Morning Hearing on 26 March 2012

Colin Adwent , Chief Constable Simon Ash , Anne Campbell and Terry Hunt gave statements at this hearing

Hearing Transcript

(10.00 am) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON A decision in relation to the consideration of the evidence of Mr Tickner will be published online today. I would like to invite applications for core participant status for module 3 before close of play on Friday, 30 March. In the same context, I draw to the attention of those who are presently core participants for all modules that they are perfectly entitled to consider whether they wish to retain their core participant status for module 3 in the light of events as the Inquiry has proceeded. Any such application to withdraw from that status I'd also be grateful to receive within the same timeframe. I intend to give directions, having received submissions in relation to module 3, at or immediately after 2 pm on 3 April. I say "immediately after"; it depends upon when we've concluded the evidence for that day. At the same time, I will also provide a timetable for closing submissions for all modules. Thank you. MR JAY The first witness today is Mr Ash, please. MR SIMON ROGER ASH (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Your full name, please.
A. I'm Simon Roger Ash and I'm the Chief Constable of Suffolk Constabulary.
Q. Thank you. Kindly turn up your witness statement. It's dated 27 January of this year, signed by you and there's a standard statement of truth. Is this your formal evidence to the Inquiry?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. First of all, if I summarise your career in the Police Service. You joined Kent County Constabulary in 1982. You worked your way up the ranks. In 2001 you joined Hertford Constabulary as Assistant Chief Constable, and then on 4 June 2007, you joined Suffolk Constabulary as Chief Constable, and that, as you've told us, is your current position; is that right?
A. That's correct.
Q. You also explain in your statement, but I ask you to set this out in your own words, please, that Suffolk is one of the smallest police forces in the country. So approximately how many officers and staff are there?
A. Yes, it's one of the smallest forces. It covers a population of about 700,000 people, and the workforce is about 2,200, comprises officers and staff.
Q. In terms of corporate communications, that department merged with Norfolk in July of last year; is that right?
A. That's correct.
Q. The next witness will cover that matter in more detail. Can I ask you, please, about paragraph 2 of your statement, which is our page 58730, where you refer to an investigation involving covert techniques into leaks to the local media. Could you tell us something about that, please?
A. Yes. I was aware when I took up the post that there had been an investigation prior to me joining concerning a potential leak by an officer to a journalist, and that the course of that inquiry had involved analysis of telephone records and that because of that, the editors were adversely responded to it and that relationships maybe weren't all they might have been, and as a consequence I was keen to do all I could in kicking off on a positive note as the new Chief Constable.
Q. Thank you. As you explain subsequently in your statement, generally speaking, relations with the local media are good; is that right?
A. They're very good, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON When you say they reacted negatively, were they objecting to your seeking to discover who the leak was who was giving information?
A. Sir, it wasn't me that was it had been LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, I appreciate that.
A. The investigation had been done prior to me arriving. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand.
A. I don't know, is the answer. I don't know quite what it was. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right, all right.
A. All I was aware of was that I was walking into a situation where I needed to build a relationship, basically. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right. MR JAY You also explain in your statement that Operation Sumac, which involved the murders of five women in Ipswich in 2006, that was just before your time?
A. Yes. I arrived in June 2007. That occurred, as you rightly say around about December 2006 was the peak of the activity, and I'd obviously watched that from a distance and had been very impressed with the way the force appeared to have handled the media through that.
Q. At the end of paragraph 2, you make a general statement. You say you found officers and staff to be very cautious in their dealings with the media: "They tended to be protective of information, unwilling to readily provide information in a timely way." Is that a criticism that you're making there, Mr Ash, or just an observation?
A. It's an observation, and I stress it is a broad generalisation, because this is the issue that tended to or has tended when I've had issues with the media to go to the heart of what has been the rubbing point and the tension. So it's a very broad generalisation rather than a criticism.
Q. Your reference to "rubbing point" and "tension" suggests that overcaution is something which might tend to cause that tension; is that right?
A. Yes. What I'm referring to is in relationship with local editors, they very much would like information as soon as there is anything available and would regularly report to me occasions when they've seen police officers maybe dealing with an incident, have phoned in to find out about it, and information hasn't been readily forthcoming, when clearly there is something going on. Officers have been cautious until they've got sufficient information about that incident to want to pass it to the media, whereas the media would like to just know that even if we're just dealing with a report of whatever it is, at the earliest opportunity, and it's that sort of timely provision of information that has been at the core.
Q. From your perspective, though, the desire to put out information which is accurate means that there may sometimes be a delay before it can be imparted; would you agree with that?
A. That's correct.
Q. You explain in two subsequent pages of your statement, pages 58731 and 58732, that the majority of the contact you have is with local radios, giving interviews, excellent relationship, and you deal with the sort of campaigns which have been launched over the years: an anti-knife campaign and I think it's a lifter and fly tipping campaign. Then under the rubric "press" you explain that your contact with the local press is not regular: "The regular provision of quotes and information is usually by agreed press releases. However, I do have personal contact with what is a strong local press in Suffolk." In terms of the local press we're going to hear from an editor in due course can you explain what the position is?
A. Yes. I meet the editor you're going to hear from, as well as other editors in the county, on an ad hoc basis, usually event-driven, often to resolve whatever the current issues are of the day, and we have a healthy relationship, but none of my editors are afraid to challenge me when they think we haven't done something we should have done, and we work together on a lot of campaigns for the good of our local community.
Q. So it's an appropriately professional, albeit not overly close relationship?
A. It's I would describe it as, yeah, a very professional relationship, and that's probably the best way of describing it.
Q. In terms of the national media, on page 58733 in the middle of the page, you say you have no ongoing relationship with anyone from the national media: "All my dealings tend to be ad hoc and driven by events." Is there any cultural or other similar difference between the national and local press from your perspective or would you not wish to comment on that?
A. My dealings with the national press are very limited and they're mainly due to my ACPO portfolio, which relates to reward and recognition, which is pay and conditions, and I tend to deal with the national media primarily through the ACPO press office, because I seek to try and distance myself from saying too much in the media because I act for ACPO in pay and conditions negotiations, and the two aren't always very compatible.
Q. You exhibit your media liaison procedure. It's exhibit SA1, page 58699. You'll find it under tab 3, Mr Ash. I'm not sure we have a date for this. Is it fairly recent?
A. I think it was last reviewed in 2010. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So this is Suffolk?
A. It is, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just on the question of the national press, do you see it's a role or responsibility of ACPO to engage with presumably the national media in order to get your side of the debate across into the public domain or do you feel that that's simply something that need not be brought within the public domain?
A. Well, I think it's important to understand that ACPO is really a collection of chief officers from across the country, and it's structured into a number of business areas, each with a chief constable that heads it, and it's very often those chief constables that head a business area that will, if you like, lead on any national debate. So my portfolio is in the workforce development business area, and so when there are issues around, say, for example, the recent release of the Tom Windsor report, it would be the head of the business area that would very often be the spokesperson for that debate nationally. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But that might be you.
A. Well, it could be me, but my portfolio actually sits under a business area head. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Oh, I see.
A. So it would normally be the head of the business area. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Oh, I see. MR JAY Yes, the policy was last reviewed in 2010. We can see that from the final page. Can we just alight on a number of points? On the first page of the narrative, 58578, it's an open positive policy; that's clause 1.1. Clause 1.5, basic tenet: "Only withhold what you must. If information can't be released for valid reasons, this should be explained to the media." Key guidelines on the next page. 2.1: "Reasonable requests from the media for information, comment and interviews should be dealt with by the appropriate person. This would normally be the member of staff who knows most about the subject/incident and can respond authoritatively." And then another clear principle, 2.2: "The general rule of thumb is that staff can release the same information to the media as they would if they were responding to a direct question from a member of the public." May I ask you to comment on 3.3: "Notwithstanding the above, anyone who intentionally passes information to the media which is likely to frustrate an investigation or to embarrass/undermine the credibility of the organisation could face disciplinary or misconduct action." So your definition really of "unauthorised information" is information which would embarrass or undermine the credibility of your organisation? Have I correctly understood it?
A. Yes, in the context of this policy, yes, that's absolutely right.
Q. So one is looking at it from the perspective of the organisation, obviously, even though it may be in the public interest widely that the information be disseminated to the media; would that be right?
A. Sorry, could you just rephrase that?
Q. The policy is looking at what is desirable from the perspective of your organisation
A. Yes.
Q. You refer to the credibility of the organisation. But on the other hand it might be said that information could be disseminated to the media which would nonetheless be in the public interest, notwithstanding that it could undermine the credibility of your organisation. Would you agree with that?
A. Well, my corporate communications department I would expect to release information that was in the public interest and, on occasions, that will cause discomfort for the organisation, and I think I've referred to an incident later in my statement where that was exactly the case. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON There is really a distinction, isn't there? Anything that's going to frustrate an investigation I mean, there can't be a justification to frustrate
A. No. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON a proper investigation.
A. No. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But there may be a reason why something that is embarrassing is perfectly legitimately within the public domain.
A. Exactly. Yes, that's what I agree with. MR JAY There's a secondary question of who decides whether it's in the interests of the public. Are you saying that it should be for your communications department to make that decision rather than an individual officer?
A. That's certainly where I would go for my guidance.
Q. Thank you. Then more specific points, maybe paragraph 8, please, page 58582, positive media coverage. 8.2: "As such, all staff are encouraged to use the media to proactively highlight positive stories and good working practice. This type of publicity is valuable in building public confidence in the police." So there's almost a positive duty there to put your force understandably in the best possible light, isn't there?
A. Yes, that's correct. I would take the view that bad news almost writes itself, and I think we have to work hard sometimes to promote the good work that officers and staff do day in and day out.
Q. Then the last point, really we'll take the rest as read 9.6, page 58583: "Officers and police staff should give their full name and rank or role when dealing with the media. The anonymous title of 'police spokesperson' should not be used." It may be almost self-evident, but what's the reason for that, do you think?
A. Well, I think in relating to a community, it's far better if in the case of a local officer, that it's attributed to a local officer. If it's written in relation to a policy matter, normally it will be related to a much more senior officer. I think from a public perspective that looks far more convincing and authentic than something that sounds far more remote, as in "spokesperson".
Q. So if it's information which should go into the public domain, the messenger, as it were, should be prepared to put his or her name to it; is that the philosophy?
A. Yes, that's a good description, and the more serious the issue, the more senior, normally, the individual.
Q. I said it was the last point. In fact, it isn't. Clause 19 I marked to raise with you. It's page 58603, media attendance on police operations. First of all: "Media attendance should be authorised through the PHQ press office. Facilitating such requests often results in very positive publicity. It also allows the media greater insight into the workings of and problems encountered by the police. However, media attendance on operations needs to be carefully planned, as it should be recognised that the presence of the media can create practical difficulties for officers." So pausing there, there is a very significant public relations issue here. Very positive publicity may result?
