Afternoon Hearing on 09 January 2012

Dominic Mohan and Justin Walford gave statements at this hearing

Hearing Transcript

(2.05 pm) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Before we start this afternoon, could I just say something that I meant to say this morning? I'm grateful to those core participants who have prepared skeleton arguments of the evidence, or skeleton positions of the evidence, which I found particularly useful. If I'm going to single out one for specific mention, I do single out the summary of evidence which you've provided, Mr Rhodri Davies, which I've found extremely valuable. It's obviously been a lot of work and I'm very grateful to all those who have taken part in it. MR JAY Sir, may I call Justin Walford, who is under tab 5 in your bundle. JUSTIN HUGH WALFORD (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Make yourself comfortable, Mr Walford. First of all, your full name?
A. Justin Hugh Walford.
Q. Under tab 56 the second file, you'll find your witness statement or a copy of it, dated 14 October of last year; is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. You've given a statement of truth and your signature and the date?
A. Yes.
Q. In terms of your current position, you are currently the editorial legal counsel at News Group Newspaper Limited, which publishes the Sun and of course previously and formerly the News of the World, and you are effectively now the legal manager of the Sun; is that correct?
A. It's not strictly correct, because in fact once Tom Crone had left, we had a new legal director came in called Simon Toms and a new lawyer joined me, Ben Beabey, and we are technically at the same status. We both report to Simon Toms.
Q. Thank you. You were and you still are a barrister. You were called to the bar in 1981. You practised at libel chambers and in 1985 you joined the Express and you moved on to NGN in 2005. If it's not an unfair question to ask and tell me if it is is there a difference in culture, in general terms, between the Express Newspapers at the time you were there and then News International?
A. Yes, I think there is a small difference. I think that what was said about Premiership teams I think all national newspapers are probably Premiership teams. I do think at the Sun, sir, that there is very definitely a culture that they are there to be the best, to get good stories in to really entertain and hit the market, and I think there is that desire there. Perhaps I'm not a football-mad person, but perhaps the analogy with Manchester United is fair, to be at the to be top, if you like, and I think that is there and that is something which runs throughout the newspaper. That's not in any way to put down 20 wonderful years at Express Newspapers, but I think there is a very tiny difference, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I wonder whether I could divide Mr Jay's question into two. The 20 years that you worked at the Express, '85 to '05, covers an enormous span of time.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It covers the death of the Princess of Wales and many other quite important national events. Did you see a change in the way in which the work was addressed at the Express over that 20-year period?
A. Yes, sir, I did. I think that there has been, at Express and indeed I think probably throughout Fleet Street, a much more professional approach to matters. I felt as a lawyer that perhaps 20, 25 years ago, one's influence perhaps couldn't be was not so important, or was not thought to be so important. I do think now there's been a change. I do think that and that happened while I was at Express Newspapers. I think there was a much more of a realisation that matters needed really to be properly sourced, properly checked before they went in. I'm not trying to suggest for one minute, sir, that there was a Wild We. There wasn't. But I am trying to suggest that my honest view is that over the years there has been more of a professionalism in the way LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So "if it sounds right, lob it in", is that Wild West?
A. When I was at the bar, I used to libel-read at the Sun twice a week with Kelvin, and so I saw the lobbing. Things have changed very, very radically from that period of time. It was a very exciting time to be a lawyer, going in and watching that happened, but things are very, very different now, and in fact I think towards the end of Kelvin's editorship I suspect things were very, very different by the end and I think this morning he accepted that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Is this a developing pattern that's still going on or is it really just a couple of sea changes?
A. There have been a couple of sea changes, one of which is obviously the law of privacy, which is massive. It's a several oceans change. But it is still developing. I think the fact that this Inquiry is going on, what happened to the News of the World one can see, I think, everywhere, the people I deal with and work with, you can see that's made a deep impression on them. I think they are taking on board that there have been some massive seismic changes in Fleet Street, and I think so at the moment I would say I think there is still a development of that, it is still going on, of people analysing even more deeply about making decisions about stories. So I think there is almost an added emphasis all the time that's been growing in my period in Fleet Street. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Your indication of a graph going gently upwards, I'm afraid, causes me to interrupt Mr Jay for a little bit longer. Is it a gentle movement upwards or is it up a bit when there's a problem and then slowly reverting a bit, then up a bit when there's a problem and slowly reverting, and now, if one takes the events of the last six months, up quite a bit, because of the reasons you've identified although the consideration that some people are horrified about what I might do causes me some concern but then a risk there will just be a slip. You can't comment on the future, but you maybe can comment on the past, and you walked into this by giving me a gentle graph.
A. Yes, I blame myself. Yes, sir, I think the graph was wrong and you picked it up. I think it is a series of jumps. I'm not sure that it slips back so much I've not felt that but it does go up in a series of jumps. I think that is true. One of the jumps being, for example, the Naomi Campbell case, which caused, when that went to the House of Lords, an enormous change with regard to practice. But even that took some time to work its way through into newspaper practice, and the difference when I first joined News Group in 2005 in the approach to privacy matters to now has been you know, there is a difference, and I think there's much more consideration of privacy than there was even then, and that was two, three years after the House of Lords case. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Sorry, Mr Jay. MR JAY A couple more general questions. The Inquiry has focused to some large extent on the issue of celebrity and privacy issues which are related to that. In terms of the percentage of your work day to day in the Sun, is most of your work tied in with celebrity issues or would that give the wrong picture?
A. I think it would give slightly the wrong picture, but it's certainly true that celebrity issues do play a major part in the work that I do day to day, but there's plenty of new stories that need legalling. So day to day I mean, there might be eight or ten stories a day that might need legalling, and perhaps one or two, three of them possibly, celebrity stories. It would depend very much on the particular news schedule that day. But there is a percentage of it that certainly is celebrity, but it's not everything, sir, no.
Q. You mentioned privacy
A. Yes.
Q. and the Naomi Campbell case, but there are other cases, of course, which have built up the privacy jurisprudence in particular following the incorporation of Article 8 into domestic law through the Human Rights Act. In your own words, what has been the impact of that, following particular 2 October 2000?
A. Well, as I mentioned, I think that the real impact was felt after the Naomi Campbell judgment in the House of Lords. I think that really did start to make an impact, and the impact was, I think, primarily because before that, my recollection is that there were not a huge amount of privacy complaints. The period of time from sort of 2000, 2002, 2003, there were not a huge number of complaints. And, of course, as I remember I think I'm right on this, sir the Court of Appeal actually overturned the original judgment in that, so that there was a sort of slight if you like, it went down slightly at that stage. But certainly the claimant's solicitors picked up the baton very, very definitely after that judgment and I think there was a gradual sort of a wheel beginning to turn faster and faster as privacy became more and more important.
Q. Thank you. May I address now how you are engaged in relation to the giving of advice? You probably cover this in paragraph 16.
A. Right.
Q. Obviously the editor or the deputy editor can ask you for advice directly, presumably if the issue appears to them to be important enough; is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. But is this also right: that through the system of libel reading, which obviously occurs at the coalface through more junior people, if particular problems arise, they come to you for a second opinion or final view; is that correct?
A. Yes. There is a system, basically and I hope I've set it out here, sir you can see the paper is libel-read. The paper will be looked through by a lawyer and various stories will be put into the legal in-basket and will be amended and pushed back, and on the vast majority of stories if the lawyer makes some marks, there's not going to be a huge discussion about it. My role would come in very much more each evening, I would try and go to the back bench, possibly see the editor at about 6 o'clock and just find out what's in tomorrow's paper, are there any issues. Sometimes a news editor might come and speak to me or a journalist might contact me during the course of the day, the afternoon in particular, perhaps, and I would get involved there, but I would try each evening that I'm in work, I try to find out what's in the next day's paper, if there are any major legal issues, deal with those. It's not a matter of dealing with every one, no, but dealing with the major legal issues. I have always felt that an editor expects an in-house lawyer to deal with any major issue if they're there. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Would it be right that all you're doing I say "all" what you are doing is providing a risk assessment from which the editor will make a decision? Is he prepared to take it or not?
