Morning Hearing on 20 December 2011

Sharon Marshall , Julian Pike and Steve Turner gave statements at this hearing

Hearing Transcript

(10.00 am) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Good morning, Mr Jay. Yes? MR JAY Sir, before I start by recalling Mr Pike, may I mention the case of Mr Rio Ferdinand v NGN? I said I think on 21 November that permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal had been refused by the single Lord Justice. That was Sir Richard Buxton. Then I said we understand the application for permission is being renewed. In fact, it's not being renewed. The appeal is not being pursued. We're not altogether why, but the record needs to be put straight. The case is not going to be heard by the Court of Appeal. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Therefore the judgement of Mr Justice Nickel stands for the reasons that he gave? MR JAY Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR JAY May I recall Mr Pike, please. MR JULIAN PIKE (recalled) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you for returning, Mr Pike. You're still subject to the oath you took when you gave evidence.
A. Understood. Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Mr Pike, you're being recalled to deal with a narrow point, namely the attendance note which is dated 13 May 2010, on which we see the name of Sienna Miller and she has been allotted a file number 730. You've provided us with a number of documents which indicate the relevant sequence of events, and as well you've provided us with a chronology. May we just deal with that? Is this right: that on 26 May of last year, you received a telephone call from an Emma Harroway(?) at the MPS, who was informing you that an urgent application was being made which she thought the News of the World should be put notice of, and this related to a decision called Marcel, where applications of this sort may, in certain circumstances, be notified to interested parties; is that correct?
A. That's correct, yes.
Q. But at that stage, of course, you didn't know who was making the application; is that right?
A. No, I didn't, that's right.
Q. Then I think you tried to telephone her back but she was on the phone. You then received an email from Emma Harroway on the same day, apologising for not returning your call, and she stated that solicitors had raised objections to putting News of the World on notice and it had been agreed that the court would decide that point; is that correct?
A. That's also correct, yes.
Q. You then received an email from Sarah Webb of Russell Jones Walker on 28 May notifying you that the MPS was making an application on behalf of Sienna Miller, and although not attaching to that email, you subsequently received, I think on 1 June, the MPS's letter dated 26 May addressed to Mr Mulcaire, which related to the MPS being the subject of a disclosure application being brought by Sienna Miller; is that correct?
A. That's also correct.
Q. So you or your firm then opened a file in relation to Sienna Miller. That was on 3 June. Can you just explain the way files are opened by your firm? Obviously a file number is allotted and it's put on a system, but can you just expand on that a little bit, Mr Pike?
A. Yes. When we're instructed on a new matter, we if it's a new client, there's a new client indent made. If it's an existing client, then we simply open up a client file indent, simply an accounting process which is put through our accounts department.
Q. And the file number which was opened obviously we can see the 730 on the attendance note of 13 May, but I think there was also a code 8085; is that correct?
A. The 8085 number is the client number. The 730 is the file number.
Q. Thank you. So 8085 relates we can see that it relates to NGN.
A. That's right.
Q. We see that at the top left-hand side. The attendance note of 13 May 2010 was not dictated by reference RXC until, I think, 14 June?
A. That's correct, yeah.
Q. Do you know why that was?
A. Probably because she was very busy doing other matters.
Q. We have a printout of a document which indicates that the attendance note of 13 May was typed up on 15 June. The total typing time was 8 hours and 16 minutes. Do you have that document?
A. I think it reads 6 hours and 16 minutes.
Q. Sorry, 6 hours and 16 minutes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Six hours to type this document?
A. Well LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's eight pages long. It sounds rather a long time.
A. I think it may be because the document is open on the screen for six hours. It doesn't mean the actual typing time. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I see. MR JAY So the typist may have been doing other things, but from the moment the file is open, the clock starts to run.
A. I think so, yes.
Q. And when the typing stops, that's when the clock notionally stops, even though it doesn't take 6 hours and 16 minutes to type up a document which even I wouldn't take that long to type up. I've been asked to put this to you. There's no reference in the attendance note to the alleged relationship between Mark Lewis and Charlotte Harris, is there?
A. I don't have it in front of me, no.
Q. But I think you told us that that was discussed at the conference; is that right?
A. It was discussed. Certainly within counsel's instructions there was full information provided.
Q. But do you know why there's no reference to it in the attendance note?
A. I can't say now why, no. MR JAY Okay. Thank you very much, Mr Pike. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. Mr Sherborne, this was an issue that you raised, understandably in the light of what we now know. Was there anything that you wanted further to pursue on this topic? I think you're entitled to be given that chance. MR SHERBORNE Sir, it's simply this, and there may be a very simple explanation for it. Can I ask Mr Pike the question rather than put it through you, sir? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. Questions by MR SHERBORNE MR SHERBORNE Mr Pike, the other matters we have at the top of the attendance note we went through the list last time, you'll recall. The Miller action and the Hoppen action had nothing to do with either Charlotte Harris, Jeremy Reed or Mark Lewis. Can you explain why it is that they are referred to then in the attendance note?
A. I think it's only there because Rowena was being perhaps overcautious and ensuring the attendance note went on all the current then current open files.
Q. As far as you're aware, no other complaints had been made against News Group in relation to hacking by June 2010, as it then was?
A. Well, again, to be absolutely certain on that, I'd obviously need to double-check, but I think that is correct, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON They may have been made to News International, but they'd not come through to you?
A. That's possible, yes. MR SHERBORNE I have no further questions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much. Thank you very much for coming, Mr Pike. I'm sure you can understand why that needed to be resolved.
A. That's fine. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR JAY I think it's Mr Turner next. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right, very good. MR STEPHEN GORDON TURNER (sworn) Questions by MS PATRY HOSKINS MS PATRY HOSKINS Please sit down and make yourself comfortable. First of all, could you state your full name to the Inquiry, please?
A. Yes, Stephen Gordon Turner.
Q. Thank you. You've provided us with a witness statement and it's at tab 2 of the Matt Driscoll LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, I have it. MS PATRY HOSKINS You've signed that at the end. Could you please confirm the contents of this statement are true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
A. I do. MS PATRY HOSKINS Sir, for your note, there's been one redaction to the statement. Paragraph 7 has been redacted in its entirety. I've asked the technician to put a hard copy on the screen instead of the original copy. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Very good. The copy I have is marked "draft witness statement", but do I gather because it's signed that this is the final version?
A. Yes, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. So I can cross out the word "draft" and I'll cross out paragraph 7. Very good. MS PATRY HOSKINS Thank you. First of all, can we just touch upon your career history, please, Mr Turner. You describe this at paragraph 1 of your statement, if I can just lead you through it. You tell us that you are a journalist, first on the Daily Mail, then on the Daily Mirror. Then you went on to be General Secretary of the NUJ, and then you moved to the British Association of Journalists, where you have been General Secretary since its inception in 1992; is that all correct?
A. Yes.
Q. Then you go on to explain the work of the British Association of Journalists. You explain it has around a thousand members and about a quarter of those work on national newspapers, although you have members on tabloids and some broadsheets too?
A. Yes.
Q. You explain at paragraph 3 that NGN is the Association's main membership base and that the union is recognised by NGN and it is entitled to conduct collective bargaining, for example, on behalf of all journalists employed by the defendant. What do you mean by "the defendant" in that sentence?
A. I'm sorry, sir. That isn't the correct word, is it? The company, it should say. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's NGN again. MS PATRY HOSKINS I just wanted to clarify that. Thank you.
A. My apologies. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's normally the case, I suppose. Yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS Would you say you have a greater presence at NGN than the NUJ does?
A. Yes, because we're recognised there and the NUJ is not.
Q. I'm going to ask about three distinct areas in your witness statement. I'm going to ask you firstly about your experiences and the experiences of those you have spoken to about culture, practices and ethics of the press, then I'm going to ask you a little bit about the Matt Driscoll case, which I'm sure you'll be very familiar with. Thirdly, I'm going to ask you about the changes to the law and the regulatory regime which you suggest in your statement. So if we just move through the questions in that order. First of all, turning to your own experience, you were a journalist yourself for many years, you tell us. While you were a journalist, did you personally witness any other journalist using unethical or illegal practices? Please, I should say don't mention any names. If you're attempted to, please don't.
A. No. My time in Fleet Street was as a subeditor and I think the areas we're most looking at in this regard are reporting areas. So no, I was not aware of anything of that nature.
Q. You explain to us that you were also an NUJ representative for many years whilst you were at the Daily Mirror. Did anyone come to you at that time as a representative to ask you about unethical or illegal practices?
A. No.
Q. In your witness statement at paragraph 5, you say that it has been hinted to you that journalists hacked phones, and you fairly say that you don't have any first-hand knowledge of that. You say in fact that no one has actually said to you that they hacked phones and no one has said to you that they knew of other journalists that had hacked phones, apart from Mr Driscoll.
A. Mm.
Q. We'll come on to him in a moment. What you do say is that the indication that has been given to you is that phone hacking took place because of the pressure to cut corners because of reduced budgets and so on. Can you tell us a bit about that, about your understanding of that pressure?
A. I think it was said I read a report of a previous hearing or seminar of the Inquiry which said that the economics haven't been a factor in this, and I don't think that is correct. The two factors which have been causing pressure over the last 25 years have been declining circulations and a desire by companies to actually, you know, make profits and distribute those profits to shareholders, which funnily enough, didn't happen before about 1984, when the technological revolution finally caught up with Fleet Street and there was at last money to be made out of newspapers, which had not been the case before that. So we had this double whammy, if you like, of the desire to maximise profit whilst, at the same time, circulation was starting to decline, and the result of that was there was enormous pressure put on reporters to produce more exciting stories and more revelatory stories and that sort of thing, and as the staffing levels declined, obviously more in some newspapers than others, there was the pressure on individual journalists to cut corners.
Q. When you say some newspapers and not others, what do you mean?
A. The News International and the Associated Newspapers are the two most successful groups, and the job losses have not been as severe there as they have been in other papers, but nonetheless, they have been suffering circulation challenges, I think is the best word for those two groups, and there has been the desire to produce more exciting and, as I say, more revealing stories. I just don't know anything to concretely say is that I know this has happened in this company and that has happened in that company as far as phone hacking or any of the allied practices are concerned.
Q. You then go on to talk about another aspect of culture of the press, which is bullying, the bullying culture.
A. Yes.
Q. You discuss that in paragraph 14 onwards of your statement. You explain that you take the view that bullying executives could and can be found in many editorial departments, but none more so than in newsrooms and amongst editors. You go on to explain that you've received complaints about bullying executives in many Fleet Street and provincial offices over the years. Pausing there, by "provincial offices", do you mean the regional press?
A. Yes, local papers.
Q. Can you tell us about the types of complaints that you've had about the regional press?
A. Very small, I have to say, because we do not have a lot of regional members, and compared with the complaints we have in Fleet Street, a very small number. But it's again this the same situation of declining editorial workforce and declining circulations and a demand to produce better stories and more of them from a diminishing workforce, not to do anything unethically but simply to produce more, and to do it in a very unpleasant manner in trying to get people to do that.
Q. Without giving us any specific examples of complaints, without naming any names, can you give us an indication of the types of complaints that you've received about the regional press?
A. From the regional press? What I've just said: an overbearing head of department who's demanding too much work from an individual, with the effect that, you know, their working life is a bit of a misery.
Q. All right.
A. And there is no obvious redress to that problem. The obvious redress is to take out a grievance complaint, but my experience is that grievance complaints usually give the complainant more trouble than it does the perpetrator.
Q. Right. You then go on to say at paragraph 16 that you've seen bullied staff leave with a meagre pay-off, "having been required to sign a confidentiality agreement to stop the world knowing what happened, while the bullies remain employed and untouched". You also seem to follow this up. Do you have the bundle yes, you do which contains at tab 3 the employment tribunal decision relating to Mr Driscoll. Yes. If you look at that at paragraph 107.2, which is page 23 internally, you see there that they describe you as an impressive witness and then they say that you gave unchallenged evidence that you were involved in three similar cases to that of the claimant at the News of the World which had each taken the same path: "In each case, the journalist was unreasonably subjected to disciplinary proceedings, realised that the newspaper felt his face did not fit any more and that they were trying to drive him out, and asked him if a severance package was available to resolve the matter." Pausing there, without naming names, could you tell us a little more about these examples at News of the World? The first question I guess is: did you represent these journalists as their union representative?
A. No. It's a very difficult matter to represent people in houses where the union isn't recognised, for the reasons I have been saying earlier on about complaints, is that people have their cards marked. I mean, if someone turned up with a union representative in News International, they would have their card marked, and it may or may not in fact lead to victimisation, but certainly I think there's a good risk of victimisation, and I always say to members: "Look, I'll brief you fully in your circumstances, but you're better to go in on your own to give the impression that you're purely unsupported and you're more likely to get a better reception in those circumstances." I'm ashamed to be telling you these sort of things, because we're supposed to be living in a democratic and free country, but we're not. We're not living in a democratic and free country; we're living in a society where people are wage slaves, predominantly, and are treated very often very badly, and that's a circumstance which I found at the News of the World, among those cases which I referred there in 107.2. So the member would come to me, we would discuss the disciplinary proceedings which they were facing the unique thing about the News of the World was that they were usually phoney complaints, and the individual quickly got the message that they wanted him out. That was the point. And they would then say to their head of department: "Well, you know, I don't want to hang around where I'm not wanted. What's the chance of a severance package?" And they would say, "Funny you should ask that, yes, we may be able to do something", and then a severance package would be arranged and they would leave. What happened with Matt Driscoll, he was much more determined than that. He wasn't willing to be fobbed off. You've seen in his statement how much money he was offered. I think he says five months in his statement and I, in fact, got involved when he had his nervous breakdown and they offered him nine months' money.
Q. I understand.
A. So that's how those but they were phoney charges and people got the message that, you know, it's time to move on.
Q. Can I summarise your evidence like this: in respect of the three other cases that you refer to at paragraph 107.2, you weren't their union representative in that you didn't represent them at any internal hearing but they did come to you to ask for advice?
A. Yes, yes.
Q. And in each case you spoke to them and gave them advice and that's why you have the knowledge about their cases?
A. Indeed.
Q. Why did you take the view that in each case the complaints made against them were phoney?
A. Well, because of the circumstances of it. It's difficult to go into the cases without possibly identifying people. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The problem is, presumably each of these three people signed a confidentiality agreement
A. Indeed. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON in exchange for the payment that they received.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Which presumably binds you as well?
