that were being made prior to publication were aimed at ensuring compliance with the law or were they based upon a judgment of how much profit would be made from publishing the story weighed against possible financial consequences of legal action?
A. No. It was to make sure we didn't get sued. The editor would want every story that was possible to go in the paper and it was Tom Crone's job to make sure that any attempt to sue us would be headed off at the pass by being able to say, "Actually, here's the video" or "Here's the tape". Nearly everyone not every story I wrote, but at least once a month someone would try it on and attempt to sue over a story I'd written because simply it was a way of making a lot of money, and they would deny it, they would deny everything they'd said, and then you'd turn around and say, "Actually, do you want to listen?" Or, "Do you want the transcript?" and they'd back away. In seven years and actually, I know my byline count, I think I ended up writing about 300 stories for the News of the World, I didn't lose a single libel action. I was really tight, all my quotes were on tape.
Q. The question of expenses. Can you tell us a little bit, again without any personal examples, of the culture in the tabloid newspapers that you worked for in relation to expenses. First of all, the News of the World. How would you describe the attitude to expenses at the News of the World?
A. In some regards, we weren't that well paid. My leaving salary as the deputy features editor was only 60,000 a year, and as a way to bump up salaries, we were given a certain amount of leeway. So I'd claim, I don't know, another 15, 20 a year, of which about 3 was legitimate. Is that what you mean? Is that legal? It's not. I mean, that was just the general ethos. That was the way you know, for example, one guy was letting the side down by because he didn't leave the office very much and the features editor said, "Listen, you got to starts making up trips to Manchester so your expenses match the rest of us." So it was almost a direction from above: "You will claim at least 400 quid a week or you're letting the side down." So it's not illegal. We weren't fooling anyone.
Q. Without telling us what you personally did, was it a case of people putting in excessive expenses claims that did not match the actual expenditure?
A. Well, yeah. You could be slightly creative. But also, if they didn't like it, that was one way they'd get rid of you, as well. For example, I remember trying to get back from Kosovo. We just couldn't get out of there, so the only way out was Swiss Air were flying the last planes and they were charging so much money for that flight and I was just for one time in my life, Stuart Kuttner actually put his hand in his pocket and he gave us a five star hotel in Greece and a first class Swiss Air flight because he knew that actually, that particular week, a German photographer and his reporter had gone out with us, we'd gone to that checkpoint, they'd gone to that checkpoint, they'd been shot in the head by Albanians and we'd met the Serbs, who shot at us with machine guns but missed. So we said, "We want to get out now", and yeah, you were allowed a lot of leeway if you know, there's a bit of give and take. You're not being paid a huge amount of money to be there, but you know: "That's great, put in for two or three grands' worth of expenses as a thank you."
Q. Can I ask you now a question which I've been asked to put to you. It's about the relationship between the News of the World and the police. Are you aware of whether any sticks and carrots were provided by the newspaper to the police to turn a blind eye to anything which the newspaper was doing?
A. Well, you'd have to say that the way the whole the way it developed, from the first time that Margaret Thatcher wanted to get elected in the 70s and tapped up Murdoch and said, "Will you back me?" and he did, and then the next time when Tony Blair flew to Sydney, when it was his turn to ask Murdoch: "Will you back me?" and he did, and you know, the Sun backs Blair and so on, and he won the election. And then it comes to Cameron's turn and he does the same but Murdoch's getting on a bit. But for the previous 21 years, you've got the political parties at least the Prime Minister saying, "We have a lot to owe, so we are going to turn a blind eye to whatever illegality they might be getting up to", so the police in turn are going to say, "Well, if that's the way of viewing News of the World and the activities of News International from our political masters, then equally, this is the way we will view it too." And so that's why we get to a point where David Cameron wants to become Prime Minister and he ends up with Murdoch lite, James, and Rebekah Brooks. And so for the 21 years, you have a culture of illegality of phone hacking and fiddling your expenses, if you like, that's gone on under Rebekah Brooks, and so what we have is a future Prime Minister cosying up and being moulded by, you know, the arch-criminal, Rebekah Brooks, the criminal-in-chief. The association Cameron's election's based on criminality, and that was why I was so excited, when I first met Nick Davies, to think, "That's why I'm going to stick my surveillance van outside Rebekah Brooks' house", because fundamentally, what a great story. If I can catch her and James and Cameron all kind of planning, scheming how they're going to try and make Cameron into the next Prime Minister, and if Rebekah Brooks ends up going to jail for the things that she did which helped Cameron become Prime Minister, I thought: "Wow, this is my Watergate. This is I'm going to bring down a government." I didn't mean to bring town the News of the World. That was a shock, that Murdoch turned around and said, "I'm going to close it", but I do think I am entirely responsible for the reopening of the investigation which led to Glenn Mulcaire's notebooks being gone through and ended up with the realisation that Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked, and here we are today.