A. I think that's absolutely right, sir. I don't and I suspect this is true of my colleagues on other newspapers see myself as having an editorial role. It's a very exciting place to be working in. It's very creative, immensely pressured just in that hour or two while the paper is going to bed. There's a huge amount of work to get done. That is very exciting, it's very challenging, but I don't I see that but I don't feel I partake in it in the sense of having any creative input. Very often the editor, or whoever's editing the paper, will ask about a headline or ask about use of a photograph or whatever, but it's not my decision. I don't believe the lawyer I try and approach it in the same way as if we instructed counsel and asked counsel to give direct advice on this story or that photograph. I try to give the same. Counsel will give advice and the editor can accept that advice or not accept that advice. That is being brutal about it, that's what the editor is there, paid for to do. I'm there, paid for, to get the advice to him clearly, under time pressure, but also, once the editor has made the decision, then to assist in every way I can to get that decision so that in accordance with the editor's instructions. If the editor says that he wants to take my advice, then to try and make certain that the final copy meets the instructions that I've got from the editor. So that's when the libel reading comes in, and obviously we're there to discuss any issues of public interest or whatever that arise. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm sorry, Mr Jay. To what extent and just give us a flavour is that advice accepted or rejected? Give us some sort of feel.
A. Most, nearly all the time, the advice will be accepted. I don't actually believe that there's any in-house lawyer can last at a newspaper group unless the relationship is such that advice is being given and advice is being accepted. The relationship you have to have a trust there. Having said that, there will be occasions when an editor decides that he or she and it happened all throughout my career nevertheless wants to press ahead with the story and that is a matter for them, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON They take the risk.
A. To put it bluntly, yes. But I hope it's not a risk in terms of sort of deliberately breaching court orders or anything like that, or publishing pictures of people who are rape victims or anything like that. It's very often a matter of you know, particularly with privacy stories, for example, you have two I hope this is all right for me to say. There are two stages in the process. The first issue is: is there an Article 8 right? And then: is there an Article 10 public interest? But as the Naomi Campbell case shows, that can be a very dry academic issue. If you go and say: how do you actually write an article and get it into the newspaper? What you have then is a question of: what about the headlines, what about this picture, that picture, what about this piece of information? So you're not just the editor's not just making a decision about the story as a whole, whether there's a public interest in the story or whether there's not; the editor's also making a decision about particular paragraphs, particularly pieces of information. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Whether to put a photograph in, to take the example of the case.
A. A classic example. Had the decision been taken not to put the photograph in and as I think in one of the courts, at any rate, it was raised: why not use a sort of you know, just an ordinary picture of her and not outside her front door? We don't know. But my reading of the House of Lords judgment is it might have gone a different way. It was only 3-2 anyway. It might have gone a different way. So there's one decision on the picture, possibly have a huge impact on the legality of that story. So when I think when newspaper lawyers talk about working at the coalface, I think what they mean is it's not an academic issue of whether it's a breach of privacy; it's about words, pictures, headlines. With libel as well, one of the things that tabloids are not only brilliantly written; they're brilliantly presented and set out. The headlines hit you. If you look at the tabloid stories that have been presented to you and you're looking through those, I'm sure you will see straight away the impact it makes. They're very professionally produced on the impact, so that again, if you just look at a story by itself and look at it and say, well, is it balanced and does it have "alleged" in it or whatever, you can very easily come to the conclusion it's not the same as how it would appear in the paper. When it appears in the paper with a big banner headline and big bold letters and pictures, it sort of has an extra life of its own, and I think that's something, again, that one who is working at the coalface has to be aware of. MR JAY Thank you. You touch on these matters in paragraph 23. You have very helpfully elaborated upon them. At paragraph 27, you deal with what your main responsibilities as editorial legal adviser are. I've been asked to ask you just to slow down a bit.
A. I'm so sorry, my fault.
Q. There's no need to apologise. Everything you are saying is being transcribed. Try and watch the lady over there LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I wouldn't try and watch her if I were you. It's my fault. I was just taken up with the discussion.
A. I'm obviously interested and passionate about it, and I'm sorry to get carried away. Yes. MR JAY The categories of your responsibilities: there's libel reading, dealing with prepublication threats.
A. Yes.
Q. Can I just touch on one matter, though: pre-notification.
A. Yes.
Q. Which we've discussed in detail, in particular Mr Mosley's case.
A. Yes.
Q. How often now does the did the Sun newspaper, in particular and you have direct knowledge of it notify people that they are about to be the subject or target of a particular story?
A. Well, the stories that I'm involved in, a large part of the time, a very, very substantial part of the time. My own feeling as a lawyer is that it is wholly it's absolutely correct journalism to go to the other side, and a large number of libel problems can be avoided if you go to the other side and you give them a chance to come back and explain the position carefully, and my experience has been that that does make a difference. So I think in the large majority of cases, that happens, and my position on privacy would be that I would always like to I always like to advise on what the issues are with regard to prior notification. I always like to know what an editor is going to do, because if an editor decides that prior notification will go ahead, I would regard it as my duty to instruct counsel or solicitors in case there was an injunction, because we don't want an injunction would take place very, very quickly indeed, can take place in 20, 25 minutes you can be summoned down to the High Court and in such instance, I want to be ahead of the game. I want to have counsel with electronic files or whatever, so I can try and meet that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So the point you're making is: first of all, in by far the great majority of cases, you would pre-notify anyway?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But even then, there would only be a small number where you'd fear that pre-notification might lead to an injunction or for every one?
A. No, it would be a small number, because I think a large amount of the pre-notification is probably on matters that are not private. There would be points of facts to check, and that's quite right. But where there is a privacy issue and advice has been taken on what on pre-notification, I would want to know as soon as possible so I can be prepare for it, particularly if it was, you know, late, where we were going to get a duty judge, because the perception is whether it's right or wrong is another matter. There's always a feeling that it's easy to sort of carry it over the next day and then it delays to two days to return date or whatever. So I want to be in a position where I have counsel there who can put everything they can in front of the judge at the earliest stage to prevent it being sent over. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm sorry, I'm going to go down a siding.
A. Yes, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Is this a problem? You talk about a duty judge who isn't necessarily a specialist media lawyer.
A. As a matter of fact, I personally have not found it a problem. We had, last year on the Sun, quite a number of injunctions where we did pre-notify. They were privacy injunctions and I don't have any complaint about the judges we went in front we were put in front of judges very quickly, but no. I'm talking about a perception, I think, editorially, that you don't get you might, with a duty judge, have somebody who tends to pass it over to the next day. It's not been my experience. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I don't want you to be defensive about it.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I have a judicial job to go back to, and therefore I'm actually quite interested, as you raise it, in your perception of the way in which the courts respond to these things.
A. I suppose it always depends upon what material on the privacy case is put in front of the judge at what stage. Every case is different. Every case is going to be an intense focus on the facts. I personally don't have a complaint about the duty judge system, no, sir. MR JAY Can I just ask you a question which looks at the other side of the coin: it might be said that there are situations where there is a public interest in not pre-notifying the subject or the target. Are you able to assist the Inquiry with any concrete examples of that, or perhaps if you're not, give your opinion as to whether there is ever a public interest in not pre-notifying?
A. I'm so sorry, sir. Off the top of my head, I can't put an example to you. I suppose that it's possible that there could be examples of such a public interest. I think it's undoubtedly true that with regard to perhaps some celebrities, there is a perception, again and I don't know because I'm getting it hearsay, second-hand, if you like that some agents will not respond or will put the story around to kill your story; in other words, that if you go to a celebrity agent early, what will happen is the story will then be leaked to the other newspapers in a more favourable manner, and that certainly is a perception. Whether that amounts to I don't think that amounts to a public interest in not going to them, but it may amount to a reason why not to go to them.
Q. Thank you. I'm not going to cover all the matters in your statement, Mr Walford.
A. Right.
Q. We, of course, have read the statement carefully. But I do have a point on paragraph 27 (viii), which is on page 07933. From time to time, you are asked to advise on conduct and you give one example. How often does that happen, that you're asked to give ethical advice in concrete situations?
A. Of course, the example here, sir, would be not simply an ethical point; it would be a legal point. We would have to be extremely careful about a journalist purchasing drugs. We did a story towards the end of last year, an expose when a journalist purchased drugs I think exactly on the point, actually and I think that person subsequently has been prosecuted. Not the journalist, but the person who the drugs were purchased from.
Q. You pick this up again, I think, in paragraph 29, (i), where you deal with exposing those who use or supply drugs. You state: "Subterfuge may be used and drugs purchased by or on behalf of the journalist, which raises certain legal issues." I suppose one of the issues is that possession of illegal drugs, for whatever reason or purpose, is in itself, by definition, illegal?