A. Yes.
Q. Then you point out, quite rightly, under 19.3 "Article 6 rights" is the first bullet point, the rights to a fair trial. Then rights to privacy is the second bullet point and then there are further subsidiary points which maybe flow from the Article 8 rights. So you're making it clear that notwithstanding the very positive publicity which might ensue, all of this should be balanced against the private rights of individuals?
A. That's correct.
Q. Have any difficult issues arisen in practice regarding allowing media on police operations in your area, Mr Ash?
A. Not during my time as Chief Constable, no.
Q. May I return, please, to your statement, page 58734. We've looked at the procedure. You make it clear, level with the upper hole punch: "When it comes to policing matters affecting the whole county or comments on issues of constabulary policy, either I or another senior officer take the lead." Well, again, that's common sense. If there's an important issue of principle or policy, it's right that it should come from you. Then you've given some examples of that lead being taken. Can I ask you about negative headlines, which you refer to next just below the lower hole punch. You refer to a strong local media in Suffolk and they hold you rigorously to account, and so it follows that on occasions the headlines will not always be as good as you would wish?
A. That's correct.
Q. Can you explain, please, the "poor" HMIC policing pledge grading in 2009? What was that about?
A. Under the previous administration, there was police success was measured by a public confidence measure, which was based on a question in the British Crime Survey relating to how well people believed the police and local councils were dealing with crime and disorder issues. Our grading on that and associated inspection from the HMI graded Suffolk as "poor", along with one or two forces, and that naturally attracted a negative headline, and as a result of that we developed an action plan, a major plank of which was working very closely with local radio, Radio Suffolk, to influence public opinion around the positive things we were doing, and over a period of time we changed that situation and greatly improved our public confidence measure.
Q. The next page, 58735, you take up the point there: "Friction has arisen with the media owing to the perception that there's been delay in the release of information." You give one specific example of that, and then you say: "The next day, the East Anglian Daily Times ran a story criticising the delay and informing the public about the incident." Then you say, on page 58736: "On the few occasions when our response has fallen short of expectations, we have responded positively to well-founded criticism to address the issues highlighted. In this particular case, we arranged media liaison training for all our force operations room inspectors." Tell us more about the training which was given, please, Mr Ash.
A. Yes. The training involved representatives from our local media, and what we were trying to do was to bridge this issue I referred to earlier, where the media wanted early notification of issues, and this example I quoted here was a perfectly justifiable request where we were slow putting into the public domain an escape of people that were in a secure hospital having committed violent offences. And what we wanted to do was to ensure that our force operations room inspectors understood both the media perspective and my requirements as the Chief Constable to put appropriate information into the public domain at an appropriate time. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So the problem is to spot what is the story or what is the incident that is sufficiently important to press the red button?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And to provide information. In this case, do I gather you believe that the calibration was wrong, that actually it was of sufficient significance that the press office should have been told earlier, so that by the time people were getting up the following morning, not just midday, they should have known the story? Is that the point?
A. That is the point, and I'm sure editors will speak for themselves. They would probably say even as soon as we knew three violent people had escaped, we should have been putting something out into the public domain in terms of our responsibility to protect the public, and in this instance, you'll see a whole set of procedural matters delayed it, which was clearly unacceptable. MR JAY The issue of hospitality next, Mr Ash, page 58737. In your case, it's been fairly sparse. Indeed, you cite only one example of hospitality. In January of last year, you watched a football match, and that was recorded in the appropriate register, wasn't it?
A. That's correct.
Q. And in a like vein, the hospitality you've given to the media has been of an equivalent standard, if I can put it in those terms.
A. That's correct.
Q. Do you have a view about this? Is it just an accident that it's happened in this way or is there a philosophy behind it in terms of the level of hospitality which you offer and have received?
A. I think the professional relationship that I enjoy with the local media and the ability to get business done usually means we meet, for the majority of the time, on police premises or premises of the media, and at those locations light refreshments are usually the order of the day, and with very few exceptions, that enables us to maintain a relationship and get business done in a busy world in an acceptable way.
Q. Thank you. The next point is paragraph 11, Mr Ash. The new software used by the corporate communications department it's called Spotlight, I believe, and it enables monitoring of contacts with the media to be undertaken, and requires that details of all contact with the media be logged and recorded; have I correctly understood it?
A. Yes, that's correct, and this was a benefit from our collaborative work with colleagues in Norfolk that were already using this system. Our communications department have taken it on in the way you describe, and it's a very comprehensive method of recording contacts and then being able to access management information and search the data as and when required.
Q. So if a police officer has contact with a journalist, the police officer would be expected to inform the corporate communications staff of that contact and they would then do the logging onto the system?
A. That's correct, since we introduced this, yes.
Q. This is set out in recent guidance. It's under your tab 12, our page 58607. There isn't a date on it, but I think it must have been published last year, at the same time as Suffolk and Norfolk amalgamated for these purposes; would that be correct?
A. Yes, that's correct. The date for this was October 2011.
Q. Thank you. You can see in the middle of the page the third bullet point. That addresses the logging of information as well as hospitality.
A. That's correct.
Q. So is your policy merely to log the fact of contact or should one include more information?
A. Um
Q. Maybe it's the second bullet point which answers that.
A. Yeah. We've sought to introduce something that aims to be a step beyond where we were, ie recording nothing in a very formal way, but not creating something that is bureaucratically prohibitive, and to try and strike that middle ground, and we feel that the information as referred in that bullet point, sort of date, time, place and overall purpose of the meeting, seems to capture that in terms of what we believe's required.
Q. For the purposes of this guidance, is there any distinction between formal and informal contact with the media?
A. We've not created that distinction, no. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The critical part of this guidance is not just in what the officer has to do; it's in the previous part, isn't it? The default position is that you tell the media what's going on and that you only withhold it if there's a valid operational reason for withholding it?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's the first thing. The second thing is that the strategy is for you and your senior officers, but below strategy on operations, can it be any police officer from constable above?
A. Yes, it can, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So that's to encourage openness, merely to have a mechanism to know what's going in the public domain?
A. Yes. And the role of the corporate communications department is to provide support to those individuals, and the corporate communications department has people at headquarters as well as people distributed around the county, so most officers would know their local media liaison communication officers and they would be their first port of call for advice if they were going to be contacted by the media. More commonly, it's the other way around, that the media officer will actually be the interface that arranges the contact with the officer and then provides support for the interview. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON One of things that's been said to me by a number of reporters is: "Oh, if police officers have to write down they've spoken to us, it will all dry up because they'll be very concerned about promotion or anything like that." You've only obviously been doing this for the last four months, but have you seen any difficulty along those lines?
A. I've not, and I went and visited our team last week to flick through a few records and have a look what was there. I guess my bigger concern is ensuring police officers continue to notify the contacts. That's where I think the weakest link in this process is, not so much the content. In practical terms, it's a short email that can then be cut and pasted into the Solcara Spotlight system. So it's my sense is that providing the onus is not to create massive amounts of information, the basis of the spirit of what we created here seems to not be too onerous. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But you've not detected a reluctance on the part of your officers to have this sort of contact with the press?
A. No, and I think there's an acceptance that the mere fact of this Inquiry, that may be things need to change, and I think against that backdrop, our officers seem to be working with it and following the spirit of what is intended. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, we'll be able to hear later on in the morning what your oppos think about that. Right. MR JAY Thank you. Back to your statement, please. I'm going to move forward to paragraph 17, page 58741. The question was: what do the media seek from such contact with your personnel? Your answer is based on this premise, really: that the local media and the police are deeply embedded in the same community with the same concerns.
A. That's absolutely correct, yes.
Q. So from that perspective you're following the same objectives, aren't you?
A. We share a lot of very similar objectives, yes.
Q. The basic point is that apart from the provision of timely information, which is the matter we've addressed, they obviously seek accurate and up-to-date information, because from their perspective although we'll hear from them directly they do not want to put information end the public domain through their journals which is inaccurate. That's obvious, isn't it?
A. Yes.
Q. Question 18. This deals with hospitality. It's under tab 11, the professional standards handbook. It starts at page 58712. This is the October 2005 edition. This lays out a series of standards which applies generally, not just to contacts with the media; is that correct?
A. That is correct.
Q. I had marked one provision which is relevant. Just bear with me. I can't immediately find it, Mr Ash. Yes, it's clause 10, page 58671. You're setting out here a series of general principles, really, of ethics and appropriate conduct, which would apply to hospitality generally as well as the media in particular; would you agree?
A. Yes, that's correct.
Q. The first principle: it must be capable of being justified on the public interest. It should be of a scale appropriate to the occasion. Individuals must consider carefully offers of hospitality where any suggestion of improper influence is possible. Then 10.4: "The extent and location of the hospitality should determine the degree to which an offer of hospitality is acceptable. A practical test is whether the hospitality offered could or would be reciprocated by the Suffolk Constabulary." Then there are three further principles on the next page. These are all very sensible and quite pithily expressed rules of thumb which your officers can readily understand and apply?
A. That's correct.
Q. Thank you. It gives some hospitality registers. Is that ever audited or monitored?
A. There are two registers. There's one for chief officers, which is maintained within our own office by our own executive services, and then there is a second one, which is for the rest of the force, which is maintained by the professional standards department, who maintain oversight of that. There's no significant oversight of the chief officers' register, and that's a matter of discussion between myself and the Police Authority, as it's clearly a gap.
Q. You refer in question 25, bottom of page 58744, to the fact that current policies and procedures have been adequate for the constabulary to date but are definitely capable of improvement. Then you bring in on the next page the HMIC report of December 2011, "Without fear or favour", which we have looked at. What is the basic point which you feel might need to be addressed in your force, Mr Ash?
A. Well, the "Without fear or favour" report offered a checklist in one of its appendices that we're using as a reference to health check ourselves, but the sort of areas where, quite obviously, we need to make some judgments is the document you were referring to there was dated 2005, and we're in the process of updating that. We're also looking to get our hospitality register onto an electronic register and ensure that that's properly promoted and that the oversight arrangements are robust.
Q. Your deputy chief constable is chairing a working group, which is looking at the December 2011 report in general, isn't he?
A. That's correct. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Is there a risk that different forces are going to be inventing the same wheel all around the country?
A. There is a possibility, I think, and but I sort of sense, speaking to colleagues, there is a degree of certainly there's been the Filkin report, there's been the HMI, there is your Inquiry and I think there is a sort of sense in the service that at some point that needs bringing together into something that's composite, and I think the HMI accurately makes the point that national consistency is an issue, and I think in a lot of the matters we're talking about here today, I think something that brought a greater degree of consistency nationally would be very beneficial. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I entirely agree, and I'm sure ACPO will provide some input from across the forces, which allows me to say something which then might help nationally rather than requiring the effort and work of each deputy chief constable in each force around the country trying to navigate through the various rights and wrongs of these policies.