A. Um LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Perhaps not legally, but ethically.
A. Yes. My main concern, sir, is to protect the people involved. There is a real fear as I say, one doesn't know how realistic that fear is that there would be victimisation consequences. MS PATRY HOSKINS I understand. I don't want you to name any names or tell us anything about the circumstances, but can you tell us anything about the sort of time period that we're talking about when these cases were ongoing?
A. As you know, Matt Driscoll's case was 2006, wasn't it? And I think the other cases at the News of the World probably had been in the previous five years, something like that.
Q. Thank you. They obviously must have taken place by 2006, because you referred to them at the tribunal hearing.
A. Yes.
Q. But they were in the previous five years?
A. Yes, I would think so.
Q. Is there anything else you can tell us about them before we move on?
A. About this particular clause?
Q. No, about these three similar cases to that of Mr Driscoll. Is there anything else?
A. No, only as I just to emphasise the point that they decided to move on before there was any damage done to them.
Q. I understand.
A. I do find that people it is not uncommon to have a nervous breakdown at the end of this sort of unrealistic terrorising of people, really, because that's what it comes down to.
Q. We know that there were confidentiality agreements in place in respect of these cases. That's why we can't discuss them in any more detail. I don't want to trespass on the third area which we're going to come to namely, changes you'd like to see but can you tell us how you feel about the existence of confidentiality agreements in this kind of context, when someone has made a complaint or has left a company following complaints against them?
A. The difficulty with the press is it's different to an ordinary commercial operation, isn't it? We wouldn't be having an Inquiry like this into Marks Spencers or something, or Boots or something like that. There is this extra dimension from our activities, which results in this enormous concern about the ethics of the industry. There's no doubt that the confidentiality agreements do prevent, obviously, people talking about things. The most important ingredient of the confidentiality agreement is, of course you know, as far as the law is concerned in particular, is that you can't bring any more claims against the company, and I think that's fair enough. If there's a payment agreed, you can't then go out and sue them for unfair dismissal or something, but I think you should be allowed to talk about it. That's my view.
Q. Thank you. Before we move away from your experiences, could we, please, look at paragraph 33 onwards of your statement. So we can turn back to tab 2. I want to ask you about some of the examples you've given us of what you say is nastiness by some of the people who may be questioned at the Inquiry. It's very important, again, that we don't name names, but can you I'm going to start with paragraph 33, where you say this: "A senior executive forced journalists to make up stories about young women to whom extraordinary things had supposedly happened. Pretty models were then hired and were portrayed and pictured in the articles as the amazing young women." Is that an example of simply fabrication?
A. Yes, indeed.
Q. Can you tell us as much as you can about that particular incident? How did you come to know of it? Start there.
A. I was involved in a disciplinary case where all these issues emerged and I mean, it was one of those situations where the newspaper wanted to have a regular column about extraordinary happenings to people, but it's fairly obvious you're going to quickly run out of cases to do that and particularly run out of cases that have pretty young women to whom these things have happened, which is what the paper wanted, and so they quickly moved on to fabricating the articles with willing young models, you know, and they were teenagers, 14, 15, 16, who were only too keen to get their pictures in the paper and weren't bothered that, you know, they were part of a phoney article.
Q. Did the newspaper in question accept that that's what they had done or was it an allegation?
A. I wouldn't have thought I'm just trying to think of the disciplinary hearings they were at. I don't think they ever said, "We accept that these were phoney articles", but take my word for it: if I told you what the articles were known as in the office, which would immediate identify it, you would know what I'm saying is correct.
Q. Can you tell us
A. There was a name in the office for these articles, which clearly summed up what was going on.
Q. Can you tell us whether it was a tabloid newspaper or whether it was a magazine
A. Yes, it was. It was a tabloid newspaper, yes.
Q. Can you tell us again the sort of time period when this was occurring?
A. I'm just trying to think. It's probably about five or six years ago.
Q. Is there anything else that you feel able to tell us, given I understand the confidentiality issues.
A. I can't, really, without, I think, beginning to identify.
Q. I understand. You then go on to refer at paragraph 34 to: a senior executive refusing to allow HR to organise a selection pool for two staff members facing redundancy. Unlawfully, he told one journalist he was finished without following any legal procedures." Can you tell us a bit about that?
A. Yes, I was involved in a redundancy exercise at a national newspaper, and as is usually the case, there are a lot of volunteers and it came down in the end to two people who faced a compulsory redundancy and I had a meeting with the HR person and we came to the conclusion that it could not be avoided. There had to be a selection process, and I think the meeting we had was, say, on the Thursday or the Friday of one week, and come the following Tuesday, I'd heard nothing from the HR chap, but he said, "I'll send you details of the selection criteria and see if you have any observations on them", and when I hadn't heard I rang him up and said, "What's happening?" He said, "Nothing we can do. The executive just rang one of the chaps up that he wanted to get rid of and told him: 'You're out. Just leave. You're finished.'" He said there's no selection to have now.
Q. Is this one of the News of the World examples or a different example?
A. No, a different paper.
Q. Again, would you describe that as an example of a bullying culture?
A. Yes. The person concerned is a very notable bully, and that was one of the examples of how he behaved, yes.
Q. Can I ask you to turn over to page 6 of your statement, paragraph 35, where you tell us that: "A senior executive told a bullied reporter: 'I don't want a story about a bent policeman. I want a story about a whole bent police force.'" Then the reporter later resigned, you say, to escape unlawful harassment. Again, another example of bullying culture. Is there anything else you can tell us about that particular example that might be helpful?
A. Not really, except that the person concerned the reporter concerned had been bullied over a long period of time, many months, and he was probably ringing me up twice a week, you know: "What can we do about it?" Because I've seen so many of these things end in tears, where the bullied person ends up leaving, my practice is to try and support people over the difficulties taking place in the hope that the bullying executive would turn his attention to somebody else in due course, and that the member will be allowed to resume normal work and would be able to keep their job and continue okay.
Q. Again, was this a News of the World example or another example?
A. No, it's not. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Could I just ask this: is this based upon what you were told simply by the reporter, or is there any other validation of this?
A. No, there isn't, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So all these accounts are you reporting what you've been told, of course based on your experience of dealing with papers for many years and what lots of people have told you, is what you're saying to me; is that right?
A. Yes, indeed. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. As long as we understand the level of it.
A. Yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS Was it a tabloid newspaper?
A. Yes.
Q. Again, can you give us an approximate time period for that incident?
A. I'm not I'm just trying to
Q. Just an approximate year.
A. Possibly seven years ago, yes.
Q. I have two more to ask you about, please. Paragraph 36, first of all: "A senior executive forced staff to fabricate stories under the threat of dismissal." Before I ask you any questions about that, you refer in the last three or four examples to "a senior executive". Are they always the same senior executive or different senior executives?
A. Several of them are the same senior executive, yes.
Q. But not all?
A. Not all, no.
Q. Can I then ask you about this, 36, forcing staff to fabricate stories under the threat of dismissal, including stories about drug-dealing: "Staff knew that his special assignments would not be difficult or dangerous because they were always fake." That's again a fabrication story. Is that the same senior executive that we were referring to at paragraph 33, the one who made up stories about young women to which amazing things had happened?
A. No, but they were working at the same paper.
Q. Right. I understand. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's sufficient, isn't it, Ms Patry Hoskins, if we simply find out we've got the story, I understand the basis upon which Mr Turner is telling us this just to get the timeframe of each one of these. MS PATRY HOSKINS Exactly. That was my question. What was the time period of that particular incident?
A. That, again, is about five years ago, yes.
Q. The last one is at 37: "A senior executive tried to frame a journalist with a false allegation that he'd sold information to another newspaper." Can you tell us, again, when that was?
A. That was probably about seven years ago, that example.
Q. Can I ask you now, please, about Mr Driscoll's case. You were Mr Driscoll's union representative, so far as I understand it?
A. That's right.
Q. I really don't want to go through the employment tribunal decision in any detail we did that yesterday with Mr Driscoll but I want to understand when you first started to represent Mr Driscoll. At what stage in the proceedings was it, even if you can't give us a date?
A. No, I'm was it 2005, 2006, something like that? I first started to represent him before his first disciplinary
Q. I understand.
A. hearing, and using the procedure I outlined earlier of advising him how to handle the process and hoping that, you know, that there wasn't really an attempt to oust him.
Q. I understand. Would it be fair to say that you represented him that must have been 2005, because the first disciplinary hearing was after an article published in July 2005. So it must have been 2005. Did you attend with him his first disciplinary hearing?
A. No.
Q. Did you give him advice during this whole period?
A. Sorry, please saying that again?
Q. From 2005 to 2007, were you advising him through that entire period?
A. Yes, now and again. I think after the first disciplinary, my recollection is that he was not troubled for many months after that.
Q. He told us
A. And then there was a second disciplinary hearing and he wanted me to accompany him to that hearing. I did so.
Q. We hear that later on, after he was diagnosed as suffering from depression, he had his pay stopped on two occasions.
A. Yes.
Q. He said that with the help of a union representative on the first occasion, his pay was reinstated. Was that with your help and assistance?
A. Yes. The it was my recollection is he became ill at the end of July in 2006, was it?
Q. Yes.
A. Because I mean, they subjected him to the most amazingly unpleasant behaviour, you know, sort of bombarding him with phone calls and wanting to send a nurse to his home, that sort of thing LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I don't think we need to go over this again because we heard it in great detail yesterday afternoon. MS PATRY HOSKINS Absolutely.
A. I was just saying that, sir, to explain why I was then in touch. They then stopped his money because they said he was uncooperative. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand.
A. That was the point. And I was then representing him in correspondence with the company and they reinstated it I think about a month later. MS PATRY HOSKINS We know that you attended his employment tribunal as a witness and you gave evidence.
A. Yes.
Q. Can you tell us this: there's only one point I really need to ask you about. Mr Driscoll said yesterday that his impression was that News of the World had tried to appeal the decision of the employment tribunal. His recollection was that it had tried to appeal the judgment three times. He was a bit unclear about what had happened and he said that you would know all the answers.
A. Oh, right.
Q. So no pressure. But he said you might be able to assist. Did News of the World appeal the judgment?
A. Yes, they did. My understanding of it was that they appealed the judgment, the EAT when I say they appealed the judgment, they made an application to appeal, and the EAT turned it down and said there were not sufficient grounds for an appeal, and then, which is what I think Matt might be concluding was a second appeal, they then were able to go and make a verbal application LORD JUSTICE LEVESON They renewed the application for leave to appeal, yes. I understand this.
A. And that was again turned down. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS So there was never a full and substantive hearing before the EAT?
A. No, not at all. MS PATRY HOSKINS So there's no judgment there. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed.
A. But the third one that Matt is referring to was when there was a hearing fixed for some time one year, I think in August, and the company wanted that postponed, and the ET wouldn't agree and they asked the EAT and they wouldn't agree either, so the hearing went ahead.
Q. I understand. But they were unsuccessful?
A. Yes.
Q. Thirdly, I want to ask you very briefly indeed about changes to the law. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Before we go onto changes in the law, you've given us four examples and they're all five or six years ago. Does that mean there are no more recent examples?
A. No, there are more recent examples, but I'm very conscious of the sort of freshness of the cases, which could lead to identification. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. Just answer me this, if you would, because one might have concluded that because your examples were five or six years ago, that this was all history: can you say how many occasions you've been consulted by members of your union over the last three or four years in connection with this sort of problem? I'm not asking any more details. Just give me some idea.
A. I should think between 15 and 20 members would have been in touch. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And are these moderately serious, serious or extremely serious?
A. Well, the majority have ended up in people leaving the newspapers that they worked for, which I think is pretty serious because it's the loss of a career and people often then struggle to, you know, resurrect that career going forward. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. Thank you. That's what I wanted to ask. MS PATRY HOSKINS Thank you. Let me ask you about a few changes to the law that you suggest, please. At paragraph 44, you suggest that bullying should be made a criminal offence. Can you tell us a bit more about that suggestion?
A. Well, as the paragraph goes on to say, physical assault is a criminal offence and the effect of bullying is in fact far worse. I mean, we've seen Matt have a nervous breakdown. I've seen other members several other members have nervous breakdowns in similar circumstances. It's a devastating and continual effect on their lives. I think it sounds a bit of an extreme measure but as I say, the consequence is to drive people out of a good job and a good career. That's pretty serious stuff and litigation in the tribunal or in the courts is only damage limitation. It's not really LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So what you really need is a culture change?
A. Well, what we really need is for journalists to see the sense of belonging to trade unions and then people could use their collective strength to do something about these things, because the law is too long-winded, too far off and too involved and too expensive to really be a solution. It's damage limitation, as I say. Yes, a culture change would help enormously, but I'm afraid we have cowboy managements in Fleet Street and I don't see that happening as things are at the moment. I really don't see that. MS PATRY HOSKINS Could the issue perhaps not be dealt with by adequate whistle-blowing policies and access to independent representation, rather than changes to the criminal law?
A. If all those things worked satisfactorily, yes, that obviously would be satisfactory, but it's a tremendous pressure on an individual when they're being bullied to do anything about it, and if they go to HR, in my experience, the general tendency is just to sort of almost start accusing the complainant. We had an experience at the Mirror Group, for instance, where we made complaints the union did about bullying in that company and they assured us they were totally opposed to bullying and asked for our co-operation over redrafting the bullying policy, which we spent some time doing, and then we never heard from them again. And the bullying has continued and I know that in that particular company nothing has happened to the bullies who were identified, as I know nothing has happened to bullies in other companies. For instance, in one company fairly recently, one of our members went to management to complain of bullying and they instantly said to him: "You'd better leave." And that's what happened; he left. A severance package was arranged and the bully is still there. Nothing's been done about him.
Q. Paragraph 45, confidentiality agreements we've discussed. Paragraph 46, you suggest that grievance complaints should be heard by an independent panel. You say your experience is that when a journalist raises a grievance against an executive, the internal hearing is conducted by another executive who invariably dismisses the complaint so other staff are deterred from raising genuine grievances. How would that work? What would this independent panel be?
A. It could be set up by ACAS, who is the obvious group to organise that. The evidence of the background to this is, of course, the Driscoll case, isn't it? I mean, there was this very formal grievance hearing or very formal appeal against his dismissal hearing that was headed by an internal barrister, plus a senior executive, plus two NISA union representatives and concluded that he'd been properly treated.
Q. Is this the document at tab 4 of the bundle, just for the chairman's note?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We looked at this.
A. That is a problem. I get involved in grievance complaints and in disciplinary matters and in appeals, and it's almost sort of distressing to see members expecting to be given justice through this process, and I've never seen it. And I have to generally say to them: "Well, it may not work out as you're hoping it will work out", because it never has in my experience. One level of management backs up another level of management, and that's why very few people go down that route. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What's NISA?