A. Yes.
Q. How do you avoid that obvious point, as it were?
A. Well, in such circumstances, I'm insistent that the journalist goes straight from the purchasing of the drugs and obviously they don't know at that stage whether they've purchased the drugs to a testing house I like it to be done straight away and the drugs are left at the testing house. I think for prosecuting purposes, the drugs are not destroyed, obviously, so that if later a prosecution needs to take place, it can do. I also make clear that if the police come to us, we must be in a position to be able to co-operate fully with the police, and so we are acting as responsibly as we can in that.
Q. Have you had situations and we're talking generally now where the method of subterfuge used or about to be used is not illegal but it may be unethical and therefore you have to weigh up that fact against the public interest in the ultimate story? Do you encounter that?
A. I'm sure I must, sir, but I can't think of an example straight off.
Q. But in general terms, how is the balancing exercise conducted in such a situation?
A. I think that if it were an ethical issue rather than a legal issue, I think that would probably be something that the editor and the managing editor might look at, the ethical matter, whether that came under the PCC code. I would hope that I would have an input into it, but it would not be my ultimate decision. If there was a legal element to it, then I think I would want to have an input into that.
Q. By legal, illegal, you mean contrary to the criminal law; is that right?
A. Well, if it was contrary to the civil law as well. If it was going to be a breach of confidence or whatever, that would be a matter that I think the lawyer would advise on, yes, sir.
Q. Although you make a distinction between that, which involves intellectual property rights, and privacy and libel, where you made it clear the ultimate decision is the editor's; is that right?
A. I'm so sorry if I've given the impression in any way that the ultimate decision on anything is mine. It's not. The ultimate decision on anything going into the paper or anything done by people in the newspaper is going to be for editorial. I'm so sorry. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, you've been quite clear. You provide the risk and they make the decision.
A. Absolutely, sir. But obviously LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And carry the responsibility for it.
A. Yes. With regard to criminal matters, obviously the editor is going to come and say, "I want this handled entirely by the lawyers and I expect it to be done in such a way that the journalist is not arrested", and that's why I would have an input directly onto it. MR JAY Thank you. May I ask you a question about paragraph 33.
A. Yes.
Q. Here you're on the issue of training.
A. Yes.
Q. You point out that: "From time to time the company organises, through its managing editors, training for journalists, often in conjunction with PCC. Following the Goodman case, training of the News of the World was arranged on legal issues as well as by the PCC." Presumably, though, that training covered the Sun as well, did it not, Mr Walford?
A. No. That was training specifically onto the News of the World with regard to issues, so it was organised and run by the managing editor of the News of the World. The Sun's training has been organised through the managing editor's department, and that has very largely been on the PCC code, and with the assistance of the PCC. I think that, looking back, there was more we should have done with regard to training over the years, and I think that I think there was a great deal of emphasis on the PCC and the PCC code. I don't think there was probably, in hindsight, sufficient emphasis put on legal matters. There was some, but I think the situation now has much improved. We have a great deal more legal training, so that is has been corrected, but I think, looking back, it was something that perhaps should have been better.
Q. Did you hear rumours, at about the time of the Goodman case or thereafter, that phone hacking wasn't limited to the News of the World but might have encompassed the Sun?
A. People I didn't hear rumours, but people speculated and wondered whether that had happened. I was very concerned that it should not have happened, and I did speak to people and ask people who I thought might know, and ask and say, "Had it happened?" and I was assured that it hadn't, and I can say on oath to you that I've never seen anything in the Sun which has made me think that it has been happening, and if it has, then I would be very surprised and very shocked. But I have no reason to believe that it has, sir.
Q. You told us that you spoke to people I'm not going to ask you who they were, but people who would or ought to have known, and they gave you assurances to the effect that these practices had not taken place?
A. Yes.
Q. Thank you. Can I ask you a general question. I'm moving now to paragraph 51, Mr Walford. This is vetting of sources.
A. Yes.
Q. Responsibility there doesn't lie with you, of course, but with the editorial team, but what input, if any, do you have in seeing whether or not sources have been checked or the story otherwise stood up?
A. If the system works properly, the lawyer, be it me or the night lawyer, will have an input onto that. The concentration is not so much where the original source comes from. That's partly that with regard, for example, to libel. Talking about working at the coalface, one's primary concern is: what material is there on the record to prove whatever the meanings are in that story? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, because a source that is undisclosed and will not be disclosed has little evidential value.
A. Absolutely right, sir. That's absolutely right. So my concentration is always going to be on what material there is on the record that I can rely on to prove this meaning. I make an assessment on what I think the meaning is and I then say, "What material is there to prove this meaning?" and if there isn't the material there, then I say, "Is it sensible to publish this meaning?" MR JAY In relation to each sort of case you're looking at, do you keep a file or a written record which records (a) your assessment of the case, and (b) the underlying evidence that it exists?
A. No. At no time in my career have I made notes about the legal advice that I've given each night. I only I don't think it would really be possible. There's so much material that comes in. There's so much work. One remembers that the system itself does have legal marks written on it because the leg-in basket will have legal marks on it, so there is a record on most of them somewhere, but no LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What you say "legal marks", just explain what you mean by that, would you?
A. Having discussed the case with an editor or news editor or whatever, one would then the hard a copy is put into the machine and one then simply types out "delete this" or "add that" or a note to the subeditor: "For Pete's sake, don't do X." LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Oh, I see.
A. Or very often, one puts certain paragraphs and one says, "These are legal musts", or one says at the top of the copy: "For goodness sake, balance this out", or: "Don't just run Invariably the copy is much longer than the story that appears, and what you don't want is the other side of the person's right down at the bottom just gets lost or cut out. It's not deliberate but it happens, and it's things like that that those are the legal marks that would be made, sir. MR JAY This is my final question, and I suspect I know the answer to it: when it comes to an editorial assessment of either libel risk or privacy and in privacy cases we're weighing up two Convention rights or public interest against private interest, or however you put it is there a document or audit trail which one could look at after the event which could demonstrate how the risk has been assessed or where the public/private interest balance as fallen?
A. No, there isn't. These are decisions that are and debates that take place from sort of 6 o'clock to 7 o'clock to 8 o'clock, standing at the back bench of the newspaper and looking at copy, looking at proposed headlines and things. There is no record of those. To a certain degree, you have to rely on trust that everyone afterwards, if a problem arose, would remember it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON For the biggest stories, that may be rather difficult, mightn't it? I mean in the sense that in one sense you're remembering something, but you may have heard during the course of the day people have said, "Oh, well, this is X years ago. How could I possibly remember this conversation or that detail?" Yet it actually might be quite important to demonstrate that proper consideration was given to the public interest if there is a subsequent challenge.
A. Yes, I take that point on board, and I think the PCC code has recently changed with regard to matters on that, and I think it may be something we have to look at and consider. I'm just aware of the practicalities of it, and articles that are published afterwards, you tend to have complaints relatively quickly, sir. Obviously there's a one-year limitation with libel, so matters tend to escalate fairly quickly, so it's normally possible to find out LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The trouble with that is ex post facto rationalisation. You do something, you then get a complaint and you think, "My God, I've got this complaint, so why did I decide this?" So then you run through a whole range of reasons why you might possibly have reached the conclusions you actually reached, but it's all rather ex post facto.
A. I think it's called honest opinion now rather than fair comment, but I recognise that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MR JAY I think you're saying, Mr Walford, that given how busy you are, in practical terms it's very difficult to achieve such a gold standard unless you had someone assisting you taking a note, or someone assisting the editor taking a note, so that decisions could be contemporaneously recorded; is that right?
A. I think that's probably LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Or there has to be some sort of system which doesn't presently exist?
A. As I've mentioned, there is the leg-in basket, but otherwise, the system, no. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But, of course, your legal marks will be privileged?
A. They will be. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So nobody will see those at all unless privilege is waived. It's actually to try to get to it's to try to encourage the decisions to be made in the right order.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I appreciate editors will think: "Well, this is what a lawyer would say, isn't it?" You know: "I'm too busy trying to produce a newspaper which is interesting, which is on top of the facts and all the rest of it, without worrying about what's going to happen later." But the question is: how we do develop a system that is fair both to the press, which I recognise is critical, but also to everybody else?