A. Yes, I completely agree with that, and the handbook we've just referred to, it would be useful if there was a national framework that we were all operating to, and I think that would be a very helpful outcome.
Q. Can I move on now to the issue of leaks, Mr Ash, page 58747. Not a significant problem generally, although you do identify five investigations into suspected leaks over the last five years, and those are listed under question 31, page 58748. I don't think you got to the bottom of any of these leaks in the sense of being able to prove them; is that right?
A. That's correct.
Q. And some of them are more significant than others. The most recent one relates to budget cuts and compulsory redundancies under regulation A19, and that, I think, prompted a publication from you, which is our tab 16. Your message to the force, 7 September 2011
A. That's correct.
Q. page 58644, which was really a warning to those under you that unauthorised disclosures were unacceptable?
A. That's correct.
Q. You were supported by the chair of the Suffolk Police Federation and, I think, by Unison, weren't you?
A. Yes, that's correct. I invited them in, discussed the situation that is outlined as you indicated, and they were pleased to lend their support to this message, and whilst leaking information in itself is unacceptable, this was having a consequential knock-on to many of their members, who were subject to the organisation change that was going through proper human resource consultation processes, and therefore being adversely jeopardised by the leak of information.
Q. The final paragraph of your message on page 58645 reminded everyone in your organisation of their duty to report corrupt, dishonest or unethical behaviour by officers or staff as a matter of to professional standards. So it wasn't, as it were, stifling the dissemination of all information, but you're making it clear it should be disseminated to the right body, namely professional standards within the force, and not the media more widely; is that correct?
A. Yes, I think the point I'm making there is people need to know that if it were proven, there would be a consequence.
Q. The motive for these leaks, insofar as it's possible to discern one certainly in terms of budget cuts within your force, you suspect that the leaks were most likely to have come from disgruntled officers and staff affected by the proposals. So it's no question of money passing hands?
A. No, that's certainly my strong belief, as you described.
Q. Thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Presumably it's in the misguided belief that it will help?
A. Yes. Yes, and along with all chief constables, we're having to make some very tough decisions as the size of our workforce is shrinking, and consequently people, as you say, are misguidedly questioning some of the choices we're having to make, and, as you say, hoping that it will alter decisions. MR JAY Question 43 now, bottom of page 58753, and then over to the next page. You were asked to provide your current impression of the culture within your constabulary in relation to its dealings with the press. You refer to the merger of your department with the corporate communications department of Norfolk to create one composite department, and that, in your view, is working satisfactorily; is that correct?
A. It is working satisfactorily, but it's a considerably smaller size than the combined department that previously existed and pressures are evident in terms of it's a considerably smaller department than the composite of the previous two.
Q. Do you believe that the corporate communications department is putting out, as it were, a party line in other words, an extremely positive gloss on everything you do or do you feel it sort of takes the rough with the smooth?
A. I think we are all of the view we take the rough with the smooth, but my overriding objective is to create trust and confidence in the policing in Suffolk. Clearly, I want to promote all that is good, but as we all know, occasionally things don't go according to plan and we need to sometimes apologise, sometimes give an explanation, and I think that's equally important that the people of Suffolk see and hear that as well.
Q. In terms of moving forward this is question 44, page 58755 you make it clear there's no room for complacency: "We must continue to create an environment in which positive and appropriate relationships can flourish." And you highlight six points, really, which will continue to foster the good.
A. That's correct.
Q. These are a mixture of ethical and pragmatic points which one would hope to see in any police force; would you agree?
A. That's correct.
Q. Can I ask you please now: the Freedom of Information Act issue, what was your concern? Why did you include it in your statement?
A. The reason I included it is because at a time when there is a pressure from government to keep as many police resources on the front line as possible, at the same time as taking significant sums of money out of our organisations, this is one area that is a growth area of business, and in terms of my own force, which, as you rightly said earlier, is a small force, requests from the media through freedom of information equates to over one request every working day, when taken throughout the year, and that some of these requests are not simply responded to but require very careful thought and research, and it was just to highlight, against the backdrop we're dealing with: this is a growth area of our work.
Q. There are two other points, Mr Ash. I believe you're in a position to comment at least on some of the evidence we heard last week from Mr Harrison, who was the ex-SOCA officer who was in Ipswich and its environs in November/December of 2006.
A. That's correct.
Q. What, if anything, have you ascertained which might assist the Inquiry?
A. I think the first point to make is I'm probably not your best witness, because obviously I wasn't Chief Constable at the time, but having made enquiries over the last week, I've not been able to find any information to support the first assertion, namely that the News of the World were deploying surveillance teams against police surveillance teams who were following suspects. On the second assertion, that a newspaper picked up a suspect and took them to a hotel and interviewed them whilst they were under police surveillance, I have been able to find information to support that.
Q. In terms of the News of the World, which was the first allegation, have you seen any evidence or information which might contradict what Mr Harrison said?
A. No, I haven't.
Q. I'm asked to put to you this general question, Mr Ash: do you believe it can ever be in the public interest to lie to a journalist, for example, when the truth might frustrate an arrest or hinder a criminal investigation?
A. I wouldn't normally advocate lying. It doesn't strike me as usually the best course of action, so my sort of initial response to that is: no.
Q. The answer may be you wouldn't necessarily provide all relevant information but the information you would provide, although limited, would not be misleading; is that, broadly speaking, along the right lines?
A. That would be a far more eloquent way of putting it, yes. MR JAY Okay. Mr Ash, thank you very much. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just before you go, having heard what Mr Desmond Browne had to say last week, I'd just like to investigate a bit further what your enquiries have revealed. Do I gather that they revealed that reporters did collect somebody who was a suspect and who was under police surveillance and take him somewhere to interview him? That's the position?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You're not going so far as to say they tried to throw off surveillance?
A. I'm not in a position to say that, no. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's just that was one of the things that Mr Browne was keen to deal with, I think. All right, Mr Ash, thank you very much indeed. You will appreciate, of course, that one of the reasons that Suffolk was chosen as a force to come to the Inquiry as opposed to the others is that you've had the experience of being the subject of intense media focus because of the particular offence, albeit committed before you took over, on your patch.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Is there anything that you would like to say about the differences between the local and the national media that you have learnt arising from that experience? If not you, then we can ask your colleague who is due to come, but I just want to give you the chance to say anything that you wanted to say about that.
A. Well, I think the only thing I would say is it was quite obvious that, having spoken to people that were involved with that, there was a need in terms of the volume of media that attended and the thirst for information, it outstripped anything that we would normally deal with, and consequently we drew on assistance from other forces and other agencies locally, and I think the feedback I've had generally and I'm able to say this more readily because obviously I wasn't the chief is that the force came out of it very well in terms of the procedures they adopted. I know you'll be hearing evidence from previous Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull, who I think was at the heart of that and will be able to describe it far more in detail than I am, because he was there and living it, but I think he was at the hub of a very effective media operation. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Okay, thank you very much indeed. MR JAY The next witness, please, is Anne Campbell. MS ANNE ELIZABETH CAMPBELL (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Your full name, please?
A. I'm Anne Elizabeth Campbell.
Q. Ms Campbell, you've provided us with two statements. The first is under our tab 59. That's given in your capacity as head of corporate communications for Norfolk and Suffolk constabularies. Then the second is under our tab 69, which is in your capacity as chair of the Association of Police Communicators, which is known by the acronym APCOM?
A. That's correct.
Q. The second is dated and signed on 9 March. The first one isn't, but are both of these statements your formal evidence to the Inquiry?
A. Yes, they are.
Q. I understand that you're moving on to another job shortly; is that right?
A. I am. This is my final week in post.
Q. Thank you. Without prejudice to that, I can summarise your career to date. As I've said, you are currently the head of corporate communications for Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies. We've heard that the two departments merged in July 2011 and before that, between 2007 and July 2011, you were the director of communications and public affairs for Norfolk; is that, broadly speaking, correct?
A. That's correct.
Q. Before then, you enjoyed a career in journalism and then in public relations and media strategy generally?
A. That's correct.
Q. Can I ask you, please, about APCOM. Since when have you been the chair of APCOM?
A. I took over as chair in November 2009 and have been chair since.
Q. For those who don't know and there will be many what APCOM is and what it does, could you assist us, please?
A. Okay. APCOM is the Association of Police Communicators, and is a representative body seeking to represent all those that hold communication roles for the Police Service, primarily forces but not exclusively so. A number of police organisations, their communications staff are also members. So currently we have getting on approaching 400 members.
Q. Does that include, Ms Campbell, members from the DPA in the Metropolitan Police?
A. Yes, it does. In fact, because of the numbers involved, there's a sizeable number of memberships from the Metropolitan Police.
Q. In your position of oversight, as it were, do you see any broad differences between the regional forces on the one hand and the challenges they face, and the Metropolitan Police Service on the other hand?
A. Yes, I suppose I do, because it's very clear that the London-based force is dealing with all the national issues. It has a unique place in not just the investigations but the issues it covers, because of course it carries out investigations on behalf of a number of the other forces as well, and I'm thinking about some of the international investigations where our people have there's been cause to send people abroad to investigate. That tends to be the remit of the Met. So the Met's local media, if you like, are the national media, whereas for most other forces it's very much a local and regional media. So the Met is very different for a number of reasons.
Q. In terms of the challenges the Met faces vis-a-vis the challenges the regional forces face, are you able to help with that? I mean, that would involve making, I suppose, a generalised statement about what the regional press do as compared with the national press?
A. Yes. I'm not best qualified to speak on that, because of course I've not worked for the Met. I have worked alongside the Met on a number of special operations, but I've not been part of their team. My comments would only be as a result of what I've observed.
Q. Well, that's a tactful answer, but is there anything you might want to say?
A. What I would say is my colleagues in the Met DPA, they certainly follow similar standards of corporate communications practice, so although they're dealing with certainly much more, shall we say often more newsworthy issues, and more sensitive, controversial issues, the methods that they're employing are very similar to the rest of us, and in fact you've already previously asked Mr Ash about the Spotlight system. I'm aware that that system has been in the Met for some time. So there are certainly similarities in the way that we communicators go about our business.
Q. The Spotlight system, that's been scribed as Solcara. Is it the same system?
A. It is the same system. It's had a number of titles. In fact, I gather the company now has another name, Vuelio, but Solcara/Spotlight, it's basically a piece of software that allows us to manage contacts, a bit like a customer relation management system, if that's not too much jargon.