A. That's News International Staff Association, which does good work, but it was set up by Mr Murdoch to represent a different approach to things than independent unions. MS PATRY HOSKINS Two final matters, please. At paragraph 47, you say: "Newspapers and magazines should be owned by trusts so that all profits are devoted to improving news-gathering and quality journalism within ethical guidelines." Do you mean like the Guardian model?
A. Yes. Yes, like the Guardian model.
Q. Isn't it a bit far to suggest that all newspapers and magazines should be owned in this way or run in this way?
A. Well, the problem is the background to this Inquiry is that the newspaper industry is in deep crisis, isn't it? Probably more so in the provincial press than in the national press. You know, there just aren't the resources to produce the publications that we all would agree is necessary in a free, democratic society. You know, for a hundred years, probably, the commercial interests of newspapers and the democratic interests of society coincided. You know, there were enough people willing to buy newspapers to make a profit out of it to employ enough people to do the job properly. I was at a local paper last year and the editor told me his staff had halved in two years because of redundancies. If we carry on with the present commercial arrangements, it's going to be the demise of national newspapers and local newspapers, because there just it is difficult. I think someone said the other day that reading in a column, that there's no doubt about it that the profit motive is a very good one for sort of creating efficient organisations, but the downside of it is if you're not making sufficient profits, you just keep cutting costs and cutting costs to the point, as has happened in many newspapers, including national newspapers, where they don't have the staff to do the job that the public expect them to do. The best thing, of course, is to appeal to everybody to buy newspapers. I mean, that's a simple problem, that people don't buy newspapers. And we're always told young people don't like reading newspapers they all do it on the computer, we're told but if you get on the tube train in the evening, it's full of young people reading newspapers. The thing is, they're all free. They're happy to read newspapers if they're free. So I don't know how you cope with that on a national level, but that is a dilemma. But faced with the collapse of the newspaper industry, you know, what other solution is there? I mean, I see a Liberal Democrat peer is saying that it's possible to set up charities to run local newspapers and maybe that's an issue, because it's a variant on a trust, isn't it? It's the same sort of thing. The difficulty with the Guardian, as we know, is it's haemorrhaging losses. I think it's last loss is about 58 million, following similar losses the previous year. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think it's climbing up as the Inquiry goes on. I'm not sure it's quite that high, Mr Turner, but there it is. Let's carry on. MS PATRY HOSKINS I think you've adequately covered my final matter. Unless you have anything to add, Mr Turner, those are all my questions.
A. I think the biggest area of injustice in newspapers is the area of regular casuals, where most national newspaper groups employ large numbers of people which they choose to call casuals, who go there working every week, very often year after year, maybe as many as 20 years, and they are treated as though they were an as and when casual, and when they are got rid of, they either get no compensation or they get compensation that's inferior to the people regarded as permanent staff, and the consequence of that is the saving of across Fleet Street over the years, and it continues today, of many, many millions of pounds. And there should really not be any army of second class citizens working in newspapers, but they do, and they're not given contracts of employment, despite the legislation, and as I say, when they choose to dispose of them, it's often without any compensation, and that's really a terrible injustice and if this is the problem. The legislation is all there, but because it's civil legislation, what do you do about it? That's the problem. I spend a lot of time with lawyers and I don't think lawyers understand that you can't have a system where the remedy is two years away and where, because things are never certain, you can't be told: "You will definitely win", and therefore there's all those uncertainties come into it and so the injustices continue. But I think also there are bullies in newspapers, and there's got to be an open way of dealing with those, and it's not the present newspaper managements, in my experience, in all companies probably other than the Financial Times and the Guardian, do not wish to deal with those bullies. I don't think there's bullies at the Express Group, other than the proprietor and his chief executive. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, I think we'll not descend into too much detail here, Mr Turner, because otherwise I'll get into all sorts of collateral issues, but I have the message. It's actually also possibly more dangerous than simply restricted to employment rights, because if you're employing lots of casuals, there's a risk that they may go the extra mile to get the story to make sure they're kept on.
A. I think that's possibly true, sir, but I think, going back to the biggest issue here, which is the phone hacking and the blagging and so on, there's no doubt that people, the reporters, are being put under impossible pressure to get first class stories without the resources to do so. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes.
A. And we shouldn't be surprised if people then cut corners. But I think the News of the World is possibly an enhanced example of the difficulties, in that they probably of all the papers had the most resources but nonetheless, because of an appalling culture there of bullying, you know, pressured people more than most into behaving appallingly. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. Thank you very much. MS PATRY HOSKINS Thank you very much, Mr Turner.
A. Thank you. MS PATRY HOSKINS Thank you, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, Mr Barr? MR BARR Sir, good morning. The next witness is Ms Marshall. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Very good. MS SHARON JEAN MARSHALL (sworn) Questions by MR BARR MR BARR Ms Marshall, could you tell the Inquiry your full name, please?
A. Yes, it's Mrs Sharon Jean Marshall.
Q. And you provided a statement to the Inquiry in response to a notice. Are you familiar with the contents of your statement?
A. I am, yes.
Q. Are they true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief?
A. Yes.
Q. Can I start, please, by asking you a little bit about your career history. I'm looking at paragraph 8 of your witness statement, where you tell us that you joined the tabloid press in the mid-1990s as a shifter.
A. Yes, that's right. As a casual reporter I think it's been called as well. Yes, I started off in the mid-1990s there shifting around the Express Group, various diary columns, basically a wide variety of papers, and in the late 1990s I took on staff reporter positions with the Daily Star, the Daily Express, the Sunday Express. I joined the Sunday People as a reporter showbiz reporter and general reporter and columnist in 1998 to 2002, and then the News of the World from 2002 to 2004, where I was a TV editor and ghostwrote celebrity columns. Then there was another freelance period in my life before joining the Sun in around January 2006, where I was contributing humorous lifestyle columns.
Q. Thank you. So you had a good decade working in the tabloid press. Can I ask you first of all an over-arching question about culture?
A. Mm-hm.
Q. Did you notice significant cultural differences between the different tabloid titles that you worked for, or was there, in your view, an over-arching tabloid culture?
A. I think, to be honest, it's kind of down to your boss is the culture. You can have a wonderful time under a wonderful boss in a tabloid, but if the boss changes, it can be a less wonderful time. So I was very fortunate. The Express Group, I had nothing but wonderful times there. I had excellent editors and bosses, and my experience on other papers was, you know the Sun, again I had a fabulous time when I was there doing my columns. I thought it was wonderful working there. The vast majority of journalists are brilliant to work for, but yes, you can have bad experiences and if some bad people are working there.
Q. I don't want you to name names but do I discern from your answer that in amongst a lot of good times and good management, there might have been instances of bad management and bad leadership?
A. Less happy. Let's put it that way.
Q. You just heard some evidence being given about bullying within tabloid management, and yesterday the Inquiry heard of a case where an employment tribunal found there had been a bad course of bullying. Did you witness any bullying management during your decade working for the tabloids?
A. I'd say I mean, I wouldn't say it's a culture of bullying, which I think is what people are perhaps asking. I was thinking there are some managers that are less than idyllic, or maybe you have a disagreement in the way that a story is carried out. There's also a difference very much in terms of where you work on a paper. The culture whilst writing a column is going to be entirely different to somebody who is working in investigative reporting, so it really depends where you end up. There's not a culture of anything; it's individuals within the paper.
Q. Perhaps I can ask you a little bit now about the realities of working for a tabloid. I'm looking at the section of your witness statement which deals with your time at the News of the World, page 3. You tell us at paragraph 14 that byline was everything and that there was intense competition for stories and that journalists tended to work independently and very rarely collaboratively?
A. Absolutely. Again, at the News of the World, the culture did change when I first joined. I'd say it was a different paper. I was having a good time. But yeah, it certainly got to be quite a very tough working environment, and yes, you literally wouldn't know what the person next to you was doing. If somebody was working on a story that was the splash, the front page, it's entirely the norm that the rest of the journalists working there wouldn't know what the splash was until the paper was printed and landing on the desk, you know, as it's printed the night before, or if it's the spoof splash, which quite often happened, you wouldn't know until it was in the newsagents the next morning. It was very much secrecy. If someone was on a big story, they would often work outside the office, and I've gone through a few tales here. A journalist might disappear on the Tuesday and you didn't see them the rest of the week. It wasn't a case where we had a jolly old chat on what we were working about. We literally didn't know.
Q. It's easy to understand how a journalist might protect a story until it's published, but presumably, once a story was published and there was no longer a need for secrecy, then you would talk amongst yourselves about stories and how they'd been obtained and so on?
A. No, I don't think you would ever give your source. I personally I mean, I had a specialised job at the News of the World where I was a TV editor, and I would guard my source with my life. If someone's giving me great stories from the TV industry, I'm not going to sit down and go: "Go and talk to him, he sings like a canary, he gave me a splash last week." You would absolutely guard your sources, so I think it's not really fair to say that.
Q. Accepting that a source might be protected, there would still be discussion and chatter about life on the newspaper, wouldn't there? I think your book talks about many a conversation in the pub.
A. Yes, we'd talk in the pub about who was you know, what stories there were and what stories were in other papers. Pub conversations, yes.
Q. Along the question of who would tend to know what, I understand from your statement I'm looking now at the top of page 4 that you would expect those in management positions to know rather more about stories and where they had come from, how they had been obtained; is that right?
A. I think what would happen is I would personally go to my line manager and we would have a morning conference to say what stories we were working on. The editorial heads of department would then go into a separate conference in which everything would be pitched to the editor, and then there would be another further secret meeting for people working at a higher level of stories that basically was kept between themselves. You weren't actually asked about your sources of story. You wouldn't be expected to say that. What you would be asked is: "Have you stood it up? What have you done to stand it up?" Have I, as a TV person they wouldn't say, "Who told you this? Where did you get this from?" They would say, "What have you done to stood it up? Have you put it to the person? Have you put it to their agent? Have we got a quote?" That would be the question I would be asked.
Q. Was there ever any occasion when you were quizzed in any more detail about whether or not you had properly stood up a story?
A. Yeah, I mean, I would I think there was one time when I had a story that I absolutely knew to be correct and my line editors cross-questioned me where it was from and I was saying, "Look, I know it's true, we have to go with it, but I can't tell you where it's from because I would protect my source", but in my job it's kind of easier because you get a comment from the agent or the press office and that means the story's stood up.
Q. Did you hear your colleagues talking about the conversations that they'd had with the editorial team?
A. In terms of the editor and conference?
Q. In terms of being asked about whether they'd stood up their stories and been quizzed about that in any detail.
A. No, you would just hear the line manager saying to the person: "Have you stood this up?" We wouldn't actually discuss what went on in conferences that you're not invited to because there's no reason to. Somebody wouldn't discuss how another reporter had got a story with me. That's a matter between them and their line manager.
Q. While you were working at the tabloid press, did you have any formal training about ethics?
A. I came straight out of training and I actually did a media training course, which would have covered aspects like the PCC code. I'd say my ethics came more from the fact that alongside my college course I went to my local paper and did shifts there or helped out and I was basically taught rule number one is: look after your contacts and make sure you're I think on a local paper, that's certainly the truth. You can't turn against the community. You look after the community. So that's really the training I would say you got on the job. In terms of journalism, you don't have a great big ethical discussion. You'd kind of be expected to know what the rules are.
Q. So is the short answer to my question
A. Sorry, I've been told not to tell stories. You should know what the rules are. Obviously, if you're going out to interview a junior, you know, an editor might say, "You can't interview a child without an adult present", but I mean, certainly when you start at the News of the World, you're given a copy of the PCC code. Every journalist should know what the PCC code is. You wouldn't be reminded of it on a daily basis. You should know it.
Q. In terms of discipline, during your time on the tabloids, were any of your colleagues fired for ethical breaches?
A. Do you know what? I left eight years ago. I can't recall any instance off the top of my head.
Q. Can you recall any instance of a journalist being formally disciplined for ethical breaches?
A. I'm sorry, it's so long ago since I left.
Q. Can you recall any instance of a reporter being told off or otherwise held to account for ethical breaches?
A. I actually can't think of any off the top of my head, sorry.
Q. In terms of the leadership style, there are various places in your book register you attribute quotes to editors shouting expletives and demanding stories. Was it common for editors to raise their voices?
A. The book, as I've said and I've said in my witness statement I know I have a central character of the editor in it
Q. We'll come to the book in a moment, but can I just ask you the general question at the moment: was it common for editors to raise their voices?
A. You can't say "editors" as a plural. I would say there are individuals on newspapers who yes, there would be a raised voice in a newsroom.
Q. Was it a trait then of certain editors to raise their voices?
A. Yeah, individuals. As in every line of business, some individuals are angrier than others.
Q. Was it the trait of certain editors to give loud verbal tellings-off when displeased with journalists?
A. It's the trait of individuals.
Q. At least some? One or more than one?
A. My direct experience oh, well, I mean, yes were voice raised in the newsroom? Yes. Yes, I have had experience of that. Not every editor I worked for, though.
Q. Would you describe any editor that you worked for on a tabloid title as having walked the ethical walk and talked the ethical talk around the newsroom? In other words, to have led conspicuously on ethical issues, or was that just not the way it happened?
A. It would be down to the individual. I did work for editors and line managers that were perfectly ethical.
Q. I'm not asking you whether they behaved in an ethical way or not. I'm asking you whether they took steps to walk the walk and talk the talk and to show conspicuous leadership about ethical issues.
A. Yes, I'd say that was absolutely true of some of the editors that I worked for.
Q. What proportion of the editors that you worked for?
A. The vast proportion.
Q. How did they do it?
A. In that you looked at the paper and the campaigning journalism that they put forward.
Q. But what proactive steps were they taking within the newsroom to promote ethical practice?
A. In that the well, you would look at the campaigns that they put forward. You would for example the Sun, for example, did a huge campaign to promote Help For Heroes and that's an entirely ethical and wonderful campaign.
Q. That no doubt was a very worthy thing for the newspaper to have done, but that's not quite what I'm asking you about. I'm asking you about what steps your editors took within the newspaper to communicate to staff that they must at all times act ethically and to keep reminding them of that. Did that happen or was that just not the way it was?
A. Well, you have to remember I'm not in these high level editorial meetings, so perhaps I should say that to me, I didn't have any direct conversations in which I'm asked to act unethically, so I I'm not involved in stories that I'm not quite sure how to answer the question. For the vast majority of the people I worked for, I didn't see any evidence that they were unethical.