Q. You've explained what you think was the relationship between various politicians and the Murdochs. Is that something you have direct knowledge of or not?
A. Yeah. I mean, I spent a while in the Cotswolds going around all the pubs and restaurants where they used to meet each other, hanging around outside their houses. You don't need to regulate the press. The press will eat itself. We will regulate ourselves. Not only did you know, I was deputy features editor and here I am with a surveillance van outside my former features editor's house. And I've also somewhere in there I've called Viscount Rothermere a pimp. I did the story that Lord Rothermere and the Daily Mail, you know, are living off immoral earnings because of the number of vice girls who advertise at the back of their publications. And I mean, when I fronted him up about it, it was: "Oh, actually, thank you very much. I hadn't noticed. Good bit of journalism." So you will point a decent journalist who is after a story at anybody, be it a celebrity, be it a press baron, be it your own boss. If there is a good enough story, that's the job of a good journalist, to keep the journal of the day and write about what happens about those who have power over us.
Q. Is what you said earlier in your answer about the police and how they might have behaved towards the News of the World is that a matter of speculation or is that something that you have direct knowledge of?
A. Well, I have direct knowledge of it, in the sense that the police made three requests for me to come into Scotland Yard to give evidence under caution, which means I would have been arrested first before giving evidence, and I refused three times and they wrote me a letter that I could probably find somewhere, saying I must come in to give evidence. And in return, I just said, "No, I'm not coming in. You know where I am. I'm in Dover. Drive down and arrest me if you want to." And instead of doing that, they just wrote: "Paul McMullan, no new evidence, case closed." And I kept jumping up and down about that and that's why we're here today, because those policeman, Yates and the other guy, you know, they fell on their swords, because clearly there had been a cover up because we know so many journalists were involved with senior police officers and it became quite an intimate relationship between the politicians, the police and the journalists. Too cosy, maybe. And so I think you know, I have parked my surveillance van outside police officers' houses and I'm a lot more comfortable with that side of things than I'm deeply suspicious of police officers and I prefer to come at that question from that angle than saying you know, I would rarely cosy up to a police officer.
Q. Can I ask you now about the PCC. Do you have any opinion, through your experience as a journalist, about how effective the PCC has been as a regulator of the press?
A. No, it has. People have stepped back a bit. The glory days of the 1990s when it was so much fun, before Diana died, have gone. People do take notice of the PCC and people are reined in because editors don't want to be ticked off. There comes a point when your proprietor may say, "You've had too many rulings against you, I think we need a new editor, because public opinion will go against us." And it's the god of circulation again, which fundamentally, it's just a product and that product has to sell and at the moment it's not selling very well. My old news agency went bust because there were not the commissions to keep the journalists in work any more. I mean, you don't need to clamp down on press freedom because the press is failing without any restriction. So it's a changing industry and I think in ten years' time, newspapers will be very different. It's quite exciting in many ways, but I don't know how it will come.
Q. Mr McMullan, you've spoken out you've been very vocal on this issue in the media since the story broke. Can I ask you this: have you been lent on at any time by News International or any other part of the Murdoch empire not to speak out?
A. No. Some of my former colleagues have given me the thumbs up. I remember doing a live with Sky or BBC outside News International and a few of them drove past me and it was like: "Yeah, well done", because fundamentally the little men, the reporters, were all screwed big time by our bosses, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson. So for that reason alone, no, none of the senior ones would ever risk trying to lean on me because they'd know that I'd probably tape record them and throw it back in their faces.
