|Leveson Inquiry: Sir Christopher Meyer - live Guardian News Blog
By Josh Halliday and Dugald Baird
Tuesday 31 January 2012
- Extract -
9.47am: Good morning and welcome
to the Leveson inquiry live blog.
The inquiry continues with its turn of senior Press Complaints Commission (PCC)
figures, hearing evidence from veteran media executive Lord Grade, former PCC chairman Sir Christopher
Meyer, and the recently-installed PCC chairman, Lord Hunt.
Hunt was appointed new chairman
of the PCC in October last year, following the departure of Baroness Buscombe. In only his second outing since taking the
role, Hunt is likely to be pressed on his own proposals for a radical shakeup of press regulation.
will hear from Meyer, chairman of the PCC between 2003 and 2009 – spanning the period when the first signs of widespread
illicit newsgathering methods were uncovered. Meyer is likely to be asked about his meetings with former information commissioner,
Richard Thomas, who raised concerns about the use of private investigators by newspapers in 2003.
Sir Christopher Meyer is the first witness of the day. He was chairman of the PCC from 2003 to 2009.
Meyer is being questioned by Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry.
is asked about coverage of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Express Newspapers paid out £550,000 damages after
the high court found it had published 100 'seriously defamatory' articles about her parents.
He says he
made it "perfectly plain" to Gerry McCann that it was either the legal route or the PCC.
In July 2007,
Meyer told McCann and his press handler what the options were if they believed they need to "take action" against
12.15pm: Meyer says he met McCann again in February
2008, by which time the couple had made a firm decision to go to law, and had engaged law firm Carter-Ruck for a libel case.
Asked about what had taken place between July 2007 and January 2008, Meyer says:
did a lot. We were in pretty close contact with the press handlers [Clarence Mitchell] of the McCanns. We stood ready to intervene
if they wanted it.Meyer says he he understood
that coverage of the McCanns was "not pleasant".
You can't be more royalist than the king. You cannot wish to stop something more ardently
than the king. But by that time I think they had chosen to go to the law."
"It was pretty violent …
and it was not pleasant to read. I have to say to you – this is so important - we made particular efforts to the McCanns
to make ourselves available within 48 hours of Madeleine disappearing."12.17pm:
Meyer says he told Peter Hill, the former editor of the Daily Express, "you have to resign" after the Express Newspapers
libel payout to the McCanns.
"I said 'in effect you need to resign'," says Meyer. "He said
'I suppose I have to but I need to consult friends and colleagues.'"
Meyer then said he should resign
as soon as possible, adding: "That was the last time I ever talked to him."
Meyer says it is "very unfair" to say that he acted too slowly to condemn the Express's coverage of the McCanns.
The first Meyer heard of the Express Newspapers libel payout was on the radio on the morning it happened, he says.
12.26pm: Meyer says of Peter Hill: "It is inconceivable that he
could stay on the commission." He adds that the commission decided Hill should be replaced as soon as possible.
"It took longer for him to be replaced than it should have done," Meyer adds.
Jay suggests the PCC
adopted a position of "doing nothing" to protect the McCanns.
Meyer disputes this, saying that the PCC
put itself at the McCanns' disposal.
12.28pm: Meyer says it was
"screamingly obvious" what had gone wrong in relation to the McCann saga.
The McCanns needed the press
for publicity's sake, he says, but it was a "Faustian" pact.
The Portuguese police were "leaking
like sieves" and journalists were under pressure to produce fresh stories, Meyer says.
need a big review to see this. It happens from time to time," he adds. "It led to the McCanns being accused of something
that is utterly abominable."
12.31pm: "The PCC made it
its business from the very beginning to say, 'we are here to help'," Meyer tells the inquiry. He adds that help
was taken up "but only in an ancillary way".
He says that if the McCanns did not want intervention, "You
must respect complainants' wishes."
12.32pm: Meyer says
in February 2008 he agreed with the McCanns that launching libel actions against newspapers, rather than going to the PCC,
was the right course of action.
12.34pm: Jay suggests that if the
PCC had taken a more proactive stance with the McCanns, it would not have gone so far in the 2010/11 Christopher Jefferies
case. Eight newspapers paid damages to Jefferies for libellous allegations made against him following the murder of Joanna
Meyer disagrees, saying "don't drag me down that path".
He adds that he was no
longer PCC chairman at the time of the Jefferies case, saying he rejects Jay's attempt to draw parallels between the two
Meyer says that the PCC has had success with media scrums and "stories relating to police sources".