A. Mm. I can see the problem. I think there is a practical problem there behind it, but practical problems can be overcome and it may be they need to be, but it's certainly it's not something I'm afraid I've given sufficient thought to. I will do. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Then you're encouraging me to ask the question this is the second time you've done it. If you will do and you do have any thoughts, then I'd be very interested to hear them.
A. Yes, I will. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR JAY Thank you. Those are all the questions I have for Mr Walford. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much. MR JAY Sir, would you be prepared to break now for fifteen minutes so I can have a short discussion with the next witness? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, certainly. MR JAY Thank you. (2.47 pm) (A short break) (3.12 pm) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MR JAY Our next and last witness for today is Mr Dominic Mohan, please. MR DOMINIC JAMES MOHAN (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Sit down please and make yourself comfortable. Your full name, please?
A. Dominic James Mohan. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Mohan is the first of the editors who allowed me to enter his newsroom before the Inquiry started, so I'm publicly happy to thank him for the courtesy which he and his staff showed me when I came. Thank you. MR JAY Mr Mohan, your statement, appropriately, is under tab 1 in file 2. It again is dated 14 October 2011.
A. Yes.
Q. There is a statement of truth at the end. You've signed it and dated it, and is this your formal evidence to the Inquiry?
A. It is.
Q. The position, Mr Mohan, is that you've been editor of the Sun for two years and four months, since August 2009; is that right?
A. Correct.
Q. Before then you worked at a number of papers. You've been at the Sun since 1996; is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. Like some of your predecessors, you have been editor of Bizarre, which we know is the showbiz column. You held that post until 2003, I think, and then you worked up through features, deputy editor in 2007 and in 2009 editor. Is that correct?
A. That is correct.
Q. You make it clear in your statement that ethical conduct for Sun journalists is taken very seriously, including adherence to the code, and the code is now part, I think, of contracts of employment; is that right? It's written into staff contracts, you tell us in paragraph 5.
A. Yes, yes.
Q. Can you tell us a little about the training sessions or seminars in paragraph 7? All journalists are taken through a number of real life PCC complaints and those are discussed as cases which raise public interest against private rights issues; is that right?
A. Yes. They've been in several times and gone through workshops with the staff.
Q. Right. How often is it that there is liaison with the PCC prior to publication of a story?
A. I wouldn't say every day, but perhaps almost every other day. This is done by Fergus Shanahan, the executive editor, and on occasions Richard Caseby, the managing editor. They have good relationships with the PCC and will often speak to them on a very regular basis.
Q. In practical terms, though, why aren't you, as editor, involved in those discussions?
A. I delegate those duties to the executive editor. I think that's fairly normal practice.
Q. Okay.
A. But I do take a close involvement in the discussions and the outcome.
Q. Okay. I'm going to ask you a little bit later about paragraph 8 and a PCC complaint which you deal with. In paragraph 9 you deal with training sessions. I think we can take those as read. There have certainly been recent sessions on the Bribery Act, and you're preparing or you were preparing in October, and presumably these sessions have taken place now sessions on various discrete issues: suicide, HIV Aids and Travellers and gypsies?
A. I believe they're taking place this year.
Q. The answer to this question is no doubt obvious, but what is the purpose of these sessions?
A. Just to remind people of their responsibilities and the accuracy of their reporting. I mean, particularly with Broadmoor, there's been a number of issues with language that's been used to describe patients within the hospital, and we thought it was important to remind people on all parts of the paper their responsibilities and the language that should be used.
Q. The same obviously applies, does it not, to Travellers and gypsies?
A. Yes.
Q. You deal with the role of lawyers in paragraph 10 and we've heard, of course, from Mr Walford, who's told us all about that. Internal policies. This is largely covered in written submissions and in documents we've seen. Can I just touch on paragraph 12. September 2011, a new process for paying cash to sources.
A. (Nods head)
Q. Can you tell us, please, why there was thought to be a need to bring in a new system in September 2011?
A. We just thought it would be sensible and to show good governance by tightening up the procedure in light of what happened at the News of the World.
Q. The procedure now involves four signatures; is that correct?
A. It does.
Q. Okay, discipline, paragraph 13. You have disciplinary procedures if standards are not met. You've identified one case in 2007. Then in October of 2011, a member of your online staff was sent a warning letter about publishing the wrong verdict in the Amanda Knox appeal against her convictions on the Sun's website. A point was made about this in relation to the Daily Mail you may not have seen this in evidence that they had two versions of the story ready and unfortunately the Italian verdict came out quite late in the evening, as you know, either guilty or not guilty, and the wrong one was put up on the website. Is it the same phenomenon in relation to the Sun or a different one?
A. I think it was a very short version of the story that had been prepared and somebody pressed the button as a result of it flashing up on Sky News, I believe, so I reprimanded the individual concerned and said it was a slip in standards.
Q. Right. This may or may not be unusual. Had two versions of the story been prepared, depending on the outcome?
A. I don't think so. I can't be sure.
Q. But if there weren't two versions, how was it that the guilty verdict version went on the website for a period of time?
A. I'd have to look into the details of that, I'm afraid. I believe it was a very quick snatch of a story. It wasn't a full version. It was like a breaking news, a few paragraphs.
Q. Okay. Can I ask you about subparagraph (6), readers. You say: "The Sun's readers are also a great barometer and I pay close attention to their letters, phone calls and emails." Can you give us a flavour, please, of two things. First of all, in terms of quantity, how many feedback are you getting from your very substantial readership?
A. I would say email-wise probably 2 to 3,000 a week, and phone calls it will depend on the nature of the story, but often I will ask the news editor: "Have we received a lot of calls on this story? Is it creating a lot of interest or criticism, for instance?" And I use that as a soft control to correct myself. I'll give you an example of that, actually. During the riots, I prepared a front page which had a list of individuals who had been arrested in the riots, because the variety of their professions was quite fascinating, I felt, because there was a one of them was a lifeguard and another was a teaching assistant, who I described as a teacher in the headline, and I received a number of complaints the following day from readers who felt it was unfair to describe a teaching assistant as a teacher for the purposes of a headline. So I noted that and won't do it again.
Q. I know it would be very difficult to say, but the balance between favourable comment and criticism/unfavourable comment, are you able in percentage terms to give us a feel or steer on that? It may be too general a question.
A. I wouldn't know. I mean, it would depend on an individual day or an individual front page or story, I would think.
Q. In your experience as editor, have you, on occasion, had experience of stories which have particular stories which have attracted a lot of criticism?
A. As editor or just in my career at the Sun?
Q. Maybe look more widely then. Your career at the Sun, which goes back some period of time now.
A. I seem to remember I wasn't involved in the production of the paper, but we did print a picture of a footballer who died on the pitch and he was lying on the pitch with his eyes open and we received quite a lot of criticism about that, and I've learned from that mistake and wouldn't do it again. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Could I just pick up on that? Am I right in remembering, on actually reading the very short note I have, that Mr McKenzie suggested that you did have a readers' ombudsman who unfortunately died and wasn't replaced because there was no need for him? Was that his evidence? Am I right about that? And is that the position?
A. I think he did say that, but he we did have an ombudsman when I first joined the Sun, but those duties were moved across to the managing editor's office because it was felt that that would be more appropriate and I think that we felt that those duties could be performed by the managing editor. But it wasn't necessity. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Is that what happens now?
A. Yes. It goes to the managing editor or the executive editor. MR JAY Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So you don't have, as some papers have, a readers' editor who is independent of the editorial line?
A. No. Although I was having discussions with my senior executive recently about perhaps appointing an ombudsman, and that's in discussion. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do you see a value in that or I don't want you to disclose commercially sensitive issues, but I'm interested in your I think you are the first serving editor that I've heard from, so I'm afraid you're going to get lots of questions about these issues.
A. I think it could be useful. I think that in terms of some internal self-regulation, it could be useful in dealing with complaints and actually dealing with them we would be the first hurdle to those complaints, rather than perhaps them going to the PCC. I think it could be helpful. MR JAY I think the evidence was that the ombudsman, Mr Donlan, that was his sole activity, as it were, in the five or six years or so that he occupied that position before his death, but now, of course, the position is that the managing editor is acting as readers' editor or ombudsman, and that's amidst a whole range of other responsibilities. That would be right, wouldn't it?
A. Yes, but the managing editor doesn't work in isolation. He has support staff with him and works closely with the executive editor.