Q. Are you also saying that you didn't see any proactive leadership on ethical issues from the editorial team?
A. No, I'm I'm not saying that, because I do think I worked for some perfectly wonderful editors and line managers. I just can't quite remember because you know, we're going back to 1998, so I'm desperately trying to remember an example of a story that I'm sent on and something that an editor might have told me, and I just can't pull it to mind immediately other than saying, yes, we did some wonderful campaigns that I know were done entirely ethically. Sorry, I can't come up with anything for you.
Q. Picking up what you said a moment ago about not being asked to do anything unethical, can I take you to page 5 of your witness statement, paragraph 26. Here again you're talking about your time at the News of the World and at paragraph 26 you come to describe the circumstances in which you left the News of the World.
A. Yes.
Q. You say: "However, on one occasion I was asked to carry out a story which I understood to be in clear breach of the code." That's the PCC code, is it?
A. Mm-hm.
Q. "I refused to carry it out and subsequently resigned. I made the matter known to my editor and my deputy editor at the time and my editor informed me that they had not been aware that I had been asked to breach the code until I reported it." Could you help the Inquiry, please, first of all with what was it that you were asked to do?
A. I'm reluctant to give too many details. The reason why is I don't want the celebrity's name in question being put into the public domain. She has children and it's a few days before Christmas. I was asked to do a story
Q. I should just stop you there. Please answer, but please don't name the celebrity.
A. No, I have no intention of but it's a little difficult to explain it. It was a celebrity who was pregnant at the time and I was told that her partner was cheating on her and that photographic evidence had been given us or somebody had come forward for a kiss-and-tell. There was a photograph. But I understood the photograph was two years old, so I knew the story to be untrue. So this was an occasion where clearly it's morally, you can't it just was not going to happen. We were not going to let it happen, so hence my refusal to carry out the story, or even to let the celebrity never even found out that the story was ever in existence. I just made sure I killed it.
Q. You make clear in your statement that the story was never published.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. So that we are clear, what was it that you were being asked to do? Were you being asked to write a story that you knew to be untrue?
A. To put it to the celebrity. To go to the celebrity and tell her that this photo was in existence.
Q. And that it was going to be published?
A. It was never going to be published. I wasn't going to I wouldn't allow it to shall published. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's not quite the point, is it?
A. Yeah. Well, I presume that's this is one individual on a paper that said it, but, yes, I would guess the they would intend it to be published. MR BARR You say that you spoke to the editor about that and he or she I won't press you on which asked you and tried to persuade you to stay?
A. Yes, I did. In my resignation letter, which I put on his desk, it did I did say that I was leaving because I had been asked to breach the PCC code and any moral code and therefore I was refusing to do it and that was part of my resignation.
Q. If the editor tried to persuade you to stay, why was it that you went ahead and went through with your resignation?
A. I didn't feel that I could work on the paper anymore.
Q. Was that because you thought that there was a real chance that you would be asked again, some time in the future, to do something unethical?
A. No, I just didn't want to work there any more. I I guess I just fell out of love with the whole industry. I just said, "No, I just don't want to do this." But the important thing to understand is this is one person and that when I let other people on the paper know what had happened, you know, the reaction is of horror. It's not condoned. So it's you know, I just didn't want to work there. I didn't want to be a reporter any more.
Q. Was that person in a position of management responsibility?
A. They were senior to me.
Q. Was that sort of request was it the only time that you were ever aware of a journalist being asked to do something unethical on the News of the World or was it part of a more widespread problem?
A. I couldn't answer for any other thing that anyone was asked to do. I can only say my own experience.
Q. I have to press you and put this to you: it would be surprising, wouldn't it, if you were to leave as a result of a single instance of a difficulty, which you had then consulted the editor about, unless there was a deeper problem?
A. Bear in mind I'm consulting the editor who has already got my resignation letter. No, that's enough for me to go, to be honest. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What happened to the person?
A. They stayed in the job. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON They stayed in the job?
A. Mm. MR BARR Did you ask the editor to do something about it?
A. I reported the matter. My sole all I wanted was the story not to go in. That's all I was bothered about. I wasn't aware of any other stories that are going around that are like this. My sole thing is stop that story being published. That's all I was bothered about.
Q. It doesn't quite answer my question. Did you ask the editor to do anything about it?
A. I reported it in writing to the editor and the deputy editor. You know, it's that ought to do it, really, shouldn't it? I've made my bosses aware and I've given my resignation and I've walked, and I've stopped the story going in, and as far as I'm concerned, that's my bit done.
Q. Can I move now to the question of the pressures, first of all on casual workers. I think they're known as shifters. You explain in your witness statement that there was intense pressure on shift workers and that the pressure was really a pressure to perform and to succeed in staying in the industry and securing a staff job?
A. Yes.
Q. Did that pressure manifest itself in a desire to get good stories that would be published?
A. Absolutely. You are employed for a 24-hour period and if you don't come up with a story, the likelihood is you won't get another 24-hour period, so you're only as good as your next byline.
Q. Does that lead to a pressure to use whatever method necessary to get the scoop?
A. I think you yes, you would push the story as far as possible, but what you would always bear in mind is: what is the effect on the person that you're writing about? You see, I'm very aware the Inquiry's started because of a fairly hideous story that's been brought up, but you have to realise, you know, there were when I'm first shifting, I'm writing and dealing with Page 3 girls, so it's altogether light. It's not a sort of a sinister thing but you would deliver, you would do the best of your ability, and you would hope that you would prove yourself as a decent journalist and that way you would get a staff job.
Q. Was there really much consideration given to the impact of the story on the person who was being written about or was the pressure to get the story and impress the editors and get that staff job really such that it overwhelmed consideration for the subject of the story?
A. No, I would say most journalists would absolutely bear that in mind, the subject of the story.
Q. Bear it in mind? To what extent?
A. Okay, wrong expression. No, you wouldn't yes, you would you would look at the effect on the person of the story. That is at the back of your mind: what is the sort of moral effect of this story? What is the effect of the person you're writing about? Are you damaging their life? I'm not damaging people's lives as I get these stories; I'm simply doing the best that I can to get a showbiz story.
Q. Is that really right? We've heard lots of evidence from people explaining just how their lives were affected by tabloid coverage of, for example, their private lives.
A. Yes, but I haven't written any of the stories about any of the victims that you've had in front of me.
Q. I'm not suggesting that you did, but I'm asking you generally about life as a shifter and whether the pressures were such that people lost sight of the impact of their stories on individuals.
A. I don't think that's really something I can comment on from my experience, because I'm doing what you might call the fluffier end of journalism at this time in shifting. I'm doing showbiz journalism. I'm doing light journalism stories. It's not wrecking people's lives. No, I don't believe I ever did.
Q. Is that right? Because you worked as a shifter for several different titles. Was it always doing showbiz?
A. At the beginning, yes, a little bit of showbiz, a little bit of general reporting. You know, you'd write diary columns where you would just go and cover a party. It's not not every single journalist is involved in major crime stories.
Q. You explain then that the pressure, once a journalist has obtained a staff job, differs a little from the pressure on a shifter. There is still intense pressure, but the pressure is to keep on producing good stories and keep your job; is that right?
A. Yes. If you don't file, you're not going to last very long as a reporter. That doesn't mean that you breach ethics. It means that you continue to get stories. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What you said was: most journalists would bear in mind the impact of the story.
A. Mm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Are you saying that that's all journalists or are you saying that there are a proportion of the journalists that you came across who were prepared to cut corners and do things differently? I'm merely trying to get your experience.
A. Yes. Well, there's quite a few people on bail, so that would suggest that they have cut corners and done things that are wrong. Yes, there are the vast majority of journalist journalists are perfectly ethical, good reporters, but there are bad apples on every newspaper. But I've not been involved in that you are story gathering. I only hear what I hear in a pub or I've read in a newspaper. So yes, it is true to say that it's obviously not 100 per cent of journalists. MR BARR You describe some of the things which occur which serve to increase the pressure on journalists. The first is you say that sometimes journalists were pitched into direct competition with each other by being put onto the same story by the editorial team. Did you have personal experience of this?
A. I didn't have personal experience of being on a job, but yes, it's certainly true that two journalists from different departments of the same newspaper could appear on a doorstep, both attempting to get the story.
Q. You talk about the number of bylines a reporter has being counted.
A. Mm.
Q. Was that a practice confined to just one title you worked on or was that a common practice in the tabloid industry?
A. I'd say it's probably count a little bit more at the News of the World, but certainly you would always be aware that, you know, the journalist that is delivering the most copy if you simply haven't filed for six months, then, you know, obviously your ability as a journalist is going to be questioned.
Q. Is six months perhaps a little extreme? Would the problems start rather sooner than that?
A. Well, an investigative reporter could spend six months on a job, but yes, certainly, you know, you would have to really, it would be expected that on a weekly paper you have at least a story in the paper every week.
Q. I should make this clear: you tell us that during your time as a tabloid journalist you weren't the subject of any PCC complaint, nor were you the subject of any legal action.
A. Or libel or anything, really.
Q. Can I ask you this, though: what impression did you form as a tabloid journalist about the attitude of tabloid newspapers towards the PCC?
A. Um again, it's so long ago, but I can remember if somebody got a PCC against them, it was it was seen as fairly serious, yes. It was not career-ending, but it's serious.
Q. Because the Inquiry's heard indeed, it's seen some undercover film of a number of journalists talking about the PCC and the attitude in private seemed to be a little dismissive because they didn't have the power to impose a fine and hurt a newspaper financially. Was that an important consideration?
A. As I understand the PCC, if it's held up, don't you have to have a fairly embarrassing apology printed in the paper? I think no journalist would want that. It's certainly not a joke in the industry, but like I say, it wouldn't end your career if a journalist had a PCC against them, but you certainly I don't think I'd want it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Barr, is that a convenient moment to have a short break? MR BARR It is indeed. Thank you. We'll just have five minutes. (11.29 am) (A short break) (11.36 am) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, Mr Barr. MR BARR Thank you, sir. I'd like to move to your book, which was published in 2010, wasn't it?
A. Yes.
Q. It's entitled Tabloid Girl. The cover contains the statement: "A true story." I'm looking here just below the title Tabloid Girl, but it's right, isn't it, that inside the book you put a qualification on that, don't you?
A. Yeah. It's based on a true story. I mean, basically it's a dramatisation of my time in the industry, of legends from the industry, people I worked with, stories they heard, and what I've done is I've put it all into a dramatised timeline with fictional characters that are an amalgamation of people. The character Tabloid Girl herself is mainly myself. It's also an amalgamation of other persons. She's representing every rookie reporter out there. I intended it as a light comedy, a good story about a good story. I thought: what's the worst that could happen in writing it? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Ms Marshall, is it a true story?
A. It's based on a true story, would be the more obvious LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It says: "A true story."
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Is it true or not?
A. It's based on a true story. No, it is a dramatisation. I would call it heightened reality. This was not written as a legal document to be at the centre of an Inquiry; it was written as an entertaining story. So yes, as I've qualified inside, I've put a little topspin on. I've fiddled with the truth, is the phrase that I used, so you shouldn't take this as absolute gospel fact. It should be a dramatisation of legends and things that I did myself in the industry. "Based on a true story", it should be. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We'll see a bit further, Mr Barr. MR BARR Let's look at exactly the way you qualified it in the book. If you want to work from the photocopies, it's the third page of the photocopies. In the book, it's between the index and the foreword.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. You say there: "This is what happened when I worked in the tabloid press. Look back through the newspaper archives and you'll see my name on these stories. I wrote them. They're true."
A. Yes.
Q. I'll let you find the page, first of all. Do you have that?
A. Yes.
Q. I'm just reading the first three lines there.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. So you're asserting positively there, aren't you, that the stories that you have written and carry your bylines are true?
A. Yes. Where stories here are based on where I've, for example, done extracts with headlines and I've said, "This is the headline that was written", it's entirely true that I've gone on that story. The reality is some of this dates back to the 1990s, so what I obviously don't have is documentation and recordings, so I've dramatised the events. What I probably should have said if this was being submitted as a legal document was: "Yes, I wrote some of these stories. Yes, some of the stories you've read in here have my byline on. Yes, it's true that I went on the stories. However, there are other journalists out there that I interviewed as part of the book and I asked them for, you know, what legends and tales they had from the industry and then I put them into fictional characters in the book." I was writing a comedy. I wasn't writing a legal document.
Q. Let's look at what you go on to say. You say: "I'm not proud of everything we did but I loved the tabloid journalists I worked with. Every single double-crossing, devious, scheming, cunning, ruthless, messed up, brilliantly evil one of them." Was it right that those traits were discernible in your colleagues?
A. What I think I would like to say is this book is written way before I knew any of the stories that have caused this Inquiry to come forward, so I'm writing about a journalist when I call them devious, I'm writing about a tale that somebody's told me about their expenses. I'm not writing about somebody who has lied to a mother who has lost her child. So I think context is everything in this book. Had I written it after the accusations that have come out in this Inquiry against the press have been made if I'd known them, I would have written a different book.
Q. You make that clear at the end of your witness statement, but your answer, if you'll forgive me, doesn't quite answer the question that I put. Were those traits evident in the colleagues that you worked for?
A. They were, but again what I'm referring to is I'm calling someone devious because they managed to put a dead camel on expenses. I'm not calling someone devious because I'm aware that they've done something horrendous to a human being and wrecked their lives. So yes, these are character traits that I've assigned to people in the book, but as I say in my statement, I write about them with affection. If I'd actually known a lot of the things that the industry is standing accused of, I wouldn't have written about them with quite so much affection. So I'd ask you, please, to take that with a pinch of salt and to also understand the timing LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I don't think what you mean that, actually. I think what you mean is that I shouldn't read into this sentence that you are applauding the type of activity about which I have heard during the course of this Inquiry. But it's abundantly clear that I can read the book and see the traits which you there describe and are able to pick out each of these activities within the book.
A. Absolutely, yeah. I think it's a question of context. The whole thing needs to be put in context. MR BARR You go on then to say: "And it would be a shame if they got divorced or sued as a result of this book. So that's the bit of the truth that I've fiddled with. My bit of top-spin. I worked on seven tabloid titles over a decade, which I've merged here into one newspaper. I've changed timings. I've moved dates to disguise identities. I worked with dozens of journalists, but here I've amalgamated their triumphs and their dirty deeds into a handful of characters. But rest assured, these stories all happened. These Very Bad Things were done. They still are being done. By tabloid journalists right now."
A. Yeah.
Q. So the questions that fall out of that, first of all: when you wrote this, did you believe it to represent the true position so far as your book is concerned?