12.40pm: Meyer suggests that the newspaper industry would quickly begin
to ignore the PCC if its chairman exhorted papers to act responsibly every time a contentious story broke.
suggests that the PCC should stop the press coming up with stories to fit the supposed facts.
"No. It is as if you say to the police 'you are useless because you can't stop crime'. Or to bishops
'you still have sin'. These are ridiculous arguments."
Transcript The Leveson Inquiry
31 January 2012
- Extract -
Just one point, which arises from what you told the
18 Select Committee on
24 March 2009. You see in the
19 left-hand column, you give quite a lengthy
20 relation to the McCann case.
22 Q. You say, amongst other things -- and it's repeated in
your witness statement:
24 "There's a time
for the courts and there's a time
25 for the PCC."
1 Then you say:
"The PCC is never going to eliminate the courts, and
3 I sure as hell
hope that the judges do not eliminate the
Of course, the judges would never have had power to
6 do that.
"We act in a complementary way. What I said to
8 Gerry McCann when
I first saw him was that this is what
9 the PCC can do for you, this is how
we can help. 'If
10 you want damages, if it comes to that, we do
11 money. The courts do money, so you're going to have to
12 make a choice.'"
To be clear about that, when did you say that to
14 Dr McCann?
A. In July of 2007.
16 Q. And the circumstances were what? Was it a meeting?
17 A. At my house.
18 Q. Did you make it clear to him that it was, as it
19 dichotomous: courts on the one hand, PCC on the other
hand, but you can't do both?
21 A. I made it perfectly plain. Indeed, I handed over
22 PCC literature, and we had a fair discussion, I would
say, and I left him, in my view, absolutely clear about
24 the different ways
that he could proceed. And indeed,
25 I think shortly after that, briefly,
1 Ms Justine McGuinness was his press secretary,
a complaint was lodged with the PCC against a newspaper
3 but the complaint
was not proceeded with.
4 LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: The tense of this answer is accurate,
5 is it? If you want money, damages, you go to the court,
but there is a whole range of other things that "we
7 could have done".
In other words, if they didn't go to
8 the court, we could do things, but
if they do go to the
9 court, we can't do things. Is that the correct
10 A. Yes, this was done in -- when is this?
11 MR JAY:
12 A. Yeah, March 2009, so we had already had, in March 2008,
the upshot of the libel action against Northern & Shell,
14 and so we knew
what had happened.
15 Q. But I think the question is directed to what you were
saying to Dr McCann in July 2007.
17 A. In July 2007, I was explaining to him and his press
18 handler what the options were should they believe that
they needed to take action against a newspaper, which
20 was quite early days
then, because it was before the
21 McCanns were declared arguidos by the Portuguese
22 authorities, which changed the tempo and the rhythm of
everything. This was July.
24 Q. Yes.
25 A. And she wasn't
there. This was Dr McCann, and he left
1 with Justine McGuinness in a noncommittal way. He
2 didn't say to me: "Bingo, I'm going to go to the PCC",
3 or: "I'm going to go to law." He just kept his counsel.
4 Q. But to be clear, you were making it clear to him it was
his choice, that there were two positions he could take
6 which were inconsistent
with each other.
7 A. Yes.
8 Q. Either go to law or go to the PCC;
is that right?
9 A. That's absolutely right. And then, if I may say this,
10 I saw him again --
11 Q. Yes.
A. -- more briefly -- I don't know whether you have a note
this -- in February of 2008, by which time they had
14 taken -- I think I'm
right, it must have been then -- by
15 which time I think they'd taken
a firm decision to go to
16 law, they were with Carter Ruck, and given the
17 what they said was libel, I said to him at the time: "In
18 the circumstances, I think you're doing the right
thing." And then I said it in public, that, on
20 19 March, when
I was interviewed by the PM programme.
21 Q. Can we just come to that. Between September
22 and January 2008, there were 38 defamatory articles in
the Express newspaper group's publications, weren't
24 there, and there
were other articles which were referred
25 to in the witness statement provided
to the Inquiry
1 which caused concern to the McCanns. Did the PCC do
2 anything at all during that period?
3 A. We did a lot.
We were in pretty close contact with the
4 press handlers of the McCanns.
By that time, it was as
5 gentleman called Clarence Mitchell, who I think may
6 appeared before you, and we stood ready to intervene if
they wanted it. We come again to the question of the
8 first party.