Q. No. Now, first of all, Ms Campbell, I'm going to ask you to deal with your evidence in your capacity as head of corporate communications for Norfolk and Suffolk primarily Suffolk, but it won't make much difference because principles doubtless are identical and then we'll look at APCOM in your second statement of claim. In line with other colleagues in comparable positions, you report directly to the deputy Chief Constable; is that right?
A. That's correct, yes.
Q. Do you know what the reason for that is?
A. The reason is to have a direct line to the chief officers in order to advise at the highest strategic level and to ensure that the advice is best advice is received. That would be why I would think I report direct to ACPO.
Q. Under questions 4 and 5 of your first statement, our pages 13747, you explain that culture within the constabulary is one of encouragement of officers and staff to proactively use the news media to inform the public. It's really the role of the press office, though, in relation to that. Is the expectation that officers should always contact the press office before speaking to a journalist?
A. I think it very much depends what the issue is and what level enquiry is being made. I draw a distinction between the different roles of police officers. There are many. In fact, I would say policing is a very complex situation to deal with from a communications point of view. So there is absolutely no doubt there is, I think, one of encouragement of officers and staff at all levels to interact with the media, where it is appropriate to do so. So, for instance, in our Safer Neighbourhood teams, there's very much a drive for those teams to get closer to the public, to the people that they serve, by having street briefings, various localised campaigns. Now, in order for them to be effective, those officers needs to be able to speak to the media and use media channels. So you have, if you like, the very sort of basic level, and then, of course, it escalates. Where we have specialised campaigns, it would make sense that the people who are driving and behind those campaigns, be it a road traffic campaign, say, something to not to use mobile phones in cars, then it makes sense for those officers who are dealing with that to speak with the media. Then, of course, you have very serious crimes. That brings into play a whole different set of situations, such as we're probably seeking the help of the public to try and find the perpetrators. So I've just described some very different reasons why we would need to harness all of our officers and staff, because I believe very much so that we're all ambassadors for the organisation, albeit operating at different levels and within different contexts. So what I would say is that if and my advice to the chief officers would be that where peoples were knowledgeable and felt comfortable in dealing with the media on an issue that is well within their understanding, then they should be able to do that with minimal help from the corporate communications team, but where there are much more complex investigations, then it would make sense, and often is the case, that they work very closely with the coms team to work out the lines to take and find the areas where we could actually be proactive with the media. I think, if I may say, most of the staff in corporate communications are coming from a point of view where they want to facilitate communication with the media in order to help reach the public.
Q. Can I ask you, though, about the last sentence of question 5. This is in the context of a broad question which enquired whether the press office has a gatekeeper function. You say: "Rather than control the flow of information to the media, I would say they [that's your office] edit the flow of information to the media." What's the difference, though, between controlling the flow of information and editing the flow of information?
A. I think the former has a negative context, whereas what I'm saying what I'm suggesting there is that there is many, many issues, crimes and areas to speak to the media on, and actually our task is to refine down and find the most newsworthy items that are going to be of interest to the media. So I would see it very much as a news editing role as opposed to a controlling role, but of course if the journalists are doing their homework and want to explore some exclusive lines, then equally my team would be seeking to help them flesh out that information too. So I do very much believe that it's very much a news editing role. It's not about controlling information; there's just far too much information swimming about the system, so we do have to exercise some judgments as to what is most appropriate, and it usually sorts itself out. What crimes have occurred, where we need help and assistance from potential witnesses, clearly we would be seeking to look after those issues first. Then, of course, the more proactive side. I've mentioned campaigns where we're seeking to get a message across to the public, be it about drink drive, keeping valuables safe or whatever. There are many different types of story.
Q. When a journalist wants to speak directly to a police officer under the policy, of course, it's the appropriate officer who should be the point of contact. You presumably have a role in ascertaining who that appropriate officer is; is that correct?
A. Yes, that would be correct, because we would know who we're likely to know who's best able to speak on a particular subject and then seek to make that interview happen, but of course, with the shift system, it may there may be a number of people who would be equally appropriate to speak, so we would find the most available person. I think the public always prefer to hear from a uniformed officer or a warranted officer, rather than a support member of staff.
Q. Can I ask you, please, about question 10, page 13749. Am I right in saying that the message you're seeking to get across here is that ordinarily a police officer would be expected to speak to a member of the news team before engaging with the press, rather than going off on their own bat, as it were, and that's to ensure that the police officer doesn't start saying something which is off piste? Have I correctly understood it?
A. That's partly correct, but the reason why we would encourage officers to contact us first would be to ensure that they had the up-to-date lines to take and the latest information, so in other words, that the police officer was had in his or her armoury the most up-to-date information. It's not just about trying to put a particular slant about. In fact, because we're not keen to be overbearing, if an officer speaks to a member of the media first, I would then hope that he or she would then contact us afterwards to say what had occurred. The reason for that is that if something is then put out into the media that the team are not aware of, then it's likely to prompt other questions from other different types of media, and then of course we're unaware of what's been said, the context and cannot help. That tends to be a frustration for everyone then. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's rather the point that has come out over the last witnesses, that there is an anxiety to be open and for the right officer to speak to whoever is asking the question, but there can't be a free-for-all, otherwise nobody knows what's going on. Is that the point?
A. I think in part it is, because I think if we look at corporate communication best practice, then actually it is about managing communications, which is why I would say that what we do is about managing information to the benefit of the organisation and the public, and I think Mr Ash already mentioned that a lot of the issues between certainly the local and the regional and, to a degree, the national press and ourselves, they're very similar. We're both wanting to put out information in the right way. So it's actually about managing this massive beast of information. You know, there's 50,000 crimes a year, roughly. You can't possibly hope to give information on all of them. So this news editing aspect and making sure that the organisation is then best able to deal with all requests that may be prompted from a starter for ten, if you like, then that actually is what we're about. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But do you recognise that by using the word "managing", some people might be suspicious that "managing" has connotations of control in a way that limits rather than empowers?
A. I do. I do understand that and I do appreciate it, which is why I'm choosing my words carefully, but actually we're managing a situation of a lot of demand potentially from the media, and we either let officers, without any assistance, deal with that and potentially in an unhelpful way, which will also then take up a lot of their time and if I go back as to why communications staff exist, it is actually to free up the officers so that they can spend the time on what the public want them to be doing primarily, which is investigating and keeping protecting people and keeping them safe. We're helping them to manage the communications. MR JAY In terms of managing, though, in question 13, you do say quite frankly that managing reputation is part of what you do, don't you?
A. Yes, that's correct.
Q. Is it implicit in that, if one looks at the previous sentence, that if senior operational officers are speaking to local journalists directly, there's a risk, because they may go off piste or whatever, that the reputation may be harmed?
A. I'm not so worried about them going off piste, because they know their business and they generally know what they want to put out there. What I would be mainly concerned about is that all members of the media are treated fairly and in a similar way. So if we have an officer doing his or her own thing with a particular section of the media, then that's likely to be a problem, because I'm then likely to get calls from other parts other types of media, saying, "Why haven't you given us that information?" So it's not actually about controlling necessarily the content of what that officer may say, but actually making sure that that information then is fairly and freely available to everyone, and that's where I think the electronic means of communication, websites, have assisted forces greatly to improve that.
Q. Move on, please, to question 16, page 13751, what the media are seeking from you. You explain this: "At my level, the reason most local and national media contact me is because they hope I will be able to unlock doors and help them obtain information that may not be easily available or access to senior officers that has previously been denied." So the unlocking of the door will be putting them in contact with a senior officer where appropriate; have I understood correctly?
A. Yes, or if there's been some hiccup or block in the system and they've not been able to get, say, a name of someone who's been involved in an accident. I recall a recent telephone conversation with an editor who was concerned about I believe it was a coroner not releasing a name. In other words, it will be an issue of strategy or policy that I'm likely to get involved in. It's unlikely to be day-to-day routine information, because hopefully we will have the systems to put that out there.
Q. And then hospitality. That is, again, fairly frugal. Question 20, there's the occasional or very occasional light lunch.
A. That's correct.
Q. And that's it. I think we have the receipt for that. Is it Delia's Canary catering?
A. Quite possibly.
Q. In August 2011. It was only ?31.50. That gives us some idea. There was no alcohol, I can see, on the bill.
A. Definitely no alcohol, and what will I would say is that we take it in turns. So if I'm picking up the bill on one occasion, then the next occasion my opposite number would pick up the bill. So it's done very fairly and infrequently, as you've seen.
Q. Do you have a view about the ethics of hospitality or not?
A. I do. I think there has to be caution, but I actually think a lot of it falls into that area of common sense. I mean, journalists from time immemorial and I used to be a journalist are used to, I suppose, having drinks in bars and that would be one way of chatting to make relationships. It's probably moved on since then. I don't actually believe it's acceptable to purchase alcohol, but I think for low-level expenses or refreshments, then those expenses are justifiable because it is a part and parcel of the role. How else would I be able to have fairly private conversations with senior members of the media to discuss the massive changes affecting the Police Service?
Q. You make it clear in question 27, Ms Campbell, that you understand and your staff understands what appropriate media contact is and is not. Do you feel that officers always understand what "appropriate media contact" means?
A. I would hope that they do, because there are a number of occasions where officers will have some media training, and it's not just something that's there subject to when they join the service. There are various points throughout careers. I would say that those officers whose roles bring them into more contact with the media have the better understanding, but generally I think most people would know where the lines in the sand were, and if they didn't, I would hope that they would know to come and seek advice from the corporate communications team.
Q. Under question 29, you give a specific example, going back to the point we were discussing earlier about possible differences between the national media and the regional media and the different way the local press dealt with a story compared with one organ of the national press. Could you elaborate on that example for us, please?
A. I think I'm going to have to generalise, but generally if the national media are interested in a story, it's usually because there's something the headlines are not going to be very clever or very good for us. They only tend to be interested in the things which are probably known as bad news. Whereas the locals and the regional media, they're constantly covering the issues and the stories from of the constabulary, so you build up a daily relationship. They're more keen, I would say, in my experience, to give a rounded view I mean, what we would expect would be that journalists would be fair and accurate, and I would add "balanced" to that. That's what I think we tend to work with the local media to see reflected. I think fair, balanced and accurate stories are reflected, even if they're not so good news. If you're looking at the national media, they're not so worried about putting our side of the story; in other words, that balanced view. I think the example that I draw is something that we've put our hands up to and we've apologised, but the national media does not cover the statement from Suffolk Constabulary, whereas the local media does. They're both similar headlines. They're both not particularly the public may be slightly concerned, potentially, to read them, but at least the local version has the statement carried by the constabulary. That's what we can expect. Some members of the public will say, "Well, didn't you give your statement to the national newspaper?" Well, we would have done but they chose not to use it. That's one of the differences.
Q. Did you complain about it in this particular case or not?
A. No, I don't believe I did. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Is that because there's really no point
A. (Nods head) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON because you're very experienced to what reaction you'll get or for some other reason?