A. This is what I sat down with journalists and I said, "Tell me some of the legends of journalists from over the years", and I've taken what may well be embellished shaggy dog tales and I've created a drama out of that with fictional characters. It's not intended to be a legal document. I didn't ask people for documentation or evidence. It's a good it was intended as a good read.
Q. When you say, "But rest assured, these stories all happened", can we take it that at the time you wrote these books you believed what you had been told and believed that you were writing, perhaps not in legalistic terms but in light-hearted terms, a true story?
A. I was writing what somebody in a pub told me that I didn't get hard evidence for because I wasn't writing a witness statement. I was writing a piece of drama. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Of course you weren't writing a witness statement. I understand that and you've said that two or three times, so you don't have to repeat it. But what you are asserting in this foreword is: these stories all happened, these very bad things were done. It's not unrealistic for me to ask whether you were telling the truth in those words.
A. This is what people told me. So I turned it into a yarn. But I didn't go through full legal checks and everything. I just simply said, "Tell me a legend", and I put it in the book. So yes, it's true that this is what a journalist has told me. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Of course you didn't go through legal checks. I'm not for a moment suggesting that you did or that you should have done. But what you are identifying is that you're seeking to provide an accurate account of working in your business. Now, it's either accurate, with all your experience of working in the business, or it's not accurate.
A. It has got a bit of top spin. I've occasionally heightened reality to create the good tale. MR BARR Can we take it that the top spin, as you call it, is limited to the extent that you've described in the passage that I have read out?
A. Well, perhaps I mean, the best thing might be to go I know you want to go through some, and then maybe if I sort of explain what I've done. It's I create I can't remember a conversation from right back in the 1990s, so I would dramatise a conversation that seemed like an interesting read. So it's not entirely true, but it's you know, I did work on a newspaper but I didn't keep an accurate document of what I was doing. I'm repeating myself again. But it's based on a true story.
Q. Okay. If we look now at some of the examples. The first one I'd like to pick up is at page 20 of the book. Here you are telling us that up were assigned by your editor, as you describe it, to break into the Friends set. You describe how you managed to get yourself onto the set of Friends by buying a large quantity of burgers and fries and blagging your way through security onto the set. Did that happen?
A. Okay, let's put this in a bit of context, which is the story that I've actually ended up writing isn't anything sinister. So when you're saying blagging, what I've actually written is that I went down to watch some Friends filming and I really fancied Matt LeBlanc. It's not going to wreck anyone's lives. The truth is I can't remember what the editor's instruction to me would have been because this is back in 1998, or indeed who instructed me, so take it as topspin that somebody said, "Break into the Friends set." That's topspin. It is true that I went down where they were filming in a public place, in the middle of Tower Hill, in front of a crowd of 200 people, and I simply blagged my way to the front of crowd by carrying, yes, 50 Big Macs and chips and it got me to the front of the crowd. What I haven't said in here, because it ruins the whole thing, is it's being filmed in front of a live audience. So I'm not breaking any privacy laws; I'm simply getting myself to the front of a crowd.
Q. You go on to say, page 21, about two-thirds of the way down: "Scripts were left on tables, plots were spilled and every half hour I'd run to the loo and, screened by constant flushing, I'd file, file, file, every cough and spit of every conversation on my mobile to the waiting news desk."
A. Yes, I'm filing from the set of what's happening. It's happening in a public place in front of 200 people in the middle of Tower Hill. The actual story that I'm filing is that they're filming. The cast from Friends are here and filming. It's not a breach of confidence. The actual story that ended up being printed was that top secret plots were being filmed for the amazing series Friends in London. I'm not hurting anybody.
Q. I'm not suggesting that you are. I'm asking these questions to establish the truth in the story and how you got it. Were scripts left on tables?
A. I can't actually remember. It's 1998. Yes, probably, because people are filming. Scripts are usually left around on a film set. But you can hear the people saying the words, so it's not really a breach of privacy to read it in a written form.
Q. Were plots spilled?
A. It's being filmed in front of you. I think the actual plot that is being filmed/spilled is Richard Branson filming a cameo role as a novelty hat salesman. It's in front of 200 people.
Q. And was it the plot and the contents of the scripts that you were reporting back to your editors?
A. I'm reporting that the cast of Friends are filming in the middle of London.
Q. Presumably the plot would be a matter of great interest and something of a scoop for your readers. Was that what you were reporting?
A. I think you could use a photographer to show that Richard Branson's filming a scene as a novelty hat salesman. It's not in a private studio.
Q. You're not answering my question, with respect. Could you answer the question?
A. Is it of interest that Friends are filming?
Q. Were you reporting the plot line to your editors?
A. Actually, no. The story that we actually wrote was that they were filming top secret plot lines but that Richard Branson was doing a cameo role.
Q. You then describe on page 22 going into a church as an extra and sitting in a pew for three solid terrifying hours, "almost wetting myself in fear each time the bride swept by"?
A. Mm-hm.
Q. Because you'd doorstepped her not long before?
A. That's right.
Q. So not all of this event happened out of doors, did it?
A. The church isn't actually a church. The church was a built studio set and this scene was filmed in front of about 600 people.
Q. So is this an indoor studio set?
A. It is an indoor studio set.
Q. So is this a separate location to the one you've described at Tower Hill?
A. Yes, that's right. It moved to another set and I was actually invited to become an extra in a scene which I thought was an entirely happy invitation and I took it up.
Q. On page 23, you, in the middle of the page, say that you were getting requests from the news desk that you filed "right fucking now". Was that typical of the sort of language that you would get from the news desk?
A. Take that as topspin, I'm afraid. That's 1998 and I can't actually even remember which executive. You'd certainly be expected to file if you'd been out on a job all day.
Q. I'm not asking you necessarily whether that is a precisely accurate quote many years on. I'm asking you if it's representative of the sort of language used by news desks.
A. People do swear in newsrooms, but, you know, it wouldn't be fair to say that that's a collective representation. Some individuals are angrier than others.
Q. Can we now move on to page 63, please. Here, on the second half of the page, you explain how the reporter who you've called Robohack in your book, and who I understand it an amalgamation of various different real-life journalists
A. That's right.
Q. It's about how Robohack has managed to get a headline story entitled "Frantic cocaine and sex session".
A. Mm-hm.
Q. The explanation, you write: "So how had he done it? Well, it was by using a method that had never been covered on my training course. He'd got the lot, it emerged, by finding, wooing, then bedding the best mate of the female TV star. During their late night romantic meetings, the champagne by the side of the bed covered by expenses, he'd carefully tucked a tape recorder under the pillow. Eventually, the post-coital conversation had turned to her famous friend. "'What's your mate been up to?' Robohack would murmur, as he lay stroking his lover's face. And with the tape whirring away under her pillow, she would tell. The poor girl hadn't realised she was actually dictating a front page story for a national newspaper until the day Robohack casually asked if she was free for lunch and she turned up at the restaurant to find a legal letter served as a starter by her boyfriend."
A. Mm-hm.
Q. Am I to understand from your witness statement that the source of this was a conversation with a contact?
A. It's pub gossip. What I said was there was an individual in the industry who was known as Love Rat. I said, "Why is this man known as Love Rat?" I was told the reason for the moniker is he had conned his girlfriend at the time into a story. I was creating a heinous character in the story that is supposed to repel the character and I thought it was a useful tale, a useful narrative. I didn't do any legal checks on it. It could be that this was merely a rumour that the journalist allowed to go around in the pub. Clearly, I haven't been in the bedroom. I've no idea if he stroked his girlfriend's face or drank champagne. That should be seen as topspin. This is merely a LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What do you mean by the word "topspin"?
A. Oh, I'm sorry, I just mean LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Lie?
A. Colour, I would say. It's this you say "lie", but I think this is a book that is a good story about good stories. It's shaggy dog tales. What you don't do with a mythical character clearly, there isn't a journalist called Robohack. I was just creating what I thought was a good book. It wasn't a legal document. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Could I see the book a moment, please? Yes, Mr Barr. MS PATRY HOSKINS If some of the detail is dramatisation, is it right that your evidence is that there is a core truth to the story?
A. The core truth is that I said to someone: "Why is he called Love Rat?" They said, "Because he wrote this story." I went back through the files to see if that story existed as it has been said to me, I found it there with the journalist's byline on, and then I simply thought: "This makes an interesting character in a book." I think what this comes down to basically, I shouldn't have allowed it to say "a true story", it should have said "based on a true story", but this is a dramatisation. It is heightened reality of a an industry. Because if I wrote a very dry legal document of exactly what I'd done, it just wouldn't have been as interesting a read.
Q. The reason for my last question is I'm looking at your witness statement at paragraph 42. It's page 8 of the witness statement, where you say: "In terms of the tale on page 63, my source was a colleague who did not tell me where they got the story from, only that it was general knowledge in the industry." Which you told us today. But then you go on to say: "When I checked the story, I discovered that it was true that a story was written in which a TV star's 'frantic cocaine and sex session' is detailed. It is true that the individual whose byline appeared on the piece was nicknamed in the industry as 'Love Rat', and that the reason for this moniker was that he had conned his girlfriend at the time into giving the story about her TV star friend by taping their conversations. As the basic facts were correct and the underlying narrative fit into the style of my book, I included it."
A. Mm-hm.
Q. So it's right, isn't it, that you did do some checking of this story and concluded that it was true?
A. As I said, it's true that the story existed with that journalist's byline on it. However, as I go on to say, you know, it may well be the truth is rather more mundane, that he actually got the story by entirely respecting all journalistic standards. I don't know. I didn't write this book to write an accusation about someone. It was simply a pub legend, a shaggy dog tale, but the story as they described it appeared to exist, so I thought: "Brilliant, I have a heinous character. That fits the narrative. I'll put it in the book."
Q. To move on now to the way that that particular story continues, because it says and I'm picking up at the bottom of page 63: "'You've just been photographed coming in,' said Robohack, gesturing to a snapper who was positioned outside the door. 'Now,' he said, pushing a piece of paper towards her, 'every conversation we've had in bed about your friend has been taped. This is a transcript and all the quotes are going in tomorrow's paper. We can say they came from you and run them under your picture and give your name or sign this legal affidavit in front of you to say the quotes are all correct, and your name will be kept out of it and we'll just call you a friend. So, which is it to be?' She signed and Robohack got his splash." What was the source of that part of the account?
A. All from the same source. That's the rumour of how he got the nickname.
Q. And so as best as you were able to check it, you believe that to be true as well?
A. It's what somebody told me, but it's anecdotal evidence. Most of this book is anecdotal evidence. I wasn't actually making accusations against people; I was just trying to write a good tale.
Q. Moving from the specific account here to a more general question, was it general practice to get a person to sign a legal contract before a story was published if they were the source of the story?
A. Yes, certainly I would have done stories in which I've asked people to sign a legal document to say that everything they've told me is true.
Q. Was it something that occasionally happened that people were given a choice, and that if they signed, then they would be given a degree of anonymity and if they didn't sign, then all the quotes would be attributed to them?
A. No, sorry, and I hope you don't take from my earlier response that that's something I did.
Q. I'm not asking you what you personally did.
A. Good.
Q. I'm asking you about what happened in your industry.
A. No, that isn't a common practice at all. It was a fairly heinous event that led to if it happened, led to a nickname, and I intended it to be a fairly repulsive character trait that I was putting into a fairly repulsive character in a book. It's not what everybody does all the time.
Q. I wasn't asking you whether everybody did it all of the time. I was asking you
A. I'd only heard the one
Q. if anything like this ever went on.
A. I'd only heard of that one example, which was merely anecdotal evidence.
Q. Because, you see, this account has some similarities with the actual evidence that the Inquiry has heard about the women involved in the Max Mosley story.
A. This is nothing to do with the Max Mosley story.
Q. I understand that.
A. Good.
Q. I'm asking you whether the tactic, effectively, of blackmailing a source into either signing or being publicly embarrassed was one which you had seen occur?
A. No, I'd merely heard this one pub anecdote. That's all I know.
Q. Can we move now, please, to page 65. Here you are dealing in your book with questions of kiss-and-tell stories.
A. Yes.
Q. You are reciting a conversation by telephone which happens when a teller rings up to give a story about having kissed a famous soap actor. It reads: "'Hello love. Yes? Robbie Jackson the road sweeper? Yes, I know him. You slept with him, did you? What did he get up to then? Oh, not a threesome then? Any lesbionic action? No? Well, to be honest then it isn't really worth it, darling. We had him attempt a fivesome last week.' "There was another pause before he told her to perhaps try and get photos next time, that she was to ring immediately if there were ever two girls involved or one of the Mitchells, and then he put the phone down with a sigh."
A. Yes.
Q. Was this conversation true or not?
A. No. It's this again is a it is a dramatisation. It was intended as an in joke. The reference to one of the Mitchells a person who played one of the Mitchells was married to a person that I work for. We didn't actually say if anyone "Can you try and sleep with the editor's husband and we'll put the tale in the book?" This was intended as a bit of humour in a book. It is a joke.
Q. Well, let me pick out certain themes. During your time as a tabloid journalist, was it ever the case to your knowledge that a kiss-and-tell story rang up and was told to try and get photographic evidence next time?
A. No. What I'm simply saying here is that there's telephone numbers that ran in newspapers which basically said to call if there's a story, and this whole thing was a joke about a young man who repeatedly had kiss-and-tells against him and I was simply doing a bit of dramatisation about somebody on the news desk going: "Oh, for goodness sake, we've already had so much on him. That's dull." You should take this as a joke in a humorous book, not we wouldn't instruct people to go out and take telephone numbers. But, look, young ladies would ring in and say that they have engaged in activity with people. Take this as a joke, please.
Q. And you would want photographic evidence
A. No.
Q. or other hard evidence in order to resist any legal challenge to this story, wouldn't you?
A. Not on the ones I did. I did a couple of kiss-and-tells, and in that instance I didn't ask for any video evidence; I'd just go simply back to the person they were writing about and put the story to them. Please take it as a joke. You can't actually run video evidence in a family newspaper of salacious activity like that. But we didn't instruct people to go out and photograph people. We didn't instruct them to go out and sleep with individuals. This was a joke in a book.
Q. I wasn't suggesting that the footage would necessarily be published, although, as we know, it was in the Max Mosley story. I was suggesting that it would be important to have hard evidence of a story to resist a legal challenge. That proposition is correct, isn't it?
A. I think you're reading too much into a joke in a book. I'm not talking about Max Mosley, an undercover orgy. I'm making a joke about kiss-and-tells and a humorous piece of fictionalised dialogue. It's not evidence that I wanted people to go and do undercover taping of S&M orgies. It's simply a joke.