Q. Okay. At paragraph 18, you deal with LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm sorry, can I interrupt again? Let me just understand. Editor, managing editor, executive editor. What are their respective roles?
A. Well, the managing editor's office, they will obviously deal with PCC issues and maybe get involved in legal issues. The managing editor was responsible for a lot of putting together a lot of the Bribery Act training, for instance. But he'll also be in control of the budgets, so if we're over budget, he will issue edicts to cut back here, cut back there, et cetera, and also liaise closely with the executive arm of the organisation. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The executive editor?
A. That's Fergus Shanahan. He deals he actually also writes our leader column in the paper, as well as dealing with PCC complaints, so it's a dual role. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And the editor is responsible for what goes in the paper?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Got that. MR JAY In terms of the corporate hierarchy, how many dealings or what are your dealings, if any, with Mr James Murdoch when he was chief executive officer?
A. Yeah, I mean, I see him from time to time, but he doesn't really have a huge involvement in the newspaper on a day-to-day basis at all.
Q. We heard from Mr McKenzie this morning that he had frequent dealings with Mr Rupert Murdoch. Do you?
A. I do, yes.
Q. Could you tell us a little bit about that? First of all, how often, and secondly, about what?
A. It varies. I mean, sometimes he might ring several times a week. Other occasions I may not hear from him for a month or two. But we talk about a variety of issues. He's obviously interested in the stories of the day and he's very you know, he's a journalist at heart and will be very curious to know what I'm going to put on the front page, if I've come up with a good headline, et cetera. I mean, last time I spoke to him, we discussed the John Terry racism issue that was quite a big story in the press at the time and he was interested in that. On other occasions, we might talk about the Sun's digital products the Ipad application he's very interested in and is often annoyed at how long it takes him to download but he'll also take a lot of interest, for instance, in traffic to the Sun's website, et cetera.
Q. Thank you. Does he have any influence over editorial content?
A. No, he's never tried to interfere.
Q. Thank you. Can I move forward to paragraph 18 of your statement, Mr Mohan. You deal with corrections
A. Yes.
Q. in relation to complaints. You say this: "Corrections are never placed further back in the newspaper than the original article except for those connected with page 1 stories, where the correction is published on page 2."
A. I think that's usually the case, yes.
Q. Many people say, and some have said to this Inquiry: "Well, if the original offending article [put in those terms] was on page 1, should not the correction be on page 1?" Would you like to comment on that?
A. I've obviously heard those discussions and there's an example I quote in my statement where I say that there was much discussion about a story that came in about a complaint that had been made about a judge. There'd been an allegation to the office of judicial complaints by a member of the public who claimed that a judge had been drinking during a recess. I was obviously aware of the sensitivities of that story and spoke about it at length to Mr Walford. We chose to run the story on the front page, but then agreed to publish a follow-up story when the verdict in the case had been reached, and he was in fact cleared, so after negotiation via the PCC with the judge, we ran a headline on the front page and a clarifying story on page 2 the following day.
Q. We have the clarifying story, if you look at your exhibit bundle. It's the first page of the exhibit bundle, our page 10674.
A. Sorry, I don't know if I have that.
Q. That should be under tab 2. Do you have it?
A. Oh yes, here's the yes.
Q. "Judge in the clear on booze" is the we can see that's page 2. We don't have the front page reference to that.
A. There was just a small blurb on the front page which said: "Judge is cleared." I think the judge was very happy with the way we dealt with it and I think he asked to pass on his thanks from the PCC.
Q. Okay. So the position was cleared with the judge, as it were?
A. Yes.
Q. Thank you. Can I deal with the issue of private investigators, paragraph 19.
A. Yes.
Q. The position now is that they can no longer be used at News International without the express permission of the chief executive officer. The position in the past, though, was more flexible, I think; is that right, Mr Mohan?
A. Yes. Private investigators have been used in the past without the permission of the chief executive officer, but now there are new controls in place.
Q. Have you in your career at the Sun ever used private investigators?
A. Not to my knowledge, no.
Q. Even to discover ex-directory numbers, for example?
A. I'd make a distinction. I've used search agents in the past, but I wouldn't describe them as private detectives.
Q. Right. And can the search agents be used at News International even now, with or without the express permission of the chief executive officer?
A. Yes, search agents can. There is a distinction. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I've got to be a bit careful about this, because you may remember that Mr Webb reclassified himself from private detective to journalist, apparently without a great deal of difficulty, and then everybody said, "We don't employ private investigators; we only employ journalists." Can we strip that sort of language out? I don't think you said that, but you're not suggesting that you've recast people who did different jobs as journalists so that they don't fall within the
A. No, no. I'm talking about legitimate search agencies who will source legally held databases, birth, death, marriage certificates, electoral roll checks, legal work.
Q. Paragraph 20: "The responsibility for checking sources of information lies firstly with the reporter Then ultimately with you. How often will you know in general terms the nature of the source? In other words, if one is dealing with a celebrity story, for example, whether it's someone chose to the celebrity, whether it's their agent, whether it's the celebrity himself or whether it's a fellow journalist? Will you know in general terms the category in which the source falls?
A. Well, it depends on each individual story and case, but yes, I'll often ask what area a source might have come from, whether that source has been used before and has a good track record, whether it's from a freelance journalist with a good reputation.
Q. Okay. Then you say towards the end of paragraph 20 that if a journalist needs guidance on any ethical matter, they consult their desk head, managing editor, and they consult you. How often does that happen?
A. Consulting with me or with the managing editor?
Q. Well, with the managing editor, who will then consult you, if necessary?
A. Quite often, actually. If we think there's a PCC issue arising or a privacy issue, then often you know, I must say that a lot of my working day is spent having these kind of discussions, because if an issue surfaces in morning news conference, then often we'll come back to it throughout the day and check the ethical, legal position.
Q. Fair enough. Then over the succeeding paragraphs of your statement you deal with sources and tipsters. I think we're going to take those as read, Mr Mohan. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON While you find the next question, let me just follow up on that. You heard me ask Mr Walford some questions about identifying the public interest. If you're coming back to a question because you're thinking about it and I can see the iterative process that that might involve, you ask some more questions, you reach some views is there a problem about providing some sort of audit trail, some sort of piece of paper that deals with your thinking at the time?
A. I think that would be difficult just because of the amount of these discussions that go on. I mean, you'd need a sort of permanent secretary or stenographer or something to actually these discussions are evolving throughout the day LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do all stories carry privacy and PCC implications?
A. It feels like it at the moment. Every at the moment, it feels almost every story has to be considered in terms of the Bribery Act, privacy and of course the PCC, so I mean, there are many, many discussions happening in the white heat of a news operation. MR JAY I move forward to paragraph 29, please, Mr Mohan.
A. 20?
Q. 29, where you say: "As editor I've always been determined to foster a culture of honesty, integrity and high ethical standards at the Sun." How have you tried to foster those qualities?
A. I think just on an editor can their contact on a day-to-day basis with their staff, so whether that be in morning news conference, during my features conferences, during my lunchtime plot meetings or my presence on the back bench in the newsroom on a daily basis, I think people know what I expect of them and know what standards and ethics that I stand by.
Q. It might be said in many organisations the culture of the organisation comes from the top, and in the newspaper that would be from the editor usually. Does that proposition hold good in relation to the Sun, in your opinion, that the culture comes from you?
A. Yes, and the people that I've put around me, my senior team. I feel that we have a similar ethos of what the paper should be and hopefully that also comes across in the pages of the paper itself.
Q. How, if at all, has the culture of the Sun changed, both one is looking at the time since you've been working there, which is now 15 or 16 years, I think, and since you've been editor.
A. I think I've seen it evolve. I mean, there's been great obviously strides in privacy law and other considerations like the Bribery Act, so I've always felt a newspaper is a sort of living, breathing organism that evolves, and actually I think that I've seen mistakes made over the years and I've learnt from those mistakes. I'll give you an example of that. When a story was run pre my editorship about Charlotte Church's pregnancy and she was under 12 weeks, there was a PCC adjudication upheld, and as a result of that adjudication, I've obviously not printed stories about females being under 12 weeks pregnant. I'll give you an example of that. Last year, the Sun had a story about Danny Minogue, the X Factor host, being pregnant. I personally spoke to her representatives. They told me she wasn't yet 12 weeks, so I obviously decided not to run the story, despite its obvious commercial appeal. If a story about Danny Minogue is on the front page of a newspaper, the sales will probably go up. It was run by another newspaper, and they did have a PCC complaint upheld. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do you think they might think it's worth it? Because the 12 weeks thing is quite clear, isn't it? I mean, of all these issues some of them are tremendously difficult and balanced and nuanced, but 12 weeks is comparatively straightforward, isn't it?