9 You see, you can't be more royalist than the king
10 these matters. You cannot wish to stop something more
11 ardently than the first party. But by that time,
I think they had chosen to go to law. I can't say
13 exactly, because
it's not for me to say, when they first
14 hired Carter Ruck. So
it's not as if we were sitting
15 there --
What are you suggesting by that, "when they first hired
17 Carter Ruck"?
18 A. I don't know, you see, because I don't know when they
took the decision to go to law. I think -- I'm morally
it had to be in February when I saw Dr McCann,
21 because it was so near to
the judgment, but that's only
22 a supposition on my part and I stand to
be corrected on
24 Q. Presumably, though,
when you were reading these pieces
25 as they came out -- and it wasn't
just in one newspaper
1 group -- you were, at the very least, concerned by the
2 tone and substance of what you were reading, weren't
4 A. Well, it was -- yes, of course I was. It was pretty
violent. It was being briefed out of the Portuguese
6 police, as far
as I could tell, and it was not pleasant
7 to read. But I have to say
to you -- this is so
8 important -- we'd made particular efforts with the
9 McCanns to make ourselves available. Within 48 hours of
Madeleine McCann disappearing, we informed them through
11 the British embassy
in Lisbon that we stood ready. You
12 know all this. I'm just
repeating stuff that you know.
13 Q. Yes. We don't need to hear it again.
14 A. I thought that we made exceptional efforts to say that
we can help you, and indeed, when they came back to
16 England, we did.
That was publicly recognised by
17 Clarence Mitchell, in protecting the children
18 scrums and so on and so forth.
I go back to this again: you can't wish for
20 something more than the
first party themselves, and
21 I think Dr McCann has expressed rather well
22 complexity of the situation in which he found himself.
He needed the press, but he didn't need those articles.
24 He had professional
handlers and I can't say more than
1 LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: He actually went further, because, as
Mr Davies says in the Select Committee:
McCann said his beef with the PCC was that
4 the editor of the paper which
had so flagrantly libelled
5 us with the most devastating stories would hold
6 a position on the board of the PCC. That was his beef."
7 And you responded:
"Where the McCanns are concerned, the editor of the
9 Daily Express, after
settlement was announced
10 on 19 March, played no further part in the proceedings
11 of the PCC and it was in May that he was replaced by
13 Was that because he was required
to resign or did
14 resign or just lost his place on the board or what was
16 A. Well, I thought that after he'd
paid £550,000 damages
17 and had four front page apologies on the Daily
18 Sunday titles that his position on the Commission was
untenable, and I said what I said to the BBC PM
20 programme on 19 March.
It was the day the settlement
21 was announced -- I don't know if you want
me to quote
22 myself on the PM programme, I have a text here and I'm
23 sure you have the text there -- and the following day
I rang Mr Hill and I said, in effect: "You need to
He said something to this effect: "I suppose
1 I have to, but I want to consult friends and
colleagues", and I said, "The sooner this is done, the
the better for you and the better for the PCC",
4 and he said to me: "I'll
call you back", and that was
5 the last conversation I've ever had
6 And it took a while for him to leave the
7 He was due to go anyway, because he'd been there quite
8 a long time. Desmond -- Mr Desmond, his proprietor, was
not making his contribution to the National Publishers
10 Association, so they
were making no contribution to the
11 PCC levy, and then there was the matter
of the McCanns.
12 So there were a good three reasons, my Lord, for his
13 leaving the Commission. But it look longer for him to
be replaced than it should have done.
15 MR JAY: Here was a fellow commissioner, obviously wearing
16 his different hat as newspaper editor -- and I'm asking
you to think back to September 2007, to January 2008,
18 a whole series of
pieces, which you described as
19 "violent", I think, but others
would describe in
20 a different way. At the least, why not get on the
21 to him and say, "Are you sure about this? Because on
22 the face of it, these articles are outrageously
24 A. I spoke to him, but not on a phone, at a Commission
meeting. I'm very much aware that I'm on oath here,
1 because I can't remember which Commission meeting it
2 was. It was an informal conversation before we sat down
around the table to do business, and I basically said to
4 him what you have
just said to me: "Are you sure you've
5 got this right?"
And my recollection is he said
6 something about Portuguese police sources.
7 I'm saying this rather tentatively because I can't
8 give you a date, I can't give you a Commission meeting
and nobody else was present in the conversation.
10 Q. It might be said that you tear him off
a strip on the
11 radio after the libel settlement, £550,000, but it's
12 a bit late to do that, given that the PCC, through you,
did nothing apart from this private word for four
14 months, while all of this
was raging. Is that fair or
No, that's extremely unfair. It's extremely unfair.
all, a man is innocent until proven guilty, and he
18 had been found guilty
of libelling the McCanns, and the
19 judgment was published on 19 March.
Am I to sit in my
20 office saying nothing? Am I to go out there and
21 "Poor old Peter, he's taken a knock, but onwards and
22 upwards, chaps"? Of course not.