Q. And it would be right, wouldn't it, that the more salacious the sexual activity, the more interested the newspaper would be in getting the story?
A. To be honest, I tended to do mine and I think I've detailed kiss-and-tells in here, and I would describe it as more saucy seaside jokey stuff. This is nothing to do with Max Mosley or orgies or undercover videos.
Q. I'm not now asking about Max Mosley and I don't think your answer, with respect, answers my question. The more salacious the sexual activity, the greater the interest that your title would have in the story?
A. I don't think that's necessarily true. I actually personally feel the kiss-and-tells are perhaps more interesting if they're sort of saucier as opposed to salacious. I don't I think the public is actually pretty uncomfortable with reading some of the more salacious stuff, so that wouldn't go at all.
Q. You're suggesting now that this passage about kiss-and-tells I've read to you is entirely fictional and bears no resemblance to the truth. Can I ask you to square that with
A. What I'm actually saying is this is a dramatisation and that I haven't actually been in the newsroom for ten years, so what I have done is I've dramatised an anecdote, but this is not something I've got off a tape. But yes, sorry, go on.
Q. I think we can move on now. I'd like to move to page 73, please. Here, you give an account about a fictional reporter who's a shifter called Ginger, and a conversation he has with the editor. It reads: "Luckily, the ginger one got it. 'Well?' bellowed the editor, 'what do you think? Is it better short?' "'Short?' he spluttered. "'Yes, short. Does she look better with it short?' shrieked the editor. "'It?' he whimpered. 'With a short what?' "The office winced collectively. "'The hair,' said the editor slowly. 'She's cut her hair.' "A phone rang. I dived on it. "'Yes,' I gasped thankfully into the receiver. 'Yes, oh yes. How can I help?' "It was over for Ginger. He was lost. We all knew it. I was desperately thankful for Crump's advice in the pub earlier that week. Read every day's paper from cover to cover before you ever set foot in a tabloid office and have an opinion ready on every story just in case the editor approaches you and starts firing random questions like this. I was guessing the editor was referring to Posh Spice, who'd made page 3 of that day's paper for cutting her hair." I'm going to skip to the bottom of the page where it says: "'Not read the papers?' he repeated. He turned to address the office. 'Oh dear. He's not read the fucking papers.' "The office held its breath and fell silent. I was vaguely aware of some reader wittering down the phone to me about a coupon for flower seeds." Then you go on. The bottom line is that Ginger loses his position as a shifter.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. In your witness statement, you make clear that there was never an individual reporter who was fired in these precise circumstances, but you do say that there was a conversation between an editor and a reporter about the length of a star's hair?
A. Yes.
Q. Have you recorded, at least in terms of the gist, accurately the sort of conversation that took place?
A. Yes, you see, I've changed the details of it, because if I'd put the specific story that the reporter hadn't read in the paper, you would perhaps be able to identify or guess at which person I'm talking about or make an accusation, and as I said, this whole thing is an amalgamation. So yes, if you've gone for a shift on a national newspaper and you haven't read the papers before going in to that newspaper office, then, yes, I think you would be fired. Or you would perhaps not be fired; you simply would not be reengaged. But if you're there for a 24-hour period to prove yourself and you haven't actually read any of the papers or know anything that's going on in the world that day, then I think the you know, I kind of can see their point. So, yes, what I've done is I've changed the details but the gist of it is true.
Q. And the sort of conversation, the editor bellowing at the hapless reporter and being belittled in front of others, is that the sort of thing that actually happened?
A. I do recall instances in which people hadn't read the papers, and yes, they were verbally disciplined. But to you honest, that would be like you coming here and saying, "I haven't read the book."
Q. When you say "verbally disciplined", it reads as a ritual humiliation in front of colleagues. Is that the sort of thing that happened?
A. You could expect a bit of swearing, yes.
Q. Can we move now to page 89, please. You describe there a story which starts with an editor's request. I'm looking now at page 89 at the bottom paragraph.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. It says: "The editor's request was an odd one. The town of Banbury was to be given government-funded sex education lessons and the editor had decided that we were to prove that the town was a hotbed of lust. "'I bet the birds there hire male hookers,' said the editor. 'Find me a male hooker who will say he regularly services the lusty ladies of Banbury, and find him now.'" You then describe going out to comply with that instruction and, with the aid of a colleague, hiring a male prostitute to true and get him to say just that. For reasons we needn't go into, it doesn't work out.
A. Yeah, I'm fairly inept at hiring hookers, yeah.
Q. We needn't go into that, either, but what I would like to ask you about is whether this sort of request from an editor, deciding what story he or she wants and then asking his reporters to goes and get it, was that typical?
A. Yes, except the dialogue is a dramatisation because again this is ten possibly longer, 15 years ago, I'm not entirely sure, but that's all true.
Q. Was there a Banbury story and were you sent out to get the story you describe?
A. I was indeed.
Q. I now move to page 114. At the bottom of page 114, you tell an account about a soap star who had descended into a deep drug abuse problem, and it reads: "Today it was Crump's turn to take on Mission Impossible. Crump was in disgrace at the time. He'd completely missed a story about [I won't read the name a soap star's] descent into massive drug abuse, despite being regular drinking pals with her. "'I didn't think she had a problem,' he had wailed to the editor when the rival paper fell with the story on the front. 'I mean, yes, we did cane it a bit the other night but hey, I just thought she'd had a bad day.'" Can you tell us, first of all, the source of that account?
A. It's a now deceased report.
Q. It's a first-hand account from the now deceased reporter?
A. Yes.
Q. Can we take it that what he was saying was that he had indeed done some drugs with the soap star in question?
A. I think it's a high probability.
Q. And that he had had a conversation with the editor about that?
A. Again, I don't have any legal documentation, but it's an entirely normal, sounds
Q. So was it right and here I'm not asking you to tell us what you did personally, but I want to know about the culture. Was it right that in showbiz journalism, it was something you needed to do, to drink and take drugs with showbiz celebrities?
A. I can't talk on behalf of my colleagues. I can only say I've never taken drugs in my life, so I don't think that was something that was entirely necessary to do in the job.
Q. But at least one of your colleagues appears to have done so?
A. I believe that one of my colleagues did, yes.
Q. Do you know any others? I'm not going to ask you to name them.
A. I'm afraid I didn't quiz my colleagues on their consumption habits and I don't have any evidence for you.
Q. Can I move to page 154, please. I'm looking now at the bottom left-hand column on the copy, bottom of the page, 154. There's a story here about Hugh Grant. It says: "Hugh Grant once chased a man from the Mirror across several muddy fields when he spotted him skulking at the back of a wedding party trying to see who Hugh was snogging. When he finally caught up with the reporter, a couple of furlongs later, Hugh sank to his knees and beseeched him, 'Give up. For the love of God, would you please just give up.' "'It was brilliant,' said the reporter in the pub that night. 'It was just like being in that opening scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral.'" So your source for this account, were you told this by another reporter in a pub?
A. Yes, several years ago, I do remember somebody saying that they'd had an encounter with Hugh Grant, but again you must take the account of it as a dramatisation, because it's several years ago and I can't remember his exact wording on it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But here you are actually naming somebody. You're naming Mr Grant?
A. Yes, I'm naming Mr Grant, yes. What I'm saying is the dramatisation is the reporter's account of it, because it's told several years ago. MR BARR Was it right, though, that people were amused by the anecdote and by the story?
A. I don't know if that's quite fair to say. I just simply remember a reporter being in the pub that night and saying that's what he'd done that day.
Q. You've written it: "'It was brilliant,' said the reporter in the pub that night Is that made up or not?
A. I take that is as a dramatisation. I'm afraid I can't remember his exact wording.
Q. If you can't remember the exact wording, does it capture at least the flavour of the conversation?
A. I wouldn't want to stand by that, to be honest. I think I just put it in as a I just put it in as a dramatisation. It wouldn't be fair to the reporter to say that's how he felt or didn't.
Q. I've not asked you to name the reporter, so I would like to press you on that. Was it regarded as a funny story?
A. It would be regarded as an unusual story to say in the pub that's what you'd been doing that day.
Q. Because here you have a man who's well-known for having been pursued by the press and not liking it.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. On the face of your account, we have reporters laughing about a last-ditch plea for it to stop.
A. I wouldn't take this like that. I would take it as that I remember somebody telling me in a pub several years ago that they'd had an encounter with Hugh Grant and that this is a dramatisation and if it comes across as that, that wasn't my intention when writing it.
Q. There doesn't seem to be here much bearing in mind of the impact of the story on an individual.
A. That's not my story and I didn't chase Hugh, so I can't really speak for the exact circumstances.
Q. I understand that, and I'm asking you, as someone who's an insider inside the culture, whether that really was the culture.
A. I don't think it's fair to take that one line to say that it's a sport. I had a conversation in a pub with a journalist several years ago. I don't think it's fair to take that as a whole indication of the culture. I'm sorry.
Q. Can I move now to page 1678, please. Here you are talking about Jade Goody's mother, and the fact that you were involved in getting her story for your newspaper. You describe in some detail the elaborate lengths to which you went to keep that story in your title's hands and to prevent competitors getting told of it.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. Can I ask you first of all, what was the scale of the problem of other newspapers trying to steal your stories?
A. In this particular case?
Q. No, in this particular case you've made that quite clear. I'm asking you generally.
A. Yes, if someone had a buy-up that was going to make a splash for the paper, then, yes, you would absolutely you'd have to guard that buy-up with your life. You don't let anyone get access to the person who's being interviewed, and other newspapers would try their best to get access to that person who's being interviewed.
Q. Another general question before we look at the specifics of this account: did the fact that you had to protect stories and I'm using "you" now in a general term, tabloid journalists, not you personally did that mean that there was a desire not to give prior notice of stories, because it might lead to legal proceedings which other newspapers would find out about and be tipped off about a story in advance?
A. No. I don't think you can take that inference at all, and actually at the time that I was in newspapers, you absolutely had to put the story to the person. You would have to go to them for a comment. That was part of your my understanding of the PCC code. I don't think you can take the fact that I guarded Jade Goody's mother for a week and ended up moving her into my flat to stop other journalists, you know, getting hold of the story, as any sort of indicator that we would be trying to pull the wool over somebody's eyes. I don't think that follows.
Q. It was a general question, not a specific one to that story.
A. Okay. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But I'm interested in what you've just said. When you were in the business, you had to put a story to a person?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON "Absolutely"; that's the word you used.
A. Yes, yes, yes, no, you would. Or I certainly did in mine, anyway. MR BARR Was it your understanding that that is what your colleagues should have been doing as well?
A. I think we did. You have to remember, a lot of these stories are dating back to the late 1990s, and you would have to go and put the story to them.
Q. Your time with the tabloids spans into the middle of the noughties, doesn't it? Was the position the same throughout?
A. No, because in my later career, what I was doing was working as a newspaper columnist, or ghost-writing for people, ghost-writing columns. So actively as a reporter, the stories about hookers and undercover, that's earlier in my career. And you couldn't just put a story in a paper and say, "This is what happened." You had to put it to the individual, absolutely.
Q. Can I just be clear about when you moved away from reporting into simply doing columns: was that 2005 when you moved to the Sun?
A. I'd say when I joined the News of the World, I was doing actually, this Jackiey Goody one was when I'd just joined the News of the World. But the majority of my job then became sort of ghost-writing for celebrities. You would do the odd story or feature.
Q. Thank you. Can we now move to the detail of keeping the story. You say that she was taken to a hotel and then moved from one hotel to another.
A. Uh-huh.
Q. You suggest that journalists were applying for jobs as reception staff on the desk below.
A. Yes.
Q. Is that true?
A. Yes, I believe so. I'd certainly recognised a couple of faces when I went down.
Q. "The news editor had instructed that morning she speaks to no one without written permission from the editor." She being Mrs Goody?
A. Yes.
Q. Is that true?
A. Absolutely.
Q. And that the fire alarm went off one morning, 2.30 in the morning, and you stayed put because you feared that it was a trick by a tabloid competitor to get you and Mrs Goody out of the room?
A. I did actually get my colleague, who I was with, to go and check we weren't burning down, but yes, it was a question of: "You stay there." Just putting it in context, what I said to Jackiey at the start of this week is that it's going to be a rather odd week but at the end of it she was going to be paid well, her daughter was going to be paid, when she came out of the house, a quarter of a million pounds for the story, so it might sound all really odd and 007, but I was simply protecting my story and doing the best for her, making sure nobody else got it.
Q. Does your account of this story would you regard this as a good example of the levels of competition between tabloids for a big story?
A. Absolutely, yeah.
Q. Can I move now to the question of expenses, please. I'm looking at page 178 of your book.
A. Yes.
Q. Two-thirds of the way down the page it says: "Expenses. Now, this is something that journalists do very well. Once again, none of this was taught on my journalism course and it was all very definitely illegal. But when Crump took me aside on the first day of official staff reporterdom, he told me one of the things you're have to learn if you're going to survive in journalism is how to get a blanko. A blanko is a blank receipt a highly prized acquisition for a hack. There's a whole industry devoted to it and Crump was to teach me some of the tricks over that highly lucrative (and receipted and, naturally claimed back) pint. It's basically fraud. But highly creative, inventive fraud." I won't read out the next page in its entirety, but you go on then to describe a number of ways in which expenses could be fiddled.
A. Just before that, though I mean, a couple of paragraphs before, I do say: "If you ever find yourself in the position of filling out an expense form for a newspaper, I'd like to make it clear the following could land you in very deep trouble with the HM Revenue and Customs. I merely list all of this as an example of what the worst amongst us was prepared to do." What I basically did for this chapter was I sat down with some hacks in the pub and I said, "Tell me some journalistic legends of the best expense claims you have heard", and that's what this is. I have no idea if somebody did claim a dead camel. I've no idea if somebody did get an entire extension to their house built. It is simply shaggy dog tales that I thought made an entertaining read.
Q. Let's stick to some of the less extreme examples. The first one you give is of using cab drivers' taxi receipts, obtaining them and then completing them in a false manner. I'm not going to ask you, and do not take any of my questions as asking you, what you did personally, but I want to ask you: to your knowledge, did tabloid reporters file fake and fraudulent taxi fare claims?
A. Did they put an amount into a blank taxi receipt? Yes, I believe people would. I have no I have anecdotal evidence. I don't have direct evidence of this.
Q. It goes on: "Blankos are a fairly widely used con in journalism." Did you believe that to be true when you wrote it?
A. I think you have to take this as a bit of a dramatisation here, but, yes, I'm convinced there are blank taxi receipts that are filled out and formed and filed as expenses probably in every line of business.