Q. Finally, you said at one point in your evidence that others were worse, I think, referring to other newspapers in comparison to the News of the World. Are you in a position to give an informed view about whether or not others were worse? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's evidence-based, that I'm thinking of, more than anything else.
A. Yeah. I have shifted for a number of different newspapers and I've we all move around. You know, I was offered a job at the People about ten years ago. I did a few shifts at the Sunday Mirror. And, you know, the news editor of Sunday Mirror one day then switches over to the News of the World and it's quite a small little community. So it's a bit one guy knows that this is a really great way of getting a story and that's why he's been headhunted to go and work for another newspaper. Is he going to leave it behind? But no, I'm not going to say anything about any other newspapers because I'm pretty unemployable as it is, so I'd better not carry on down that route.
Q. Is there anything you would like to say to Lord Justice Leveson to assist him in making recommendations for the future regulation of the press?
A. Yes. This all came about due to the phone hacking of Milly Dowler's phone. I don't think anyone gives two hoots about the celebrities, a lot of whom are being paid by the same companies who paid me. You know, 20th Century Fox and News International. But last summer I have a two-year-old son who went missing out of our back garden. He only went missing for about 20 minutes and I was I felt the emotion that I imagine that Mrs Dowler felt when her own child went missing, and it's one of the most powerful emotions you can feel. I remember sprinting up and down the high street and out to the park thinking you know, I'd left the side gate of the garden open. Now, it's clear that Glenn Mulcaire appears to have furnished the information to allow the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone and it is my it's very difficult for me to say that actually, because I know how corrupt the police can be and how actually, it's run by a bunch of Inspector Clouseaus, that the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone was not a bad thing for a journalist, a well-meaning journalist who is only trying to help find the girl to do. I did a World Service phone-in a little while ago and from Mexico City to Nairobi, the people there just instantly assumed that the police are corrupt and more likely to commit a murder than actually solve one. So they were with me and they said how lucky it was the Dowlers had bright, enthusiastic, well-meaning journalists on their side also looking for Milly, and how annoying it must be for PC Plod as his inept colleagues to hide away information and, you know, it's not such a bad thing. There's a number of articles that I wrote on Milly Dowler. I'll show you one. I was the first journalist to put a link to a railway that may have been that's my Daily Mail link to vice girls, a career-ending story that so our intentions were good. Our intentions were honourable. We were doing our best to find the little girl, and the police are utterly incompetent and should be ashamed that the man who killed her was allowed to carry on, and there are other mothers now without their children because of the police's incompetence, and I felt the same emotions at losing a child that I imagine Mrs Dowler must have felt, and you must put that aside and say, actually, the press and a free press and a press that strays into a grey area is a good thing for the country and a good thing for democracy and that's all. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right. MR BARR Thank you for your evidence, Mr McMullan. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right. Is there anything else that anybody wants to raise? Yes, Mr Sherborne? Discussion MR SHERBORNE There is one matter I need to raise and I think you're aware of it. A witness statement has been served by Ms Jemima Khan in relation to the attack on Mr Grant last week by Associated Newspapers, accusing him, as you'll recall, in the context of his giving evidence LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, I've seen the statement. MR SHERBORNE Sir, you'll recall that Mr Garnham and I raised this matter on the Tuesday morning last week after Mr Grant had given evidence, following the publication of a press statement and LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, and the Twitter remark from Jemima Khan denying it, as I remember. MR SHERBORNE Sir, indeed. I have the part of the transcript where you raised this with Mr Caplan. It was after lunch on the Tuesday. Just for the record, it's pages 1 to 5. I don't know, sir, whether you want me to remind you what you said? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, I don't need to be reminded what I said. MR SHERBORNE But where it was left, in effect, was that Mr Caplan's clients were going to come back, hopefully with an explanation LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MR SHERBORNE as to why they accused Mr Grant of lying. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MR SHERBORNE As you're aware, seven days have passed since that point was raised and we've had a deafening silence. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, I'm expecting some evidence to be served by Associated Newspapers in due course. I can't necessarily do all these things on the hoof because witnesses are arranged, plans are made and there it is. I'm very conscious that the line in the Associated newspaper article was removed from their online edition and I've not forgotten about it. MR SHERBORNE Sir, Mr Jay, you'll recall, said when this was raised that there would be further discussions this week, ie the end of last week, and you quite rightly, in my submission, said: "I was hoping it would be dealt with rather more speedily than that." We're now seven days on, as I say. Ms Khan has put in a statement, given that this is still a matter that has been repeated publicly, a statement in which she's categorically denied either that she spoke to anyone or that she could possibly have been the source, as was suggested, given that the first time she knew about this plummy-voiced executive was when she read it in the Mail on Sunday herself. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, I understand. I will find out about the evidence. I certainly wanted it looked at and examined and resolved, but I have a slightly different issue about when I'm going to call evidence about it because of the other arrangements that have been made. MR SHERBORNE Sir, I understand that. Am I right in thinking that evidence has been produced by Associated? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I don't know. I think not but I just don't know. MR SHERBORNE Sir, you'll see the point. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand. MR SHERBORNE It's very important. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand the point and I understand that it's important to bottom the particular allegation, but on the other hand, I'm not prepared to take that evidence out of all context and it struck me as probably important to deal with all of apiece. When I said I wanted it resolved quickly, I was hoping that some decisions would be made about what could be proved and what couldn't be proved so that we could know what the position is, but I wasn't necessarily saying I'd be calling evidence immediately thereafter. MR SHERBORNE Sir, I understand that, but of course it was the "mendacious smears" line which you asked for an explanation about, given that this goes well beyond suggesting that Mr Grant may have been mistaken or wrong LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand that and you will remember what I said to Mr Caplan and you remember how Mr Caplan responded to me. Doubtless that's part of the transcript to which you wish to refer me. MR SHERBORNE It is, and that's why I'm asking whether Mr Caplan's clients intend to say anything at all, and if they don't, then I would rather they said that because then, of course, consideration will need to be given as to what the next step is. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. I hear what you say, Mr Sherborne. It is not a matter that is unimportant. I'm not suggesting it is. It is relevant for all sorts of reasons to what I am doing, even if I'm not going to make a finding of fact specifically, unless I am required to do so for other reasons. I am not sure that well, let me just take it step at a time. Mr Caplan, you've heard what Mr Sherborne has said. You've read the transcripts, of course. I'm very conscious of what you said in answer to me MR CAPLAN Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON and the result online that followed. It probably is a matter that will require evidence. It would be sensible if that was sooner rather than later. I don't know whether you are in a position to say anything at this stage. MR CAPLAN I'm not. As you'll appreciate, there's been quite a lot to deal with over the last few days. It is, I assure you, the matter of enquiry and evidence is being taken. I don't know where we are with it, quite frankly, at the moment. Mr Sherborne and I sit a few feet away from each other and this is the first enquiry that I've had from him as to where we are. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. MR CAPLAN But I can speak to Mr Jay and Mr Sherborne and let them know. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I would be very grateful. Then if it's necessary to find some time to deal with it, we will. I think that's the better way in the first brush of dealing with. Mr Sherborne, I've not forgotten. I understand the point and I understand the significance of it to you and, more particularly, to your client. MR SHERBORNE Sir, I appreciate that. Can I just say this: the matter was left very much in Mr Caplan's hands. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MR SHERBORNE That's why I've raised it, given that there's been a silence, and it is a matter that I have raised with the Inquiry over previous days, as you're well aware. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand that. Equally, I'm conscious that although it's obviously important, there are a wide range of issues that have to be thought about under some pressure of time. I understand your point, and I don't object to you raising it with me. You've heard how we've dealt with it. MR SHERBORNE Sir, I'm grateful. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much. (4.49 pm)


Gave statements at the hearings on 29 November 2011 (AM) 29 November 2011 (PM) and 28 February 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 5 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 29 November 2011 (PM)


Understand all the key topics and the context behind the Inquiry's findings

Journalism & society
View more
View more
View more
Future of journalism
View more
Background & history
View more
Subsequent developments
View more
Ethics & abuses
View more