I actually was in bed with flu, and let me say this:
24 the first thing I knew
about the judgment was waking up
25 in a kind of stupor at 8 o'clock in
the morning and
1 hearing it as the lead item on the Today programme.
The PCC, so far as I know and certainly for me
3 personally -- I speak for
myself -- had received no
4 warning whatsoever from a fellow commissioner that
5 was coming. So I was angry.
The other point that Northern & Shell made -- I want to
7 ask you to comment
on it -- is that it's an example both
8 of hypocrisy and of inconsistent
treatment, since after
9 all they weren't the only ones who were defaming
10 McCanns. So in order to be consistent, you should have
11 torn everybody off a strip. Would you accept that?
A. No, I wouldn't accept that. The thing that was
here was that Peter Hill was a longstanding
14 member of the Commission.
I think he'd been on since
15 late 2003, maybe early 2004. He knew
16 responsibilities very well and he was the first to pay
damages to the McCanns and to publish -- it wasn't him
18 personally; you
had different editors, but the group's
19 newspapers, national titles,
20 front-page apologies.
This was without precedent. I know of no such case
22 where such a powerful
-- what's the word? -- punishment
23 has been exacted from editors for
24 that are wrong. In those circumstances, it is
25 inconceivable, in my view -- it was inconceivable, in my
1 view, that he could stay on the Commission.
May I say that when we then had a Commission
3 meeting -- and may I remind,
you with seven editors on
4 the Commission -- we came to a conclusion very
5 that he had to be replaced as fast as possible, and the
6 Commission sent that message that very afternoon to the
Press Standards Board of Finance to get the National
8 Publishers Association
to propose a replacement.
9 I think what worried a
number of editors was that
10 this would set a precedent, meaning that if you
11 lost a libel action, you couldn't stay on the
Commission, to which the answer is: it's a matter of
13 scale, it's
a matter of degree, and it wasn't
14 necessarily a precedent for all time
for all editors who
15 fall foul of the libel law.
Q. Of course, the PCC's inaction in relation to the McCanns
duplicated in relation to Mr Robert Murat as well,
18 wasn't it?
19 A. What do you mean by "inaction"?
20 Q. You adopted the same
position, which was one of doing
It was absolutely not one of doing nothing. I don't
23 know how many
times I have to repeat this. We put
24 ourselves at the disposal of the
McCanns. We offered
25 them our services. We say this is what we
can do. We
1 start this within 48 hours of Madeleine being kidnapped.
2 We carry on doing this all the way through. We protect
their children and the family from being harassed by
4 media scrums when they
come back to the United Kingdom.
5 I speak twice to Dr McCann, something I
never did with
6 anybody else, but that's --
I think you're just repeating, Sir Christopher, what
8 you've told
9 A. I am repeating, because it doesn't seem to be sinking
in, Mr Jay. That's why.
11 Q. Did the PCC carry out an inquiry after all of this to
12 see whether there were clear and systematic failings by
the press in their handling of the whole McCann story,
14 by which I'm
including not just the McCanns but
15 Mr Robert Murat and the eight friends
of the McCanns who
16 also secured substantial libel damages?
A. No, that wasn't necessary, because it had become wholly
from the court proceedings exactly what had
19 happened, that they had in fact,
under pressure, maybe
20 commercial pressure, taken as read information that
21 being provided in Praia de Luz, which hadn't been
properly checked. It was clear as a bell.
23 Q. Because paragraph 539 of the DCMS committee's
24 says precisely that, that in cases where there have been
25 clear and systematic failings by the press, the PCC
1 should not use court proceedings as a reason not to
launch its own inquiry. If ever there were a case which
3 cried out for
such an inquiry, it was this case, wasn't
A. No, I think it was not a case which called for an
If ever there was a case which was obvious in
7 the way in which newspapers
had got it wrong, it was the
8 McCanns' case. I have to say -- and
you may think this
9 is feeble excuse -- I never read the recommendations of
10 that report because I had already left the PCC a year
12 Q. That's true.
13 A. So you're actually
telling me something of which I was
14 unaware. But it was screamingly
obvious what had gone
15 wrong. I could go through it again, but you
16 me repeating these things.
I'm not sure. What had gone wrong? Not from the point
view of what the PCC did or did not do, but from the
19 point of view of the
culture, practice and ethics of the
20 press, what had gone wrong in relation
to the McCann
21 saga if I can so describe it?
I think there were a number of component parts that
23 created a kind of toxic
brew. The poor McCanns --
24 I cannot think of a worse position to find
25 If it had happened to me, I don't know what I would have
1 done. They needed the press for publicity's sake, and
2 by God, I would have done exactly the same thing.