A. Sure. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So why would a newspaper publish a story in flagrant breach of that obligation under the code, if being the subject of an adverse finding was so terrible?
A. Well, I can't speak for other newspapers. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, of course you can't.
A. But I've never made a decision to print a story which involves that 12 weeks' scan. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But do you see why I ask the question?
A. Mm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You're not speaking, obviously, for the Sun, because the Sun didn't do it but you've made the point somebody did, and therefore they thought it was worthwhile.
A. I mean, I can only but speculate. I think the attempted justification for that publication was that they felt the news was in the public domain because it had been printed on a website in Australia. But the complaint was not was upheld. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MR JAY I think you told us a moment ago that the publication of such a story in relation to Danny Minogue would increase sales. Is it the position, generally speaking, that if you have a good story, an exclusive story, particularly one which you're able to put on the front page, that that would have a favourable impact on sales?
A. It can do, yes. It can do.
Q. Well, in what circumstances wouldn't it have a favourable impact on sales?
A. Well, I mean, I might misjudge it. I might think that there's a story that might increase sales but it doesn't. And it might surprise people to learn that the biggest-selling story of the past, I think, 12 to 18 months has been not a celebrity story but stories involving the killer of James Bulger.
Q. Yes, but presumably you're looking at circulation figures from day to day to see whether any trends, either up or down, can be demonstrated; is that right?
A. Yes, but I wouldn't let that compromise any ethical decision.
Q. No, I'm not suggesting that it would, Mr Mohan. All I'm seeking is to identify whether there is some sort of correlation between an exclusive story, particularly one which you can place on your front page, and an upward spike in circulation. Is that correlation one which you yourself feel can be demonstrated?
A. Yes. Yes, there'll often be stories that will I mean, for instance, when the X Factor's on TV, a story about the X Factor will usually perform quite well for us, whereas if we have a front page story which is maybe an all round story that's in every other newspaper, then it won't do as well.
Q. I'm not suggesting for one moment that ethical considerations are compromised, but as the editor of the best-selling national newspaper, the link, if any, between stories and sales is something that you are particularly sensitive to; is that right?
A. Something I'm aware of, of course, professionally.
Q. Okay, paragraph 33. You give some examples of stories which have or campaigns, both, which have been particularly beneficial. It's right that you should tell us about that, Mr Mohan, and you've provided examples in the exhibit. First of all, there's the Help For Heroes charity campaign which was started in 2007. That's raised an enormous sum, has it not?
A. Yes. I think it is important to emphasise that I do believe that the Sun can be a real powerful force for good, and I think these campaigns are an example of that. Help For Heroes has now raised 120 million, actually is the latest figure, for injured servicemen, and I think it's really raised the profile of our brave, injured soldiers who were, it must be said, perhaps a little neglected before that campaign. Out of that came the Millies awards, which took place in December. We launched it in 2008. This is where we honour injured service personnel and I think as Mr Larcombe said, Princes William and Harry and Kate Middleton attended that event. Also, I really do feel the Sun has a role to help its readers and help them through tough times. We do that through I mean, obviously we have a cheap cover price, we send millions of readers on holiday each year for ?9.50. It's one of the most successful promotions in Fleet Street. Also, when the unemployment total exceeded 2.5 million, I started a section called "Sun employment", which has found about 50,000 readers jobs or training, and I've in fact had letters from readers saying that that campaign has saved individual's lives and their families because they were suicidal before they got a job and didn't feel that they could get one. Similarly, we had an education campaign to try and make education for children more fun and entertaining recently. We also launched a "Hold Ye Front Page" website where this was based on a couple of books that we produced in the past where we recreate the last 2,000 years of history in entertaining front pages. I'm also taking this educational campaign on the road into schools and classrooms, which involves Professor Brian Cox, who is the Sun's Professor, who writes for us on very complex issues like the Hadron collider and digests them into very accessible chunks for the readers. And similarly, earlier this year sorry, last year we joined in partnership with Amy Winehouse's father, Mitch Winehouse, and launched a drug awareness campaign for which we received high praise, and there's some examples in the bundle. I've also been involved, in my career at the Sun, in three number one singles which have raised millions for the Dunblane atrocity, when I first joined the Sun, the famine in Africa when we campaigned for the re-release of "Do They Know it's Christmas?" and most recently we partnered with Simon Cowell to release a song for Haiti, which raised ?1 million for disaster relief. I do think this is what makes the Sun Britain's most popular newspaper. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think it's extremely important to emphasise the positive as well as be aware of the negative, and nobody should think that because inevitably this Inquiry is focusing on concerns which represent the negative, it's not a very important part of the job to balance that with the positives, the examples of which you have just provided. MR JAY If you don't mind me passing through some paragraphs of your statement, which again we can take as read, to paragraph 52, Mr Mohan. You deal there with some particular cases where wrongdoing has been exposed; is that right?
A. Yes. I think the most interesting of those is perhaps the conviction that we helped secure under the Bribery Act. This is the first ever conviction under the Bribery Act, where we exposed a court official who was wiping clean driving licences for ?500 cash, and the individual has since been jailed for six years.
Q. This is paragraph 54.
A. Mm.
Q. Indeed, the relevant page in the bundle is 10696, but we needn't turn it up.
A. But that is an example of really balancing the public interest. I felt there was a clear public interest in exposing that criminality. They're not often as clear cut as that, obviously, and I think we have to take each story on its own merits.
Q. It might be said that that was, if I may say so, a particularly straightforward example. There was an overwhelming public interest there, Mr Mohan. While we're still, though, on the emphasising the good, at paragraph 57, you deal with I think this came out in one of our seminars the headline on 27 July, "I owe Ouzo", which gave a succinct description of the then state of the eurozone bailout crisis; is that correct?
A. Yes, I think the public interest deserves to be looked at in a wider context than just individual stories. I think that the Sun and mass market newspapers are in the public interest in themselves, because millions the majority of working people in this country don't really want to read the turgid 7,000 words on the eurozone crisis. They'd rather read a really concise and well-executed spread along these lines, which gives them very quick, digestible summary of very, very complex issues that is in an accessible way to most people in the country. I know that perhaps the Sun isn't the first newspaper that most people in this room turn to on a daily basis, but I do believe that's what we do best, and that's actually how millions of people learn of serious issues on a daily basis. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON One has to be careful about how one uses the phrase "public interest" there. Of course it's in the public interest that there is an accessible mechanism for explaining complex concepts, and to that extent and indeed all that you've spoken about, helping heroes, millies, the singles, all that is in the public interest, but one has to be careful. One isn't weighing that against potential problems. One has to look and celebrate that and then do what one can to avoid the circumstances arising which are the subject of criticism. Would you agree with that as a proposition?
A. Yes, I would. I mean, obviously it has to be gathered in a legal way and subject to the code. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What you're not saying is: you have to put up with some misbehaviour to get all this good stuff?
A. No, I'm not. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I didn't think you were, but I just wanted to clarify that. MR JAY Thank you. May I deal now, Mr Mohan, with a number of issues which are outside your statement? First of all, it has been said that the tabloid press have been sitting on stories, certainly since this Inquiry has started, if not since July 2011, through fear that they will be criticised if they don't. Is that statement something that you would agree or disagree with in relation to the Sun?
A. I think there has been an element of caution, but I think that's got as much to do with the new Bribery Act in tandem.
Q. How, though, has the Bribery Act, which came into force I think in July of last year, impacted on stories which involve balancing the public interest against the private rights of individuals?
A. Sorry, the point I was making on the Bribery Act is we've been very, very careful, obviously, not to publish any stories that would be in breach of the Bribery Act, and I've rejected a lot of stories as a result, stories that have actually appeared in other newspapers.
Q. I think the point that was being made and to be explicit, I think it was Mr Clifford who made it I may be wrong, but I don't think I am is that there's been a policy decision to suppress stories which would otherwise have been published because of the impact on this Inquiry. Is that something that you would agree or disagree with?