Q. It says later on in the same paragraph: "Assorted hacks would openly pass around blank taxi receipts for each other to fill out, thus ensuring that their multiple sets of receipts would all have differing handwriting on them. For added authenticity, we'd write them on our knees, shaking the seat to simulate an engine."
A. I think that's meant to be a joke.
Q. The shaking the knees bit or the whole passage?
A. I think it's true that people would file taxi receipts in an expense form; it's a little bit of a joke to say we shook our knees to simulate an engine.
Q. You talk about reporters from provincial titles coming down to London and there being an exchange of receipts to widen the range of false expense claims that could be made. What was the basis for that?
A. Again, like I say, I sat in the pub with several journalists and said, "Tell me your best expense claims."
Q. You describe a reporter he's called Crump but he's, again, an amalgamated character claiming for mileage when in fact he couldn't drive. What was the basis for that?
A. That was true, yeah. That's direct a deceased reporter did tell me that one.
Q. Then you give an example at the top of page 181: "Crump had a nice little backhander deal with the stationers in East London, who, when printing receipt books up for local restaurants, would spin off a few extra sheets for him and sneak them to him for a cash payment." Is that true?
A. Anecdotal, told in a pub.
Q. Next example: "One hack swore blind that the only way to expose one public figure's dodgy deeds was if he pretended to be a lord. He duly spent a wonderful month living in a penthouse apartment in Mayfair, complete with a full-time man servant and a butler who would announce his lordship's arrival into all the ballrooms he attended during the month." Is that true?
A. Somebody told me that at a party.
Q. If we look at page 182, second paragraph, it says: "Immoral, yes, but we figured our billionaire bosses could afford to stand us the odd dinner. Competitive expense claiming was an office sport, and particularly good examples were celebrated. Besides, it sort of made up for all the years of impossible tasks, lousy wages and bollockings we'd had thrown at us." Is that a fair reflection of the attitude that prevailed?
A. It's just following the tale of somebody who claimed ?500 for a camel burial fee. This is all heightened reality. I've intended it to be a good yarn.
Q. One could see why the claiming for the camel might have been a celebrated example, but that's not quite an answer to my question.
A. It says particularly good examples were celebrated, and I think that was a particularly good example.
Q. Does the general tenor of this paragraph, which is that it was believed that your very rich bosses were fair game for false expense claims is that true?
A. I think it wouldn't be frowned upon if somebody put in and got away with a particularly spectacular expense claim. We're not MPs who are defrauding the taxpayer and yes, I think if someone had managed to put something in I mean, some of these tales are dating back decades. I think the newsroom would I thought it was funny. That's why I put it in the book.
Q. Was there a feeling that it was some sort of payback for all the years of impossible tasks, lousy wages and bollockings?
A. I think, when you pull that out in one paragraph like that, it looks odd. I intended it as a joke. I mean, my bosses would often say, if you like the example of the Jackiey Goody story. You'd get to the end of that and they'd said, "Well done, go and have a dinner and have it on us." So it was seen as I don't think it was really it's not quite as sinister as it perhaps sounds. I intended the entire chapter to be a joke to celebrate some anecdotal tales.
Q. You conclude that paragraph by saying: "We tabloid cats were positively obese when it came to expense accounts. Ah, expenses. It's one of the things I missed most of all when I left." I'm not asking you, in answering in question, to cover anything which might have been illegal, but was that a genuine sentiment?
A. I did think it was ironic when thundering editorials were written about MPs' expenses, but then, as I say here, at least we didn't claim for moats like the MPs and we weren't ripping off the taxpayer.
Q. Can I move to a different topic now, page 184, where you describe an account of going to Simon Cowell's house and interviewing him.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. You say that at one stage you made the excuse of wanting to go to the bathroom and used the time to rifle through his possessions. The way you describe it at the bottom of the page is: "There I had opened a cupboard to find row upon row of identical jumpers and trousers stacked up inside. I was rummaging about in there when he came looking for me, and I have to say, he did take it very well when he came down to find me elbow deep in his waist-high trousers. "'What you doing?' he asked, very politely. He's always very charming, Mr Cowell. Everyone says that. Even to hacks who are going through his underpants." Is that story true?
A. It's true I went off to do an at home at Simon Cowell's house and it's true that the editor said, "Can you try and see if he dyes his hair?" and it's true that when I went to the bathroom, I did have a look round his cupboards to see if I could find any hair dye, which I couldn't, and then I did as I came out of the bathroom, Mr Cowell was in his bedroom and I said, "Is it true that you have several pairs of high-waisted trousers? Can I have a look through the cupboards?" And he did let me look through the cupboards and we did run a story about him and his high-waisted trousers. I don't think that's anything particularly heinous and I interviewed and worked with Mr Cowell several times after that. He took it for what it was: a jokey story in good humour. I myself do at-home interviews when journalists come around and it is like an episode of Come Dine With Me. I fully expect them to go around and look at all my photos and do everything, because that's what you're writing, a colour piece. I didn't break into his house; I was doing an at-home interview.
Q. I see. If it had been a suggestion of criminal behaviour, I wouldn't have asked you the question. My purpose was to see if that sort of assignment, going to visit a celebrity and to poke around to find private details in this case, hair dye was that representative of the sort of assignment a tabloid journalist might expect?
A. That makes it sound entirely sinister. I went round and did an at-home piece in which yes, I rummaged around to see if I could find some hair dye in the bathroom, but I also, with his full knowledge, went right round his kitchen and right round his bedroom as well, and he didn't object in the slightest.
Q. You've made that point twice now and it's not quite what I'm asking. I'm asking: was this sort of assignment a typical tabloid journalist assignment?
A. To go and do an at-home piece for a celebrity?
Q. And to root around.
A. No, you wouldn't be told to root around. But if you go for an at-home piece with a celebrity, it would be entirely likely that you would go and add some colour to the piece. But no, I didn't this is the only one that springs to mind.
Q. Can we move now to page 226, please. Here you start telling us a little bit about how some stories are obtained. You introduce the topic by saying, at the top of 226: "Despite all you've heard so far, I wouldn't blame you for clinging on to a old-fashioned, quaint belief that quotes are gained after a nice sit-down chat with an interview subject, carefully taped, transcribed and written up. This is not always so. Sometimes the quotes were written before we ever left the office." Then you describe an incident involving the band Steps. You say: "Before we even knew who we were interviewing, on one occasion, the editor arrived at my desk and barked that an advert was to start running the next day, saying the newspaper had a brilliant kiss-and-tell about someone from the pop group Steps, who'd just had a worldwide hit with the hideous song 5, 6, 7, 8. The kiss-and-tell was to run under the headline 'My 5, 6, 7, 8 times every night with Steps girl'. "I said, 'Great story. Who got that then?' "'You did,' he replied, 'or at least you better had get it by tonight. Find me someone to agree to that headline or don't bother coming back into the office.'" Is that true?
A. It's true the advert started running, yeah, before and I was told to go and get the story. To be honest, the "don't bother come back into the office" bit, I can't actually remember if that's true or not, but yeah.
Q. Let me put this question another way around. Is there any part of this that you would like to assert is positively untrue?
A. It's true an advert ran it was actually about the entire group. They had a kiss-and-tell on every member. How many are there? Five, four? I don't know. Four or five journalist journalists were assigned to find somebody.
Q. You then describe driving for seven hours to Rhyl, going through various pubs, paying a backhander of ?100 to a local newspaper editor and then finding a man who said he was the ex-boyfriend of one of the members of the Steps band and that he was willing to agree to the quote for a lucrative sum of cash.
A. Yeah.
Q. Is that true?
A. Well, kind of. What actually happened was yes, there was a seven-hour drive to Rhyl because that was the home town of the Steps member I'd been assigned. Yes, your first port of call is the local newspaper to see if anyone local can help you. Yes, an ex was found and yes, we did do an interview. The bit that I didn't put in, because it just slows down the narrative, is that we did the whole interview, he was given copy approval and he did sign affidavits and he was aware of the headline that was going on the piece and he signed to say that he was happy with the copy which was read to him.
Q. And that was a headline that was pre-ordained by the editor?
A. Yes.
Q. Did you have any qualms that this man might have been signing up to something just for the money?
A. No. I think what I did at the time you take the story and then you kind of do the best with it at your end. So as far as I remember, he phoned the person in question that it was about, who was aware of it, and actually the piece that I wrote, I would say, was quite Mills Boon in style. So it wasn't a sort of sinister, horrible, salacious piece. It was I'd say it was more sort of humorous. But yes, the headline was preordained, yes.
Q. In another story you give in your book, an account of a famous lead singer of a rock band with really very impressive virility
A. Is this Lemmy(?)?
Q. Yes, included in the story. And here, the headline, "My 5, 6, 7, 8 times every night with Steps girl" was it a feature that if you wrote an, as you say, friendly, fluffy story, perhaps flattering of a man's virility, that there wasn't really a proper scrutiny of whether or not the story was true?
A. Well, in the case of Lemmy and his kiss-and-tell, I did put the whole story and read it out to his lawyer, who approved it, went to the gentleman in question and agreed it, and his sole response was actually to say what I assume is a comical letter, to say, "I didn't tie the lady to the bed for three days; I hung her from the ceiling and it was seven", which we printed as a letter. I don't think his reputation was particularly damaged or that he was unduly upset by it.
Q. I'm not suggesting that it was, but did you really believe that was true?
A. It is what a young lady who rang in and told us the story said to us and the details of it were put to the gentleman's lawyer, who didn't raise any objections, and said that it was perfectly fine to run the story in the paper.
Q. Can we look now, please, at the account you give at the top of page 2237. Here you've been sent on a Club 18 to 30 holiday and you say: "It was another brilliant idea of the editor's. I remember that much undercover story of the sordid drugs and sex romps of shameless Brits abroad. In reality, I ended up standing in a bleach-stinking holiday in the early hours of the year 2000, realising that everyone was far too drunk to be doing any sex romps that day and announced to the teenage drunks in the bar that I would give ?50 cash to anyone who was prepared to say they'd had a fivesome and be photographed in a family newspaper. A collection of spotty drunken virgins from Harrow happily signed on the line and posed smiling and with thumbs up for pictures." Is that true?
A. It's true that for the millennium new year's eve I was sent on a Club 18 to 30 holiday on my own. I think I was 28 at the time and it became fairly obvious a few hours into it that I'm getting fairly strange looks from the holiday makers of what a 28-year-old woman is doing on her own on a Club 18 to 30 holiday. So I just did a hands up, said, "Look, guys, I'm here from a national newspaper. We are looking for tales of Brits abroad having fun. Does anybody actually want to take part in it?" And yes, as I say I can't remember if they were really spotty drunken virgins from Harrow, take that as a dramatisation, but certainly some gentlemen came forward and told me their tales of derring-do from holiday and were photographed. And actually, the piece never ran because they got the first baby born in the millennium, so it never actually ran. I don't have a massive problem with that. It could be that maybe the gentlemen did maybe exaggerate what they were doing, but they're telling me the story it hasn't actually read it was intended again, I intended this as a comical tale. It was more to do with the fact that I spent millennium new year's eve on my own on a Club 18 to 30 holiday, which I thought was a funny story.
Q. But was the ethos that if it was felt there was no victim in the piece, then it didn't matter whether or not the piece was true or exaggerated?
A. If you say to a young man, "What have you been doing on holiday?" and he maybe he did big himself up, but I'm not ruining anyone's life by writing that story. If the young man wants to look like a bit of a rock star in the paper and say it and no one else is named, no one's getting hurt, you wouldn't go through full legal checks on that. It's intended to be a bit of fun about Brits abroad on a Club 18 to 30 holiday. I wouldn't call it fabrication. The people are real.
Q. You then describe, at the bottom of page 227 and over onto 228, instances where the editor wants a story from a celebrity, a journalist writes a story and then goes to the celebrity's manager asking, "Is it all right if we print this then?" and then if the manager says okay, the article is printed.
A. Yeah, what I do there's a piece I say here. You do ghost-write for celebrities. That goes on. I mean, I see it very much like speech-writing for politicians. It's the same thing. But I go on to give the example here of two glamour models who were bitching at each other in the paper and it's true that I would go home and I would write I would ghost-write an article for someone that then would be read to the manager and to the celebrity in question and then it appears under her words. But that's ghost-writing. That's an industry that happens everywhere, because not every celebrity can write, not you know, so it's something that you would do for them.
Q. But these accounts, you're suggesting in your book, are simply made up and then, because they are not going to have any negative impact upon the celebrity's image, they are happy to see published? Is that right?
A. No, you would talk to the celebrity and they would say the gist of what they're saying. You may go away and then put it in a form that is more easily read. That's the ghost-writing industry. You know, authors will ghost-write books for people. It's not a fabrication; it's just the fact that I can write and they can't.
Q. I'm looking at the top of page 229 now. You say: "The same system was used for Then you name the celebrity. "There are scores of interviews of her in the vaults, sexily pouting about how she loves doing this or that and being trussed up in silk or stockings or whatever. She didn't say a word of it. The journalists would invent a line or quote they wanted her to say, and it would be put to the agent who okayed it as long as there was a plug for the latest calendar or whatever."
A. Yes, you would
Q. So in your book, you are saying that these things
A. You would put a quote absolutely, but you would put a quote, "Can we say this", which may be something that the editor is giving you, it may be something it's simply saying something in a better way, in a more entertaining way, in a way that is tabloidese. But you wouldn't I wouldn't just throw that into a paper. You would go back to them and say, "Can we say this? Can we say it?" to the manager, and we do give the example there of perhaps the young lady didn't quite say what the quote was she was being quoted as doing, but it's simply putting people's speech into tabloidese.
Q. It goes a bit further than that, because you say, "She didn't say a word of it"?
A. There would be I think there are a couple of quotes that are put to her that, again, have come to my you know, the line manager would say, "Can we have her saying this?" and that would be done with agreement through the manager. I think it's true to say you would create tabloid personas, because not many people speak in sound friendly soundbites, but it would be put and be done as their agreement and I don't see ghost-writing as different any different from writing a speech for someone.
Q. Can we go now, please, to chapter 16 of your book, page 248. It's entitled "Confessions of a tabloid hack and the art of being a bastard".