A. In part it would be, because when we have sent follow-up statements and pointed on out that our side was not properly covered, then that rarely got any coverage because then they're on to something else. So there's also a balance, that if you decide to say something else, well, then that could potentially protract the story and that could be unhelpful. So depending on the exact circumstances and I can't recall what they were in this one we would go through quite a lengthy discussion with colleagues as to what would be the best thing to do. I'm not saying that the national media would ignore everything we would say. I'm not saying that, but sometimes you just need to understand when it's best to draw that line and then move on. MR JAY Yes. Leaks, now, Ms Campbell. We heard about the five inquiries which occupied Suffolk in the last five years, but from the perspective of your department, leaks are presumably a problem at all? Is that, broadly speaking, correct?
A. That is correct. It's not been an issue that's troubled us much.
Q. Do you have a view about off-the-record briefings? Not so much, again, from your department, because presumably there won't be very many of those, but from officers directly.
A. I prefer not to use the term "off the record". Again, I think the connotation is unhelpful. I think there are occasions where it's useful to have what I would call a background briefing, to give the context to help a journalist understand more of the story in order to make a decision one way or the other. I think "off the record", it's not a phrase that I personally use and it's not a phrase that you would hear in the department used by colleagues. As I say, you do occasionally do a background briefing, but those background briefings would also then be uploaded to our Spotlight system. So basically there is a record of everything, and it will be very clearly stated whether it's for publication or not for publication but for guidance. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON A background briefing that's for publication is just a media presentation?
A. It may be. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I mean, the example that we've had is where it's thought the press are going off on quite the wrong tack, and whereas you don't want to say what the right tack is, for understandable criminal justice reasons, you certainly don't want them going off on the wrong tack.
A. No, no, and I think we have a duty to make sure they're given a steer in the right direction. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But that would be a background briefing that was in the reportable?
A. That's correct, and that's how it would be recorded on the system. In other words, we'd be creating an audit trail of everything that's coming from the office as far as is possible. MR JAY Is that a convenient moment to break? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, certainly. (11.29 am) (A short break) (11.35 am) MR JAY Ms Campbell, you were asked some questions about Operation Sumac, which relates to the murders of five women in Ipswich in December 2006, which was, of course, before your time, but you nonetheless assisted the Inquiry and provided answers. You've included in the papers the communications strategy which was adopted. It's more two general questions about any lessons learnt from that experience. You cover this in question 48, I think. It's really the amount of time dealing with the media takes in an investigation of this nature. Is that correct?
A. Yes. I think some general lessons learned was that the team did exceptionally well, and that's been mentioned previously, and that's because they kept a drip of information and provided some very credible spokes. That was the detective leading the inquiry, and I think an ACPO officer, Jacqui Cheer, as she was then I think she was Assistant Chief Constable and certainly I'm aware that the Guardian's witness also laid gave praise to the way that the media operation was handled. So I think that obviously is a benchmark of how well things can go, and my understanding was that there was no off-the-record guidance; it was all on the record and lots of it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I suppose this comes to your national role rather than the individual role, but it is interesting that forces have to reinvent the wheel each time. When small forces get hit with enormous public interest stories, there must be room to ensure that each force has somebody who has some understanding of the additional dynamic, whether it's going back to Cromwell Street in Gloucestershire, a very small force, and much more recently, Avon and Somerset or Cumbria or Northumbria, and Suffolk as well. All comparatively small forces, having to cope with that which may not otherwise have been within their experience.
A. Yes, and I agree with you that in fact, one of the purposes of APCOM is to share sort of national learning, if you like, not just focused through our events we had a three-day learning event in November and a one-day learning event last year but also to make sure that the very latest information, if you like, the best information is then shared, and if something was to happen in a force where we could call on that learning, then that's where I would hope APCOM, working with ACPO, would also be able to bring some help to bear. MR JAY The other point you make, Ms Campbell this is page 13761, and we'll probably hear more about this next week when the SIO comes along to give evidence concerns some of the reporting in the national tabloid newspapers following the arrest of Steve Wright and a warning letter had to go out from the Chief Constable to all newspaper editors. Do you have any direct knowledge of that or you're just reporting there what others have told you?
A. I'm reporting what others have told me, so I'm aware of it but not through any personal knowledge. I wasn't overly surprised.
Q. You have an interesting observation to make about the HMIC report of December 2011, which is your belief that there should be nationally agreed standards rather than a series of maybe up to 43 or 44 individual standards.
A. (Nods head)
Q. Does that belief flow from your chairmanship of APCOM or is it an observation you've come to independently?
A. I think a bit of both. I think it would be helpful to have what I would describe as some over-arching guidelines and parameters of which the local forces can have some flexibility to flex, to suit their own purposes, but within underneath the over-arching approach. I think that would be helpful. And then we're all, to a degree, being able to sing from the same hymn sheet.
Q. In relation to the Elizabeth Filkin report, which, of course, was directed to the Metropolitan Police Service and not nationally, you are supportive of her conclusions. It follows from that that you don't think that some of them are patronising or condescending, the epithets we've heard in this Inquiry; would you agree?
A. I thought some of the broadbrush findings of the Filkin report were very helpful. One thing that did come out and certainly resonated with me was the belief that there needs to be more effort put into communications outside of those communications directed to the media, and certainly I personally believe that forces do need to harness the channels, such as social media. There are many more opportunities now that are available to us to help us get our message direct to the public and not to be mediated, necessarily, by the media. I don't think it's an either/or; I think it's a part of a revised strategy going forward. However much we've got to make sure that our message is as independent, as objective, accurate and timely as possible, and I think there's a whole raft of ways we can do that. So that was one of the things that I picked up on Filkin. I did think some of her comments are not best placed to make comment on. Whether I felt the national media were too close to the Met I certainly think it was a perception, and a perception is for many people a reality, so it could be problematical.
Q. You make that very point on the last page of your statement at the top, don't you, about the perception of
A. Mm-hm.
Q. News International vis-a-vis the Metropolitan Police Service. I move on now to your second statement, wearing your APCOM hat. Just a series of points, because you've covered a lot of the ground already. What are the benefits of APCOM, and particularly membership of APCOM?
A. I believe they're twofold. I think there are benefits for the organisation because it enables the organisation to have access to the most up-to-date information about most recent handling of cases and sensitivity. Also, it's certainly been an organisational benefit in the planning of the police operations, communications-wise, for the Olympics. Then I think there are personal benefits of membership, which is around developing police staff. There are scant opportunities I stand corrected on that, but there are fewer opportunities for police staff to be developed than police officers, and I very much support and welcome any opportunity to do that, hence I also think the link-up with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations has been a positive step forward, because by allowing a cheaper membership for APCOM members, then members can directly access a lot of the benefits, the resources, the training and the knowledge that the CIPR, and particularly their standards, can offer. So I think the benefits are both organisationally and individually.
Q. It's also a forum for the harmonisation of ideas nationally, since APCOM works closely with the ACPO communications advisory group. The idea is that you share ideas and they then disappear off into the 43 or 44 regions, but on a reasonably harmonious basis. Is that, broadly speaking, the philosophy?
A. Yes. APCOM has the practitioners, if you like, that can then help shape and influence the policy.
Q. Following the events of the last seven or eight months, what, if any, are the hot topics of discussion within APCOM, relevant to this Inquiry, at least?
A. I think we've touched upon a number of them here. Certainly there was some renewed guidance which went out from Andy Trotter, who is chair of ACPO CAG, Communications Advisory Group. We discussed that, in fact, at a pre-meeting with the Crime Reporters Association they had their thoughts as well and also at a meeting I'm talking about now several months ago. Anyway, that resulted in some interim guidance, if you like, being issued by Andy Trotter, which, for Norfolk and Suffolk, we then made a version, a more user-friendly version, which was aimed at inspector level and above. I think the issues around what's required, one thing which came out of the Filkin report which has been the subject of discussion is around what we need to do, from an internal coms perspective, not just to inform members of corporate communications staff but also all officers and staff in the force as to what their not obligations but what is expected of them in helping to forge relationships with the media. I think that's an area which there is more work still to be done.
Q. You were asked to comment on your impression of the culture within the MPS. This is question 23, page 13998. You make it clear in respect of the individuals involved: "I have the highest respect for their work and the way in which they continue to strive to achieve high standards in all they do." And that broad statement is intending to accommodate the witnesses this Inquiry has heard from; is that, broadly speaking, the point?
A. My comments there are directed at my opposite numbers, if you like, working in the organisation. I'm aware that they share the values of APCOM, they've been enthusiastic members, so they've been we've worked together. What I'm not aware of are the pressures that they face and how they differ from a more regional force. I can only guess at that, and obviously have read the news headlines as well, so.
Q. Can I ask you, please, about questions 26 and 27. It's just the breadth of the first sentence of question 27. You say in your experience: those who confidentially brief journalists without the knowledge of those who are charged with successfully managing media relationships are seeking to damage the organisation in the eyes of the public." I mean, that may be true in some cases, it may be true in the majority of cases, but it's not true in all cases, is it?
A. No, I'm speaking from my own experience, where we've had where I've had to manage situations where unhelpful information has been passed. And it's I describe it a bit like information through a key hole. The individual passing on the information firmly believes that he or she is correct and they probably are, but they don't have the benefit of the wider context and the other information that puts the information they've passed into proper context. That's what gives rise then to unhelpful stories, where there's only a part of the picture. I actually don't think the public interest is being best served there if they don't have the opportunity to understand the wider context.
Q. Maybe the point is this: human nature being as it is, if someone is prepared to speak to the press confidentially or secretly, the tendency will be to put out the negative and not put any of the positive by way of balance to provide context to the story, but that is your job, maybe not to accentuate the negative and perhaps not to cover it up, but to give the whole story. Do you see your role in those terms?
A. I actually see my role exactly in those terms, and personally I've never been too concerned about people who leak information, as long as we're given the opportunity to give a balanced picture. That's where the relationship with the journalist and the media comes into play and is really important, because I will have confidence in the journalist or the editor or both to properly reflect the accurate story. So if there are a number of internal assassins, if you like, operating, I'm not going to be too concerned, as long as I'm able to give the balancing view and it's then portrayed appropriately.
Q. Do you see, though, that there's a risk in your role? I'm sure you never succumb to it, but because it's your task, to use your own words, successfully to manage media relationships, the tendency will be to only put out the positive and to suppress the negative?