A. I'm not sure that's the case. I mean, we've the front page story that we ran today, for instance, was, you know, quite controversial, about a famous TV chef caught shoplifting from Tesco, and it certainly didn't prevent us from publishing that. But yes, of course we're cautious.
Q. Do you think you're being more cautious because of the existence of this Inquiry?
A. Maybe a little, yes.
Q. Okay. Can I ask you an entirely different question about your dealings, if any, with politicians? Do you have frequent or any contact with those in high office in this country?
A. I wouldn't say frequent, but yes, I do meet with politicians on occasion, yes.
Q. Does that involve those in the highest office?
A. Yes.
Q. About how often does this take place?
A. It varies. I've seen Mr Cameron several times in the past year, I'd say. He came to our he came to those military awards. He also came to our police bravery awards, and I did have a one-on-one session with him at one point as well.
Q. In your own words, what's the purpose, if any, of any of those encounters?
A. Just really a catch-up on various issues of the day, concerns that we might have.
Q. Not, more explicitly, to ensure that the Sun continues to support one political party?
A. You'll have to ask Mr Cameron that.
Q. Okay. Did you have any involvement in the decision to support Mr Cameron and the Conservative party in September, October 2009, the switch of
A. Of course I did, yes. I'm the editor.
Q. Why did that happen?
A. I think for some time we felt that perhaps the country it was time for a change. We certainly sensed that amongst our readership and I think we reflected those concerns.
Q. Was it simply you being a mirror to your perception of the views of your readership, or was it a case of pressure being exerted from someone else?
A. I think the Sun's always been pretty good as capturing the sort of zeitgeist of the nation, and I think we certainly felt that the country was with us on that and we were kind of borne out by the election result.
Q. Was it something that you discussed with Mr Rupert Murdoch or not?
A. Yes. I would discuss the mood of the country and who I felt might be the best choice for our readership.
Q. Did he support the change in allegiance or not?
A. I believe he did, yes.
Q. A final question on that theme: was the idea his idea or your idea?
A. I think it was a it was a mixture. I mean, it was a group decision. Mine and my fellow executives felt that this was the right way to go, and we made our feelings known to Mr Murdoch.
Q. I said I would come back to paragraph 8 of your witness statement.
A. Mm.
Q. We think that this is a reference this is the one complaint which was partially upheld. This is a reference to two pieces which were in the Sun on the 18th and 19 September 2009. Are we correct about that?
A. I don't have it in front of me but if it's that one you have, then yes.
Q. Yes, I'll hand a copy to You have to see it. There's a nice colour version thanks to Mr Davis' clients. (Handed) There are rather less wonderful copies.
A. Thank you.
Q. To cut a long story short, Mr Mohan, this was about the sex change of a child; is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. What happened was that first story, which was front page and on page 5, was on Friday, 18 September 2009. There was another story the following day, again on page 1 and page 5.
A. Mm.
Q. There was then a complaint to the PCC by the parents of I think there was more than one child involved but it doesn't really matter.
A. I think the day two is a different case.
Q. That's right, but one of the parents complained, and the to be fair, we don't know how long it took for the PCC to adjudicate on the complaint. But the Sun then published the ruling on 2 April 2010; is that correct? That's the last page in the little bundle we provided.
A. Yes, that's correct.
Q. And the complaint was partially upheld, not fully upheld, I think it's right to say.
A. I think there were seven parts to the complaint and two were upheld.
Q. It wouldn't be right for me to ask you questions in relation to the delay between 19 September 2009 and 2 April 2010, since we do not know, nor do you know, in the absence of you being given proper notice of this, when the PCC promulgated their ruling. It might have been 1 April 2010, for all we know. But why was the ruling published on page 6?
A. I can't remember the intricacies of the case but that would have been negotiated with the PCC, the prominence of the apology.
Q. You say "would have been". Is it something you're sure about or is it something
A. In normal cases, it would be, but I can't be sure for this one.
Q. It just seems a little bit odd that if you're according front-page prominence to exclusive stories and then the full story is page 5 in each case, that we see the PCC ruling I'm not saying "hidden", because it's not hidden, but it's on the right-hand side of page 6 and it's really the smallest article on the page in terms of its print size.
A. It's a very long complaint, that, though, a very long ruling. It's one of the longest I think we've ever published.
Q. Okay. But you think that was as a result of the negotiation with the PCC? Is that your evidence, Mr Mohan?
A. Yes. But I can check that and provide it to the Inquiry if you'd like me to.
Q. You've only been informed about this, I think, this morning at the earliest, so you haven't had time to research it, have you, Mr Mohan?
A. No.
Q. It's one of the core participants who is asking me to put these questions to you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, you'll find the answer and let us know. Just write a letter.
A. Okay. MR JAY I'm also asked to put to you that in 2010, just taking one year, there were 38 complaints which were resolved, really, on the basis of the Sun admitting a breach of the code, and which therefore didn't go on to adjudication. Does that accord with your recollection?
A. I'd have to check the figure.
Q. Because of course only a small proportion of complaints actually go to adjudication, don't they?
A. I mean, we endeavour to clear up complaints as swiftly and efficiently as possible, so I think you could argue it's not a bad thing that 38 were cleared up before going to adjudication.
Q. Okay. Can I ask you about something completely different, and the issue of phone hacking. There was an award ceremony, I think, in 2002, which were called the Princess Margaret awards, otherwise known as Shaftas; is that correct?
A. That's correct.
Q. Do you speak at that ceremony?
A. Very briefly, I believe.
Q. You're recorded as having said words to this effect: that you thanked Vodafone's lack of security for the Mirror's showbusiness exclusives. First of all, did you thank Vodafone in that context in relation to the Mirror?
A. I can't remember my exact words, but I believe I said something along those lines, yes.
Q. The obvious question is: well, what did you mean by that?
A. It was said purely as a joke. It was a cheap shot at the Mirror. It was deliberately attempting to undermine the quality of their journalism because they'd had a particularly good year.
Q. Yes, but Vodafone's lack of security was surely a reference to the fact that you could hack into Vodafone's mobile phones because their PIN number system was so easily penetrable, particularly if you didn't change the default setting. That's what you were referring to, wasn't it?
A. Yes, it was.
Q. So you knew, therefore, that it was possible to hack into voicemails readily or fairly readily, didn't you?
A. Yes. I think it was well known. There had been several articles printed about this issue, not least in the Daily Mirror itself, which exposed in 1998 the lax security around the Irish cabinet's mobile telephones. They actually, as part of an investigation, hacked into the Irish cabinet and premier's phones, from my recollection. There had also been another article in the Independent on Sunday, I believe.
Q. Wasn't the true position something along these lines: that there were rumours going around in the press, which you well knew about, which were suggesting that phone hacking was occurring on a fairly systematic basis in the Mirror's titles? Is that right or not?
A. There were rumours in the industry. There's always rumours in the industry about various methods, but this wasn't based upon any evidence at all. It was just the Fleet Street rumour mill.
Q. You weren't concerned about the law of defamation, were you, when you made this statement?
A. I don't remember that I was, no.
Q. Okay. Did those rumours encompass the Sun, for whom of course you were working in 2002?
A. I can't remember. It was a very long time ago, clearly. I can't remember the specifics of the rumours.
Q. You're not trying to distance yourself now, are you, Mr Mohan, from what you said in 2002?
A. I think I've been frank in my explanation. It was said as a joke to undermine the Mirror's journalism.
Q. Mr Morgan, I think, was the editor of the Mirror then, wasn't he?
A. I believe he was, yeah.
Q. What was the nature of your relationship with him? Was it good, bad or indifferent?
A. Fairly indifferent, I'd say.
Q. Okay. Let me ask you about something else. The particular piece, if I can find it, which was published in the Sun, I think in November of last year, involving rumours about the Duchess of Cambridge being pregnant. Just bear with me. Yes, it was Mr Larcombe who wrote it, published 4 November 2011. Do you know about this piece? There was concern, I think, about the Duchess of Cambridge refusing to eat peanut paste during a royal engagement because she might be pregnant?
A. I do remember that story, yes, I think. I don't believe it was exclusive to us. I think there was a lot of speculation at the time.
Q. Why did you publish it?
A. I don't think
Q. Do you want to have a look at it?
A. Yeah, sorry, you'll have to refresh can I see it?
Q. Yes, of course. I hope it's not going to go to sleep on me, as it has done in the past. It only has a two minute I think, scroll down the Ipad. It's not my machine, so I'm not responsible for it.