A. Yes.
Q. In this chapter, you describe a number of different ways of obtaining information. Before we go to those, I'd like to go to a passage on page 250, about a third of the way down, where you speak in general terms about ethics in the tabloids. You say: "I think that as we've lost some of our gentlemen reporters, we've also lost some ethics. And I think that as the fame industry's changed, as reality TV culture has created overnight stars, we've created some monsters. And by the time I left the tabloids, I wasn't sure who was the worst: us or the people we wrote about. I'll start with the journalists because we were pretty bad. By the end of my career I had seen some very bad things. Some of them I did myself." Was the bottom line that it was because of your unease with ethics in the tabloid press that you decided to get out and move, as you have, into television?
A. I did get a sense that the industry is perhaps changing. I think the whole reality TV culture changed the way in which reporting was done. Maybe in the old times, in the Hollywood days, it's about protecting contacts, keeping hold of stories, and I think reality TV sort of spawned in sort of instant fight for news. As I said earlier, I just kind of fell out of love with the industry, really.
Q. Can I ask you now about the individual techniques? At the bottom of page 250, you write about Robohack dressing up as a doctor to gain access to the home of a dying man, that his family let him inside and led him to the bedside. There, the elderly man and his wife proceeded to give every detail of his fight against terminal cancer. Robohack held his hand and gently asked about how their famous son was bearing up. A secret tape recorder captured the lot. They didn't realise they were talking to a national newspaper journalist until the story ran on the front page. He wasn't the only one to con his way into a story with a uniform. Honestly, some days in the office there were that many fancy dress outfits being put on it was like walking into an episode of Mr Benn." Can I ask you, first of all, a question about the specific example of gaining access, dressed as a doctor, to a dying man's bed side?
A. I had heard that as an anecdotal tale in a pub and I put it in as part of this hideous character called Robohack. And I think there's another one that you asked in the statement. You said, you know, another time of him being in a white going into a hospital. That did actually happen, it was right back in 1990, though, and there was an actor who had a car accident and who was in hospital and journalists went into the hospital and photographed him in a coma.
Q. I'm asking specifically about the second example I've taken you to, because in your witness statement you're rather more certain about the truth of this story. You write, paragraph 78, page 15 of your statement: "The story on page 250 is based on an anecdote, which I believe to be true, of a reporter who had gained a story by wearing a white coat and turning up at a particular house." So that's right, isn't it? As far as you're aware, this is a true story?
A. Then as I go on to stay: "However, I have only anecdotal evidence of this, and the precise details of the tale as described in the book should be seen as a dramatisation."
Q. Moving on now to Mr Benn and allowing for a certain journalistic licence, is it right that dressing up in costumes to assume different identities was a routine tabloid tactic?
A. It wasn't like an episode of Mr Benn. It wasn't that bad. As I say, I've named about four or five occasions. The one example of the journalist in the hospital sorry, the person in the hospital dated back to 1990. Incidentally, he did actually sue for invasion of privacy and he lost his case. There's a jokey tale about somebody dressed in a cow costume standing in the middle of a field. I don't think anybody thought that was a real cow. You should take that whole thing as a joke, but certainly I've gone on to joke, saying I've warn a waitress outfit. I haven't. You need to take this as a bit of topspin. It is I'm aware that there have been as I've asked journalists for tales over the years, there have been tales of people using fancy dress, but not to the extent that, you know, you come in with a rack of fancy dress disguises. This is tales told over several decades.
Q. You go on at the bottom of page 251 to say: "And I'd break into celebrity weddings a lot."
A. Yeah, topspin. Sorry.
Q. "If a few of these people off the telly look back at their wedding album at the happy crowd scenes as they come out of church, they'll probably see me there, smiling and throwing confetti. The trick here should you ever need to crash a B-list wedding is to get there really, really early, before the best man, or vicar, or crucially, either of the wedding couple have turned up, wear an unremarkable hat and a dull pastel outfit that won't attract any attention and then sort of mingle around, smiling vaguely at everyone. If you're out in public wearing something with feathers on, people always tend to believe you're a wedding guest and you get waved through most security cordons." Is this true?
A. That's a little bit of top the character, Tabloid Girl, as well, is an amalgamation of other people. It is true that I went down to cover one celebrity wedding that was being covered by they actually had a magazine deal, and I think all we wrote was "The bride looked beautiful" and nothing horrendous written. But please take it as a bit of topspin. I'm not sort of breaking and entering into churches.
Q. If it's not something that you've done personally more than once, is it something that happens frequently on tabloids?
A. I think if you have a deal where the celebrity couple have sold their wedding to one publication, it's certainly true to say that another publication would attempt to get the story, as I've said before. MR BARR Sir, I estimate I have between five and ten minutes more to go. Would you like to indulge me or would you like to come back? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm really in Ms Marshall's hands, because she's been at it now for an hour and a half. I'm in your hands.
A. Can we finish? I mean, how long have you got to go? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON He's talking about five, ten minutes.
A. That's fine. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We'll carry on. MR BARR The next topic you raise is funerals. You say: "Mind you, other hacks would take it further. Crump gatecrashed a funeral once for a story, then made the mistake of leaving his mobile phone in the crematorium." To your knowledge, were funerals attended by tabloid reporters trying to get a story?
A. You would go down if a funeral of a public figure was taking place, then journalists would go and attend it. This is an anecdotal tale. I've no idea whether it's actually true. Somebody told me they'd left a mobile phone in a crematorium and he'd gone to get it and got stuck in the next funeral service. I don't think people would actually gatecrash into funerals. There is a line a moral line to be drawn there and I certainly don't know of people trying to crash into ceremonies.
Q. You describe what you call a sneaky trick when recording interviews, having a very visible recorder, perhaps on a table or something like that, and then another one hidden away perhaps in a bag and then leaving the room, conspicuously turning off the first tape recorder in order to try and get unguarded comments captured on the hidden recorder. Was that a tactic that you used?
A. What happened once was I was actually doing an interview and I left the room for five minutes and my tape recorder was left running and when I came back to transcribe it at a later date, I did realise that they had said a rather brilliant story. So I've dramatised it and made it look like it's something I did all the time, probably to try and make myself look like a rock star. It was a happy coincidence and a happy story that I was happy to find on a tape.
Q. Was it a tactic you ever discussed with other reporters?
A. No. This was actually back in the 1990s. I thought it might be quite a good tactic to use, and that's why I've put it in the book.
Q. Over the page at 254, you talk about blaggers and you say that newspapers used fixers, blaggers. There were people you could call: "One source was christened Benjy the binman because he regularly rifled through the rubbish of the rich, famous and infamous." You say that there was a freelancer who was able to pull people's medical records. The rumour was that he posed as a GP. "The same guy had shadowy contacts within mobile phone firms who could hand over phone records for anyone you wanted." Is it right, to your knowledge, that there were people who could be approached I'm not saying you did to obtain medical records?
A. I'd very much like to state that I didn't, but I know that it was a practice that did happen in the industry.
Q. Mobile phone details?
A. Again, it is not something I've ever engaged in, but yes, I know it is something that happened in the industry.
Q. Could you, not you personally but as a tabloid journalist, approach a blagger to the obtain perhaps an ex-directory phone number?
A. You would be able to ring a private investigator, but ex-directory numbers actually could be obtained perfectly legally, and I believe that the private investigator that's used by the paper actually had a raft of old telephone directories and that was one of the methods that's used to obtain an ex-directory number.
Q. Could a tabloid journalist obtain a friends and family number using a blagger?
A. I'm not sure. Possibly. Probably.
Q. Vehicle details?
A. Again, I wouldn't know who to call, but possibly, probably.
Q. You then describe phone hacking for voicemails and you say, at the bottom of 254: "Oddly, although not one single journalist in the UK will ever admit to getting stories by this method and everyone agrees it's a terrible, immoral thing to do, every journalist who has ever worked on any tabloid will know exactly how to do it and which codes you use. Incidentally, if you want to stop journalists hacking it, you simply set up a four-digit PIN number." If I skip to the next paragraph: "It wasn't just the royals who were targeted. One international megastar got so fed up with her phone being hacked into by journalists that she ended up leaving a voicemail which ended: 'And will you bloody journalists stop hacking into my fucking voice messages.' I heard it playing into the air one morning as I arrived at the office." Could I ask you first of all: was it, as you say, common knowledge how to hack a phone?
A. Yes, certainly at the time I wrote this book a man had gone to jail and there had been wide coverage. You only had to read the newspaper to know what a four digit PIN number was.
Q. Was it common knowledge before that time?
A. I'd say it was rumours.
Q. In relation to the international megastar, is it true that the international megastar left a voicemail ending in the terms that you've described in your book?
A. I'm afraid that's a little bit of topspin. What actually happened was that a journalist who is now deceased did tell me that that was the voice message that was left on somebody's phone. It's simply at the point of the book I just put it into the office. I moved the location. That doesn't prove he was hacking into a phone; it just proved that he'd listened to an answering machine message. I didn't have the person's number. I haven't rung it. I haven't actually heard the message play.
Q. You say that you heard it playing into the air one morning "as I arrived at the office".
A. Yeah.
Q. Did you?
A. No, I didn't. I was told about the message. It became a better narrative to put it in the book that way.
Q. If I can just take you to the back cover of your book, where, in the paragraph which is the third one down, it says: "In her hilariously honest memoirs, she reveals what really goes on behind the scenes at a major tabloid newspaper."
A. Yes.
Q. There attesting to the honesty of the contents.
A. It is a dramatisation. It is heightened reality. I'm telling a good tale about a good tale.
Q. Is it really the case that you didn't hear this message being played?
A. I genuinely and I am on oath I have not heard that message being played. But I was told about it in anecdotal evidence by a journalist, I thought it was funny, therefore I put it in the book. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You've told stories in the book. I see that, and I've heard your explanation for how they come to be in the book. But the part of the book that you've just been taken to at 254 isn't a story at all. It's an assertion: "Oddly, although not one single journalist in the UK will ever admit to getting stories by this method and everyone agrees it's a terrible, immoral thing to do, every journalist who's ever worked on any tabloid will know exactly how to do it and which codes it would use."
A. Yes, that doesn't prove that they did it. Knowing how to do something is not proof that you did it and actually sorry. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But pause. The question is this: is that right? every journalist who's ever worked on a tabloid [you worked on lots of tabloids over many years] will know exactly how to do it and which codes you use."
A. I think it would be unfair to say the earlier papers I worked on I would say that because we didn't even have mobile phones back then, but certainly any journalist who's read any newspaper at the time this book is written, a man has gone to jail. This has all been written. It's all in the public domain. Actually, there's a second method of hacking that I hadn't known about that I only heard about when I heard the opening remarks of this Inquiry. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But you see, what troubles me about it is that what you're saying in this sentence isn't just a story; it's making an assertion about your business. It isn't just saying they know about it because they've read about it in the newspapers because somebody's gone to jail. It's not saying that at all, is it?
A. It's saying that every journalist who's ever worked on any tabloid will know exactly how to do it and which codes you use. That's not saying that they all did it. It's just saying they knew how to do it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, it isn't saying they all did it; I entirely agree. But is it your evidence, based upon your experience, that that statement is accurate?
A. I haven't interviewed every single journalist out there LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, Ms Marshall, of course you haven't interviewed every single journalist. You're giving us the benefit of your experience as a journalist within the industry and I'm not suggesting that you mean every single journalist, but the thrust of the remark is that people generally knew about this stuff and they knew how to do it.
A. People I would say people knew about phone hacking. I'm being very careful not to say that people did it, but I think you only had to pick up a newspaper to know how to do it. It's out there in the public domain. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I see. So would it be right to say that you're not saying that every journalist knows what codes you use?
A. I think it was actually in all the articles at the time. You have to remember I've written this after a man has gone to jail. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, I know.
A. That's been fairly widely reported. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I know. MR BARR Two more questions.
A. Okay.
Q. Bottom of 255, you say: "Fleet Street has cleaned up its act a lot but I don't think it will ever totally let go of its bad ways. Hacks are pushed by deadlines, pushed to fill the paper, pressured as they face a relentless daily push to deliver, whilst all the time being challenged by younger, cheaper shifters coming up through the ranks who are desperate to steal their jobs. On newspapers you not only compete against the rest of Fleet Street, but bosses would frequently put a desperate young journalist and an older staffer on the same story and set them in competition against each other. Add to that the constant threat of redundancy as circulations fall and staffing levels decease each year so newspapers can survive. No excuse for the old dark arts, as we used to call them, but as it gets harder and harder to survive, it perhaps goes some way to explaining why these practices persist." Does that reflection on the state of tabloid ethics and the pressures on tabloid journalists is that something that you stand by?
A. I do. And also the paragraph following that, saying: "There are many amazing journalists on many amazing papers, but across all titles are a sprinkling of chancers and risk-takers, those that go outside the boundaries of what's quite morally right." At the time I've written this book, I haven't been aware of some of the instances brought before us so I'm trying to explain what they did. What I didn't know is the things they've been confused of doing during this Inquiry. I wouldn't have been quite so understanding of what they're doing. But the point I'm trying to make is there are many amazing journalists out there. This isn't the entire industry. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Ms Marshall, that's a very, very fair point, and I think I've said on more than one occasion that although we're focusing on customs, practices and ethics of which legitimate complaint can be made, there is much about journalism at the broadsheet, tabloid and mid-market end that is truly laudable, and that's entirely fair and it has to be put into context. But it doesn't take away from the concerns that have to be addressed.
A. Absolutely, and I think what this whole exercise has done is actually made certainly myself you know, having your whole working life held to account and go through it, it has made the industry perhaps stop and think, and I think it's something that the industry welcomes, because the vast majority of journalists out there do want to operate in an ethical and legal way. MR BARR My final question and I should preface it by saying I quite accept the good and the bad. This is a question about the bad.
A. Okay.
Q. It's based on the line that you finish your book with. Page 271. It's a maxim. You're using it in the context of an aspect of your private life and I'm not interested in that. What I'm interested in is the maxim. You conclude your book with the maxim: "Fuck the facts and just file." Was there a section of the tabloid press that had adhered to that maxim?
A. No, I don't think it's fair so say "a section". I think it's fair to say that it's a handful of individuals. You're taking that quote a little out of context, because there is 80,000 words before that that explain it and as you say, I'm making a joke about my personal life and a text that I've sent, but I don't think it's fair to say that that is the maxim that the entire tabloid industry works by.
Q. My question was: was there a section of the tabloid
A. I have always believed it is a few individuals. Bad apples. MR BARR Thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. Thank you. Thank you very much indeed. Thank you. We'll say 2.15. (1.14 pm)


Gave a statement at the hearing on 20 December 2011 (AM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence
Gave statements at the hearings on 13 December 2011 (AM) 13 December 2011 (PM) and 20 December 2011 (AM) ; and submitted 38 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 20 December 2011 (AM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence


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