A. I think on any given day, we're dealing with so many different issues. There are any number of official reports that are saying things about the organisation. We do our best to fairly and accurately reflect most of those. Of course, if, as previously been said, a previous administration was keen to improve the confidence of the public, then that means that there is quite a proactive drive in order to let the public know what kind of services they can expect, what we're doing on their behalf, but it's still only part of the picture. I think in the forces that I've worked most recently, certainly we've tried to respond to the reports that have been said about us in an appropriate way, and I think it would be for others then to say whether that was we were working too positively, but I would have to challenge that. I would say we were being accurate. MR JAY Okay, thank you, Ms Campbell. Those were the questions I had for you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Can I ask one question? You mentioned that Mr Trotter of ACPO introduced some renewed or interim guidance, which you discussed with the CRA. Now, the CRA, it has been explained to me, is open to crime reporters who operate on a national basis. You've made the point, forcibly, that the dynamics as between the national reporters and the Met may be rather different to the dynamics that exist between local reporters and local forces. Is there any organisation that represents regional newspapers which would permit you to get a view from their perspective, which may indeed be different from the perspective of the national association?
A. I understand your point. I think the organisation could possibly be the Society of Editors, which represents all editors regardless of national, regional, local, whatever. Just to clarify the earlier statement, I didn't say that we discussed the potential guidance with the CRA; we discussed some of the issues that were emerging from the reports in an attempt to work alongside, but the guidance that was issued was not vetted in any way by the CRA. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, I wasn't suggesting that even by saying you discussed it, I wasn't suggesting that you were giving them the pen to rewrite it, but I'm rather interested in the extent to which you do take into account or you can discuss what are much more likely to be issues that will affect your forces and similar forces than the issues that are likely to affect the national press.
A. I absolutely agree, and I think that is an area where there is a gap, and one of the things that I've set up in a previous actually, in Norfolk, was a media users group, which brought together a representative selection of the local and the regional media to work with us, initially on areas of major civil incidents but also as we were then transitioning to a new model of working. So I very much believe that we do need to work not just with the media, but also with the public, and the media, to a degree, also represent the public. So I think we do need to create those fora, and that's something that I've found has worked in the past. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You see, you point to the Society of Editors, but of course that includes the editors of all the national papers, which I don't for a moment suggest would drown out regional views, but would certainly dramatically impact upon the unvarnished view that you might get from the regional press.
A. True. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, all right. Thank you very much indeed.
A. Thank you. MR JAY The next witness is Mr Adwent, please. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR COLIN ANTHONY ADWENT (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Your full name, please?
A. Colin Anthony Adwent.
Q. Thank you, Mr Adwent. You provided us with a witness statement on 3 February of this year. You've signed and dated it. Is this your formal evidence to this Inquiry?
A. It is, although I would like to make one exception to it. I appear to have misunderstood question 5, in which it talks about personal mobile or home telephone numbers and answered it on the basis only of press officers. My additional to that or clarification to that is I have a number of police officers' mobile numbers, the vast majority of which, I'm assuming, are their work numbers, because they were given to me in a work context.
Q. Thank you.
A. I apologise for that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, thank you. MR JAY In terms of your career and who you are, you started off in advertising. You then moved to journalism, qualified as a reporter in 1998, and since then you've worked as a general reporter, a crime reporter, a news editor, assistant editor and head of sport for both papers in Ipswich. You're currently the crime reporter of the East Anglian Daily Times; is that right?
A. And Ipswich Star. We have another paper as well.
Q. Thank you. You returned to that role in January 2009, so presumably you're not a member of the Crime Reporters Association because you're regional?
A. That's correct.
Q. Do you have any view about that?
A. I don't have any specific view about that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But do you agree that actually the context within which you might want a discussion may be different from the context that crime reporters on national newspapers would want a discussion with police authorities or police officers?
A. I think broadly that's probably correct, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do you feel that you're limited by reason of the fact that there isn't a voice for the regional press in this area that's the equivalent of the CRA or not? It may not matter.
A. I've never felt limited or inhibited by anything like that, to be fair. I mean, we operate in Suffolk. It's a relatively small area, and in all honesty I'm the only dedicated crime reporter, as far as I'm aware, for the media in that area and the police seem to be very fair in terms of access and I've never needed or felt the need to be involved with any particular organisation or relating to that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That might be the answer. If you're the only specialist, then if you have a problem, you just go and deal with it. You don't need to talk about it because there's no other specialist to involve in your discussion.
A. Possibly the case. I've always if there have been any issues with Suffolk Constabulary, then I've always dealt directly with Suffolk Constabulary or through my editors with Suffolk Constabulary. MR JAY In paragraph 26 your statement, you're clear that the relationship between you and the police is, generally speaking, a very good one? That's right, isn't it?
A. I've always found that to be so, yes.
Q. So you don't appear to share the frustration which your editor expresses in paragraph 2 of his statement, in these terms: "Suffolk police's reluctance or inability to release information about crime or other incidents very quickly when public awareness can be of maximum benefit Is that a problem which you've experienced or not?
A. I haven't particularly experienced that problem, no. I think with respect, the editor will obviously speak on his own behalf, but for me, I operate at a lower level. My role, if you like, is in three particular areas, I suppose. One relates to covering court cases and ensuring we cover all the important cases. Another one relates to live inquiries, so major investigations, that sort of thing, and the other aspect of that is general matters on policing within Suffolk Constabulary, such as organisational changes, et cetera. Concerns over the release of information and those type of things and I think this is one specific example that Mr Ash quoted today, which came to light, and I mean, specifically, I think that was what was being mooted within that statement, although you would have to ask that editor whether that is correct. Generally, I don't feel that there is a particular problem that affects me, having regard to that. MR JAY Were you involved at all with the reporting of the Steve Wright case in December 2006?
A. I was involved in terms of I was on the news desk at that time of the Ipswich Star. I wasn't one of the reporters who was out on the streets, if you like, or going to the press conferences. However, my role within that is to work on the news desk and you send the reporters out to various places, whether it be make sure the press conferences are covered, make sure if there's anyone they need to speak to in terms of knocking on any doors, that sort of thing. That was my role, if you like, to oversee what the reporters were doing at that point.
Q. We've heard evidence from the last witness that the national press, in particular the tabloid press, touched the boundaries, as it were, of appropriate reporting, if I can put it in those terms. Is that something which you were concerned about at the time or observed and noted?
A. I have to say I've it wasn't a concern of mine at the time. It was not something that sort of touched our world, if you like, within regards to maybe the way they went about doing their job. Certainly I was unaware of the evidence that was given last week until it was begin by Mr Harrison, I believe it was, so I have to say that although I saw their reporting and I may have a personal view on the reporting, anything else would be speculation on my part, your Lordship.
Q. There was the pre-arrest evidence, which was Mr Harrison's evidence, and then the reporting after Mr Wright's arrest, and the letter which went out from the Chief Constable, I think. Was that something which you were concerned about? Because your paper wasn't targeted. It wasn't being suggested that there was any inappropriate reporting from your paper; it was a problem which was nationally generated.
A. Again, I was aware of the letter that went out because my editors made us aware of the letter and stressed the need to be careful and make sure we stayed within the legal boundaries, but we believe we had done so at that point. As you say, we weren't being targeted and we carried on in the way that we had been.
Q. Thank you. In paragraph 4 of your statement, you deal with your practice. You ring all the area and corporate press offices on a daily basis as part of your job: "Sometimes press officers may take the initiative and call me." Is that only to put out positive news or not?
A. I wouldn't say it's only to put out positive news, in fairness to them, but I mean, they may say, as a for instance, that there is a court case today that we might want to cover, for whatever reason, or that if there's a court case of a particular profile that has a certain importance within the community, to make sure that we're aware of it. Whether you deem that to be positive news, I don't know. On occasions, they may well contact us to say they're doing some sort of launch of an initiative, such as a burglary initiative, et cetera, and they'll be inviting us to it. Those are the type of communications that they would generally have when they come to us.
Q. You make it clear that you've been out with the police on many raids throughout the years at their invitation. In your own words, please, what are the advantages of that?
A. Well, from my perspective, the advantage obviously is going along with the police and a photographer one of our photographers and getting what we would consider to be a good coverage of a story, being there at the outset. It also helps me forge relationships with officers. Many officers may well see me around and over the years come to understand the way I work or, you know, the type of way we deal with things. It helps break down barriers in that regard. Obviously the advantage from the police perspective, I would imagine, is the good publicity they get out of it and the raising of awareness of whatever it is that the raid is about.
Q. Is it your practice and I appreciate it will be an editorial decision and not necessarily yours to pixelate out the faces of the persons arrested or not?
A. Yes.
Q. Off-the-record briefings, you explain that you have been offered these. The reasons vary. There's the obvious case of hindering an investigation. That would be something unwitting on your part, so you're warned off it by the police.
A. (Nods head)
Q. Can I ask you to explain what you mean by this clause: or perhaps because of a stance one of our papers may be taking." It's in question 14.
A. Yes. On occasions as a for instance, the example used earlier on by Mr Ash relating to, say, the timely nature of disclosure of certain information. The example that was used there would be relating to information which we felt was late in getting into the public domain, where three prisoners from a secure hospital had escaped custody. Now, although I'm using this as an example, I'm not suggesting this is the way we did or didn't cover it. What I'm saying is on occasions we may take a view and we may do a robust editorial about: "We should have known sooner." Now, there have been occasions where I have spoken to a senior officer who has explained to me why that information hasn't come out sooner, and therefore, rather than go off and criticise the police, then that gives us the opportunity to tailor our coverage to something that isn't perhaps sensationalist or something that doesn't criticise too deeply about what they've done or the way they've done it. Obviously we're not privy to the reasons why things are done in certain ways by Suffolk Constabulary, and on occasions, as I say, we may take a view on certain things, and it's only after a discussion prior to publication that we have a more fuller understanding and can get a more balanced report in order to put the information out, if you like, into the public domain without making undue criticism or unfair criticism.
Q. Have there been circumstances where you've been in receipt of unauthorised information from the police?
A. Um yes, but I probably ought on explain. The subject of leaks has come up this morning, and Mr Ash has referred to five particular cases. Three of those are cases that I've been involved in, so therefore I must say yes. It rather depends on what the scale of what you're talking about is. Perhaps if you would clarify that, I might be able to answer it a little bit better.
Q. Well, taking it in stages, the first point is whether you know at the time that the information is unauthorised. Presumably that's a judgment you make from the nature of the way in which the information is being imparted, because there may be an air of secrecy about it
A. Right.
Q. and the substance of what you're told. Is that, broadly speaking, correct?
A. Yes. I mean, I would have to say yes is the answer to your question, because obviously I have found things out that haven't gone through the official channels and the press office.
Q. But presumably, without going into individual cases, your judgment is, in each instance: well, I might have obtained this information outside the authorised channels but it's nonetheless in the public interest to publish it. Is that the thought process you undertake?