A. I mean, it is what it is. It looks like a piece of speculation about the Duchess of Cambridge's dietary requirements.
Q. In the context of whether or not she was pregnant; is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. Was there any public interest in that story?
A. I mean, I think there is obviously public interest in whether the Duchess of Cambridge would be pregnant and would be providing a potential heir to the throne.
Q. In that sense, obviously, but if she were pregnant, you would normally wait the 12 weeks, wouldn't you?
A. Yes.
Q. May I ask you, finally, some general questions. In terms of your leadership, as editor, what is your vision, both in terms of the content of the paper and also the culture of the newspaper?
A. I think to describe the paper as being quite as celebrating modern life and that it's 2011, or 2012 even, rather than pining for the fact that we wish it was like 1955 again, which I think a number of other newspapers do. I think that I've made the paper more modern. It's vibrant, it's humorous, and actually, what I was talking about earlier regarding a sort of service to the readers, to really cheer them up through very, very hard times. A lot of our readers are going through very hard times, so I think the Sun's unique mix of humour and informative articles is very important. Also, I think that I think some newspapers are quite blinkered in their attitudes in terms of I think with the advances of the Internet, the British people's interests are so wide now and they can be interested in kit shortages in Afghanistan, who is going to win the X Factor, whether Wayne Rooney's going to play for England and whether the welfare culture in this country is out of control. These things aren't mutually exclusive, and I think that the Sun reflects my personality in that way, because I'm very interested in all those issues, and if I am, I think there's probably quite a few million people out there who are too.
Q. What would you say is your biggest priority, going forward?
A. I think really my biggest challenge is probably in the digital area, because I think over the past 12 months we've noticed a massive increase in handheld devices, tablets, and I think all newspapers are suffering circulation losses as a result, and clearly the challenges that we face from the Internet and from Twitter, from Facebook. We need to make ourselves as relevant as we can, obviously. And I think that one thing struck me was when the furore was ongoing about the Ryan Giggs injunction. I remember when we were in the position to print the name of the footballer and obviously there had been huge speculation on social media about his identity and I sat and I wrote the front page, and the headline was: "It's Ryan Giggs", and as I wrote it, my heart sank because I realised there were probably several million people out there who already knew that because they weren't subject to the same restrictions that we'd been under. I think one thing I would ask out of this Inquiry is that the Internet and the press that there's a level playing field in terms of the way they're dealt with, because I do think it could be a potentially mortal blow to the newspaper industry that's already wounded. I think the combination of an overregulated press with an unregulated Internet is a very, very worrying thought for an industry that employs many thousands of people. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON How would you do that?
A. I don't know. All I would say is that there should be a level playing field. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's kind.
A. Sorry. MR JAY In terms of your ideas for future regulation of the press, which you must have thought about I'm sure you have in the context of this Inquiry, a future role for the PCC in whatever manifestation and more generally, can you share your current thinking, please, in relation to that with us?
A. I think my thinking is still evolving on that, as I think most people's in the industry is, but I do think the PCC has been effective as a mediator. I think that when they issue desist notices about potential harassment, we take those very, very seriously and act on them immediately, and an adjudication upheld is met with great shame by certainly me and I'm sure by other editors. However, obviously I do understand that it needs to be toughened up. I do think that mediation is a big area where we've been quite successful, actually, resolving a number of legal complaints through mediation, and I think that a firm mediation arm associated with the PCC would be a sensible way forward. In terms of statutory regulation, that's obviously something that I would be quite fearful of and it could be open to abuse. I feel it could be the thin end of the wedge, but if a statutory element was introduced, I would just ask that there would be a level playing field with the press and the Internet. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But it can have a backstop without being statutory regulation, because it could be regulation by those that are involved in the business.
A. (Nods head) Yes. MR JAY Those are all the questions I had for Mr Mohan. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON There's one area that I want to cover. I'm sure you've heard some of the witnesses who complain about their treatment at the hands of the press, expressing great concern that they will be targeted for having made a fuss, and that as a result, when all this is over and all this has died down, they will face the wrath of the press in a way that nobody would be there to protect them, and there has been some material from which it might be possible to infer that the view has been taken that attack is the best form of defence. I'd be interested in your view about that concern, and what steps you think I can properly take to ensure, as best I can, that nobody is the subject of adverse press attention simply because they've participated in this Inquiry or taken a particular line. I'm not specifically talking about the Sun but I'm not excluding the Sun, but it is something which does concern me, and as an editor of a newspaper which has the readership that you've described, that has the really beneficial aspects which you've spoken about, I'd be interested in whether you think first of all that such a line is understandable, whether it's justifiable and how it can be prevented.
A. I mean, the Sun has 8 million readers a day and they're not stupid. I think it would be fairly transparent if we started launching attacks on the individuals involved in this Inquiry. I think that if you look at, for instance, Charlotte Church, Charlotte Church has been dealing with the tabloids for many years and she obviously complained about the story regarding her pregnancy, which was upheld, yet we didn't hold it against her. Gordon Smart, the showbusiness editor, interviewed her only last year, I believe, and she was very open about a lot of personal matters. So I think that it would be pretty transparent to the readers if we suddenly launched many negative stories against the individuals concerned. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's no part of your thinking of the ethos looking forward for the Sun?
A. No. I can't speak for others, obviously. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, I can only ask you about the Sun. But I might ask everybody, one by one.
A. (Nods head) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON How best do you think it's appropriate to protect the interests of smaller people, whether it be those caught up in disasters like Christopher Jefferies or the McCanns, or those involved in disasters? And there have been other examples that the Inquiry has heard.
A. Well, I think swifter access to justice is obviously an interesting point, and I think that maybe a mediation arm of the PCC could aid that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. I've spoken about that, as I think you probably know. But if one were to do that and I am attracted to the idea of having some mechanism for speedy and comparatively cheap resolution of disputes, not that I'm trying to do so many of the distinguished Queen's Counsel in this room out of business, but to try and resolve these issues more quickly, then there would have to be, wouldn't there, some requirement that people get involved in it?
A. Yes, and I do think there could be encouragements offered. For instance, I'm quite in favourite of a kite marking system, where newspapers that are signed up with whatever the body's called would carry kite marks, and there could be knock-on effects for advertising rates, et cetera, for publications that perhaps don't carry that kite mark. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. It's quite difficult to do taxwise, because I think you'd run into tax implications. The problem about kite marks is that you might then get some of your Internet sites positively boasting that they're not interested in kite marks and that they relish the idea of putting stuff out that doesn't, unless one can require them to participate. Once you use the word "require", I'm concerned that you have to have, somewhere in the background, some way of saying, "This has got to happen."
A. Mm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Whoever judges it, whether they're editors, ex-editors, members of the public, however you judge it, there has to be some way of saying that getting involved in this mechanism for the resolution of disputes is not optional.
A. I understand your dilemma, but I would statutory regulation or even a backstop does fill me with fear, because I believe it could be open to abuse. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That depends how you do it, doesn't it? Or maybe you don't think it does? Mm. All right, well, thank you very much indeed, Mr Mohan. Thank you very much indeed.
A. Thank you. MR JAY Well, that's it for today. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Not bad timing, Mr Jay. MR JAY I'm not going to summarise, if you forgive me, the evidence of Mr Higgins, Mr Yelland and Mr Hamilton. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We do have that additional evidence. Let's just identify who they are. MR JAY Mr Higgins was editor 1994 to 1998. Mr Yelland, I think, 1998 to 2002. Mr Hamilton is the current features editor of the Sun. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right. They've all made statements dealing with questions that I asked them to deal with. MR JAY Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And those statements are all available, some of them in substantial length. Do I understand from what you're saying that these statements should now be considered as part of the Inquiry to be published on the website and put into the public domain? MR JAY Yes, please. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Rhodri Davies, I think they're all witnesses that you're concerned with? MR DAVIES Yes. That's absolutely fine from our point of view. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And there's been no objection to that course? MR DAVIES No. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right, thank you very much. Mr Mohan, thank you very much. We'll resume again at 10 o'clock tomorrow. (4.20 pm) (The hearing adjourned until 10 o'clock the following day)


Gave statements at the hearings on 09 January 2012 (PM) and 07 February 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 5 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 09 January 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 2 pieces of evidence


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