A. Yes.
Q. Have you found yourself at the wrong end of a leak inquiry by the Suffolk police?
A. I haven't been questioned by the Suffolk police in any formal context at all within the leak inquiry.
Q. Your response would be, if you were questioned: "Well, I'm not going to tell you. Look at the Editors' Code; my sources are confidential." Would that be your position?
A. Yes, it would be. Obviously my work relies on trust. I mean, if people trust me and I'm trusting them that the information is correct, then I cannot break that trust, and although it's perhaps a bit glib or possibly a cliche to hide behind sort of protecting your sources, at the end of the day, I have to work to a level of trust and people have to trust in me and once trust is gone, that's it.
Q. This is the point you make under question 16, I believe, isn't it?
A. Yes.
Q. "A reputation for fairness and trustworthiness And that covers everything you do, not just when you're occasionally in receipt of confidential information, which you've just talked about, but all aspects of your role as a journalist?
A. Yes.
Q. As a crime reporter.
A. I was taught when I trained, 15 years ago, I was taught three things, and they were taught to us as ABC: accuracy, balance and clarity. Beyond that, we were also told that people have a trust in you, not only the readers trusting that what you're saying and what you're printing is accurate, but people you are dealing with believe you are trustworthy. On and off, for 15 years, I've been dealing with police officers and hopefully over that period of time I've gained a reputation as someone who can be trusted and who does their job fairly.
Q. How many times has it been I'm not going to ask you to give the precise number, because I'm sure you won't be able to recall where the police have come back to you on a story and said, "Didn't like that one very much; it was inaccurate in this respect or unfair in that respect"? Has that ever happened?
A. I can never honestly remember an occasion when that has ever happened. There may be occasions when Suffolk Constabulary don't like the story I'm doing. It's either I say embarrassing for them or there's information that will be going out into the public domain they wouldn't have wanted to get out there, but before every story is published, I would go to the press office and I would speak to the press officer involved and just explain what the story is and give full right of reply. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Can you see a distinction between stories which the police believe will positively hinder an investigation and stories which the police don't say that about but would prefer either didn't emerge or emerge with their full explanation?
A. I see a distinction between the two, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What would be your reaction if you were told: "Well, that's very interesting, we're not going to confirm or deny, but we are in the middle of an investigation and this really could undermine it or damage it"?
A. Then we wouldn't publish anything. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Has that happened to you?
A. Again, I can't recall specific instances, but I believe I've been asked not to print something until, you know, the investigation has moved on to a point where it can be published. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes.
A. In fairness, what I always ask although I'm in no position to demand it, but I always ask is that bearing in mind I have come to them with information that they don't want to be put in the public domain, as soon as it can be published, I ask them to come back to me and tell me. In fairness, they always have done, as far as I can recall. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's entirely reasonable. MR JAY Part of the fairness and trustworthiness you refer to, because it works both ways, doesn't it?
A. Well, again, as I've said, each of us has our own perspective and our own agenda on things, but at the end of the day, I have to remain I've no wish to be in front of a judge.
Q. Okay. Do you have a view, Mr Adwent, about the issue of logging contacts between police and journalists? It's been a bit of a recurring theme in this Inquiry and the chilling effect of that. Could you help us, please?
A. I think that's entirely, really, a matter for the constabularies around the country. My personal view is I don't believe it's overly helpful. I've noticed since September, I think it was, when Mr Ash said that this new instruction had come in about logging contacts, that one or two officers seem slightly more nervous about speaking to me, but then, as I say, that is entirely a view for Suffolk Constabulary to take. If they wish to take it, I don't know a way that I can dissuade them from doing. I just feel and again, this is a personal view that it may well inhibit officers from talking is to the press in certain cases, and I think when you have officers in positions of either seniority or certainly positions where they're covering quite important matters, and in some cases dealing with life or death situations, if the officers are responsible enough to be put in those positions, then surely they must have common sense enough to know what to speak to the press about, and how far, you know, they can go with speaking to the press. That's just my personal view. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Would it be made easier if it was recognised and perhaps rather more within the DNA of police officers that part of the job is to speak to the press, but the reason that we want to know about it is not because we're checking up on you, but simply so that we have a handle on what's out there?
A. Mm. I think possibly so. Again, I'm coloured my view is coloured, if you like, by Suffolk Constabulary. I appreciate this Inquiry is about so much more than that. So, you know, I deal with things in a very sort of local, parochial context. I just think that, as I say, you know, officers, as I go back to saying, are people of integrity, the ones that I've come across certainly are, and I just feel that anything that would inhibit a flow of information is something that, you know, with respect, I wouldn't necessarily advocate, and I do question whether some of this, certainly within Suffolk, may well have come about through information that people don't want to get into the public, relating to maybe restructuring or policing general matters about the police, rather than about specific inquiries, if you understand my meaning. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, I understand that, but it is interesting, isn't it, that everybody involved from a professional perspective the Chief Constable, the federation, Superintendent Association and the union, all felt this isn't very helpful, according to the letter that I've just read. You would say it may not be helpful, but the public have the right to know?
A. Well, yes, I mean as I mentioned in part of my evidence, you know, each of us, if you like, has a perspective or an agenda, however you want to call it, and there's been a fair bit said today within the evidence you've heard from Suffolk Constabulary that talks about reputation, it talks about news editing, it talks about management. Over the last 15 years or so, it has been noticeable for me, anyway how the information is continually getting funnelled into a narrower channel. It is about reputation, it is about organisation, what people feel they are comfortable with in the public knowing, and here I'm talking about organisational changes, if you like, rather than inquiries. And people protect I say their brand, but they protect their organisation and I fully understand that and every organisation and company does nowadays. I just feel that because a constabulary says that they're uncomfortable with that information being out in the public domain, it doesn't mean to say it's not in the public interest for it to be there. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You've put your finger on the tension that would inevitably exist between the press and indeed any organisation.
A. But then, you know, within my role maybe it's because I'm a little more experienced than possibly some of the younger reporters but I understand that, and within my role, that's why I believe it's important for myself to be able to talk to police officers of all ranks without fear or favour, if you like. I'm not looking to embarrass Suffolk Constabulary. I would hope that if people look at my stories that I've written over the years, they would see that there are very few of them that are negative towards Suffolk Constabulary and certainly as far as I'm concerned, the officers I've come across through the years, as far as I'm concerned, have acted with propriety, and I've never felt any of those officers was doing anything other than what they believed to be the right thing. MR JAY Yes. Thank you very much, Mr Adwent. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. You of course will appreciate, Mr Adwent, that as you yourself have said, the relationships are very different in different places. The trick is to try and find something that works for everybody and encourages the maximum openness and transparency, but doesn't go half a step too far and create the Wild West.
A. I understand. Thank you. MR JAY Thank you. Next, please, Mr Hunt. MR TERRENCE DEAN HUNT (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Thank. Your full name, please?
A. My name is Terrence Dean Hunt.
Q. Thank you. You provided us with a statement. I'm not sure of the exact date, but in February you've signed it and this is your formal evidence to the Inquiry.
A. Yes, it is. I'd like to add a sentence to question 10.
Q. Yes?
A. Which is that in my initial evidence I overlooked the fact that I entertained Mr Ash at a football match in January 2011. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MR JAY Yes. It was Ipswich/Arsenal.
A. It was. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm sure you appreciate, Mr Hunt, that you're not here because there's any specific concern about Suffolk, but because you provide a window on a very different type of relationship which it's important that we take into account. You've also had the advantage/disadvantage of having been at the centre of an enormous story which did achieve public prominence and which has involved discussion in the Inquiry.
A. Indeed. MR JAY I think you've spent your whole career in journalism, is this right, but you are currently, and you have been since 1996, the editor of the East Anglian Daily Times?
A. That's correct.
Q. At paragraph 2 of your statement this is our page 00809 you say that the relationship with Suffolk police is generally supportive but you have one area of frustration. May I invite you, please, to develop that point?
A. Yes, it's the same area which has been discussed by previous witnesses this morning, which is the time release of information from Suffolk police, which on occasions has, in my opinion, been too slow and a source of some frustration, for two reasons, really: one, in that in the event of a very public incident, it's my strongly held belief that the quicker the information can get out there, the more likely people are to remember certain incidents and therefore more useful witnesses might come forward. The second aspect is the matter of public safety, such as the incident where the three dangerous inmates from a secure mental health unit were at large locally and that information didn't get into the public domain for, I believe, 12 hours, which I thought was a matter of significant public concern. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON On the first subject, I'm sure the police would want to encourage as many witnesses as possible to come forward, but on the second, is your real point not that there's a systemic issue there, that they're deliberately keeping information back, but rather the wrong judgment was made in that case and the likely reaction should have been appreciated rather more quickly?
A. Yes. This was a Sunday morning, very early hours of Sunday morning. So these three individuals escaped in the early hours of Sunday morning, and were at large in Suffolk and were potentially dangerous, and I would have hoped and expected that Suffolk police would have decided to put some information on that into the public domain as quickly as possible, so that when Suffolk awoke that morning, it the individual the members of public were forewarned that there was a possibility of these three being in the local area and not to approach them, or indeed, if they saw them, obviously to contact the police. I felt it very unfortunate that that information didn't reach us or any other media until lunchtime that Sunday. MR JAY Over the years, Mr Hunt, have you detected any change in culture in the Suffolk police, and in your relations with them?
A. No, not really. I mean, it's been despite various changes in structure, I believe our relationship has been, as I say here, generally supportive, generally good. We share a number of aims in common in terms of obviously the reporting of crime, keeping that in context, the fear of crime. Suffolk is a very safe county and it's our responsibility, the media's responsibility, I believe, to keep that within context, so that people don't have an undue level of fear of crime. The only frustrations I've ever had with Suffolk police are the matters that I've just mentioned to you, which is the release of information in timely fashion.
Q. Thank you. In December 2006, the national press, as it were, descended on Ipswich in view of Operation Sumac. What the then SIO, Mr Gull, says: "There were, at times, somewhat, I considered to be unhelpful, unjustified and unbalanced media reporting, which at best was misleading and at worst caused further anxiety and worry within the local community." He's referring there not to reporting from your newspaper or by your newspaper, but by some organs of the national press. Were you monitoring, as it were, what was being said about this investigation in the national press?
A. Yes, we were very aware of what the national press were reporting at the time. We obviously received all the newspapers every day, and we felt it was our responsibility, again, to keep this within context. Obviously it was a very significant unprecedented story for Suffolk, but it was part of our responsibility again to put this into some kind of context, because there was a great deal of concern within Ipswich especially and wider Suffolk about what was going on in a very fast-moving and, frankly, horrifying story. So we had to keep very balanced and very contextual in terms of our reporting. I was aware of how the nationals were reporting it. Six years on or almost six years on, I don't remember much detail. The only real detail I remember is the letter to which mention has been made today, from the then Chief Constable to the media, reminding of the danger of contempt and that, as I recall, was precipitated by a picture that was used on the front page of one of the national tabloids.
Q. When you refer to context and your aim to achieve balance, what was the context here? Was it that Suffolk is generally a safe place, that this is a one-off extraordinary series of crimes? What was the balance message you were trying
A. It was absolutely that, yes, that Suffolk, generally speaking, is a very safe county.
Q. In terms of some of the reporting in the national press, obviously it's impossible now to remember the detail of it, but is there any impression of it that you can share with us? Do you feel it generally achieved the same sort of balance which you were aiming to achieve in your publication or do you feel there were aspects of concern?
A. I don't think it was as balanced because I feel that the national press didn't have the same responsibilities as the local media did in reporting those events. For example, one or possibly more of the nationals would take a picture of the centre of Ipswich on a Monday night and suggest that it was quiet because everyone was frightened, which wasn't the case. It wasn't the case. Obviously people were taking additional precautions, but from my recollection, my perception at the time was not that everyone was going home and locking their doors. It was just a different perception. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You also had the benefit of knowing what Ipswich does look like on a Monday night normally.
A. Yes, and a Monday night and remember this was December it probably would have been quiet under normal circumstances, so it wasn't anything exceptional. MR JAY Paragraph 4 of your statement, page 00810. I've been asked to put this to you. This is the reporting of a tragic road traffic accident and the death of a teenage boy. Is the point you're making there that the Suffolk police and the press officer were content that you could publish the boy's name or not?
A. Yes, they were. Perhaps should I explain how this came about?
Q. Yes.
A. This young man, Reece Lauren, was killed in rural Suffolk at tea time, and by mid-evening it came to my attention that various social media channels were publishing his name very widely, and it then came to my attention that he was the son of a very well-known and prominent former world speedway champion, and I went to the office to speak to Suffolk police to ascertain whether it was appropriate and responsible for us to publish the young man's name in the next day's paper, whether all relatives had been informed. Because this was an increasing issue for us, because people can put things on social media sites without having that sense of responsibility, if you understand what I mean. So it was being discussed quite widely by quite a large number of people, and I wanted to know from Suffolk police whether I would be able, responsibly and sensitively, to publish his name in the following day's newspaper. I spoke a number of times to one of the press officers, who was extremely helpful, who was talking to the family liaison officer, who was in turn speaking to the family, and at a given point that night, I was told by the press officer that it was okay to publish the name. The family were aware that the name would be in the paper. They were aware that because of the prominence of the boy's father there was likely to be significant media interest. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's showing responsibility at the highest level. That's a comment of mine, not really a question.
A. Yes, well, yes. The last thing I would want to do would be to publish the name of any road accident victim if important people to him or her weren't aware, and that was the assurance I gained from Suffolk police. MR JAY Thank you. Are there occasions when you've had to make editorial decisions in circumstances where your crime reporter has come to you with a story, the basis of which is leaked or unauthorised information?
A. Yes, there have been occasions.
Q. How do you weigh up the public interest in that sort of case? In particular, do you take into account the fact that the source of the information is unauthorised or do you take the view: "No, I've got the information, I ignore the circumstances in which it's come to me, I assess the public interest on its narrower merits"?
A. Yes, I would look at I would want to know on what basis we'd been given the story. I would want to know not the name of the person who's given us the story but the type of area from which it has come, and then I would make a decision on whether this is a valid story from the public interest perspective. Just to use an example, we had a story about which was part of Suffolk police's response to the need to cut costs, which was a reduction in the traffic policing unit, which came to us, and I took the judgment that this was very strongly in the public interest because of the ramifications of having fewer traffic policemen on Suffolk's roads.
Q. You express a view in paragraph 22 of your statement, page 00813. You were asked to address the HMIC recent report. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just pause a minute, Mr Jay. I understand that the equipment has failed and I notice from the screen in the top left that it's gone off. MR JAY It will be done at lunchtime. It can't be done before. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Jay, I should have assumed you knew all about it. Carry on. MR JAY A message was passed to me. The HMIC report and the recommendation that contacts between journalists and police officers be recorded you're not the first editor to express some degree of disquiet about that but I just wanted to investigate your reasons for that disquiet.
A. As the Inquiry's heard already today, there is, on the part of some Suffolk police officers, a significant caution or degree of caution about giving information to the media, and my personal opinion is that this recommendation will make some of those people who are cautious now even more cautious about giving us what, after all, is legitimate and hopefully mutually helpful information. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do you think that will calm down? At the moment the atmosphere, I readily recognise, is somewhat heightened.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Not least because of the work of the Inquiry, which has now been going on for some months, and somebody else says something else and then there's another report, but if one premised the proper relationship between the press and the police as an encouragement to be as open and transparent as possible, to encourage police officers to speak to journalists within the areas of their competence and to encourage sharing rather than not sharing news, both good and bad, do you think that once that had got out and became part of the DNA, the reluctance of which you speak would actually naturally diminish, so that the fact that the centre knows what's going on would not be seen as a disincentive, or do you think I'm being rather unrealistic?
A. I think it is obviously the fact that there is a heightened sensitivity at the moment, and that's a fact. I think there have always been police officers I can only speak for Suffolk. There have always, in my 33 years, been police officers who have been reluctant to share what I view as legitimate information for their own reasons. You've heard that there's been some level of training for control room staff about appropriate relationships with the press, and I just think that this recommendation, when enshrined, will be a step backwards for a number of people who are concerned that by talking to the press they might in some way get themselves into trouble. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But even if the headline comment is: "We want to encourage it. It's part of your job to engage with the press. That's part of the important responsibility of modern-day policing."
A. Mm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So even in that context, you think some people would be concerned?
A. I think so, yes. MR JAY Would the chilling effect, to use that term, be much greater, though, in relation to the flow of unauthorised information as opposed to authorised information?
A. Sorry, I didn't understand that.
Q. Would police officers be less likely to engage with the press as regards the dissemination of unauthorised information as opposed to authorised information?
A. I don't think it would have an impact on unauthorised information, because that would be you wouldn't expect a police officer who is releasing unauthorised information to then voluntarily put himself on the register, would you? I don't think that's realistic. MR JAY No. Mr Hunt, those were all the questions I have for you.
A. Okay. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON If he's voluntarily giving information that he knows to be unauthorised, he wouldn't. Therefore, if he's voluntarily giving information that he knows fits in with the ethos that the police want to generate, why would be he concerned? That's what I'm having difficulty grappling with. I quite understand where we are today, and I quite understand and there has been a consistent line among very senior police officers to recognise the need for openness and transparency in police dealing with the public, and therefore, significantly, with the media. So if that's one side of the equation, I'm struggling to see why somebody should be reluctant to the engage in that philosophy if it's the philosophy of the police. That's my problem.
A. Well, I suppose here I'm certainly talking about somebody within the police force who is talking to a journalist without authorisation from the organisation, and he or she is giving information which is not authorised to be released by or on behalf of the Chief Constable. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, but that assumes that the Chief Constable is sitting there with a sort of book saying, "Chapters 1 to 10, that's all right. Chapters 11 and 12, absolutely not. Chapters 13, 14, 15 well, needs must. We'll see." I'm not sure it works like that. I'm sure you would agree that you would want absolutely no information that prejudiced a police investigation.
A. Absolutely right, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And therefore that's quite clear.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON If a police officer is saying something to you and you appreciate: "Actually, this is going to cause enormous trouble for an investigation" it didn't take Mr Adwent a nanosecond to say, "That won't be going in the newspaper."
A. Yes. What would happen in those circumstances is if we were given some information about an inquiry, maybe a reopened inquiry that's ongoing, then we would go to the press office to say, "We've learned that you're looking again at X, cold case, perhaps, and we're at the moment intending to perhaps publish something about that. What's your response to that?" And then if the response is: "Well, yes, we are looking again at this case, but because it's live, because we don't want" and it's often: we don't want to alert the suspect or suspects, then please don't put anything in the paper until a given point", which, again, is usually at the point of arrest, then we would always abide by their wishes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That example is a very, very good one, because the prosecuting authorities will very frequently, if not inevitably, not want to alert a cold case, perhaps a reinvestigation following acquittal and an application to the Court of Appeal criminal division to permit a further prosecution. They'd want to keep that very quiet until the whole judicial process had got rolling.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So that's a very good example.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But if one puts that to one side and looks at information that perhaps identifies a problem that doesn't portray the police in the very best light, if the view is that police officers are entitled to speak within their area of competence across the range so neighbourhood policemen will speak about what's going on in their neighbourhood: "Yes, there were three burglaries in that street, so everybody should keep an eye out", whether they do it through you or through Twitter or any of the other mechanisms that are today available, I'm just struggling to see why, if the Chief Constable has said, "This is a good idea to engage in this way", why there should be that concern.
A. I think there's a distinction, isn't there, between I can't speak for Mr Ash, obviously. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No.
A. but this is my perception, in that there has been an encouragement for local policemen to talk about local issues which they're dealing with and tackling within their community, but there's a distinction between that and someone within the organisation who chooses to tell the media, whether it be us or whoever, about something which Suffolk police it might be an organisational matter, you know, restructure, redundancies who chooses to tell us about those kind of issues at a point when that information is not or the organisation doesn't want that information to be in the public domain. And that's there's a distinction. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's quite a good example of something that is not being authorised, not because it's necessarily damaging to public/police relations in the way in which they detect crime, but because they're having to cope with management issues which are sensitive and complex, and we saw that example
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON where a combination of the Chief Constable, the federation, the superintendent association and the union all I don't know if you've seen the letter said to officers
A. No. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON "We don't want this to be discussed because it is sensitive." Well, that went to the officers.
A. Mm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I suppose if you would always, every single time, say, "We're going to go to the police to stand up to the story or to ask for their comment", then it may not matter, but if somebody less responsible than you were simply to put that information to the newspaper without providing the context, that might itself create just as much damage as another type of story which you wouldn't dream of publishing. Do you see the point?
A. Yes, I do. We would always as Mr Adwent said, if we're given the information from an unauthorised source, we would then go to Suffolk police to say, "We've been told this; is this the case?" And we may then have a conversation where they say, "Well, it is, but it's a slightly slanted view of life or this issue, and here's our view", and then we take a judgment in terms of what's the fair and balanced way to present that information to the public. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. The problem, of course, as I'm sure you appreciate, is that if everybody took that view of life and that view of balance and sensible reportage, we may not be where we are today.
A. Well, I mean, my job is to get the most accurate, balanced information to my readers and that's all about trust. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. I think that's a very convenient place at which to stop. Mr Hunt, thank you very much indeed for coming.
A. Thank you. (12.58 pm)


Gave a statement at the hearing on 26 March 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 26 March 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 16 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 26 March 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 51 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 26 March 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 2 pieces of evidence


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