I really would. But in those circumstances, it was
4 a Faustian bargain
and you could see why. Where the
5 press have become obsessed -- not
only the press in
6 Britain, it was almost a global thing -- how do you keep
7 the story going? And then the Portuguese police were
leaking like sieves. There were all kinds of rumours.
9 You could see
journalists under pressure out there in
10 Praia de Luz, being pressed by their
news desks to
11 provide fresh copy, and so they start taking risks which
12 they shouldn't have taken.
It doesn't need a big inquiry or a systematic review
14 to see this.
It is something that happens from time to
15 time, and in this case, it led
to the McCanns being
16 accused of something which is utterly abominable.
17 Q. It was golden opportunity, though, even if you think the
that the answers were so obvious, for the PCC to have
19 reviewed the situation,
to have considered the lessons
20 learnt and to have passed a clear message
21 industry as a whole as to what the problems were to
avoid the chance of future replication, which
23 possibility you didn't
consider, did you?
24 A. No, we did not. We do not take that opportunity for the
25 reasons that I've just stated. Maybe we should have
1 done, but I have to rest on the record.
Q. One other point that the committee made, the DCMS
3 committee, paragraph
4 A. Which one was this?
5 Q. The February 2010 report.
6 A. Which I haven't really looked at, yes.
7 Q. "If there
are grounds to believe that serial breaches of
8 the code are occurring or
are likely to cower [this is
9 in the context of the McCann case], the PCC
10 wait for a complaint before taking action. That action
11 may involve making contact with those involved and
issuing a public warning or initiating an inquiry."
So I suppose you disagree with that?
14 A. It sounds good, and in principle it's absolutely
15 but if Dr and Mrs McCann don't want it, you can't do it.
16 It's as simple as that, Mr Jay.
17 Q. Logically,
there's nothing to prevent you from doing it.
18 You're just saying
the PCC, as a matter of policy, won't
19 do it. That's what it
boils down to.
20 A. No, it's a matter -- you must respect the complainant's,
21 the first party's wishes. You may disagree with me.
That was the position we took. But nonetheless, we made
23 it our business
-- I am going to repeat this now for the
24 third time -- from the very beginning
to say, "We're
25 here to help", and that offer was taken up
but only in
1 a subsidiary way.
2 Q. Well, the committee
made other recommendations,
3 including more strongly, this time, a recommendation
4 the ability to impose a financial sanction, and
I suppose your answer to that would be the same as the
6 answer you've
7 A. Absolutely. I don't believe in money, if you see what
8 I mean. I don't think it is the answer.
I just raise one final point in relation to the McCanns.
10 Can I ask you to
look at file B7 under tab 2.
11 A. B7?
12 Q. Yes. It's
page 35734. It's a very small point, so
13 maybe I can just read
14 A. 4 -- 2 -- 1 -- yeah, do.
15 Q. It's a meeting of
the PCC which took place on 11 March
16 2009. At page 35734, you said:
17 "The chairman wished to put on record his denial
18 a claim made by Gerry McCann that Sir Christopher had
advised him to sue Express newspaper titles rather than
20 use the PCC."
21 A. Yeah.
22 Q. Do you stand by that?
Yes, I -- I did not advise him to do that when I saw him
24 in July.
When I saw him in February of the next year,
25 he had already told me that
they were going to law. Is
1 that --
2 Q. It's splitting hairs
a bit, Sir Christopher, because it
3 might be said that what Dr McCann was
saying was that it
4 was a choice, really: either you sue for defamation,
5 which they did follow, or you use the PCC.
Here you're putting on record your denial of that
7 claim that you advised
Dr McCann to sue Express rather
8 than to use the PCC.
A. Well, it's not splitting hairs, is it? They are two
different statements. When I saw him
11 in July, I said, "These
are the choices." When I saw
12 him in February of the next year,
he'd taken the
13 decision. So what I'm denying -- it fits perfectly
15 Q. In February, therefore, is this
the position -- because
16 you told us earlier: you effectively agreed with
17 that it was the right thing to do?
Yes, and I repeated that in public in my interview on
19 the PM programme on
19 March. So it's not splitting
Q. It may be the answer is it's a misunderstanding between
two of you as to precisely what was said and
23 precisely what was --
24 A. Yeah, I think that is right, actually. Yes, I would
agree with that.
1 Q. In terms of failing to set in train an investigation
into the lessons learnt from the McCann episode --
3 A. Failing?
Failing, I would suggest, is what happened but it's for
5 others to --
6 LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: Or deciding not to set in train.
7 Q. Deciding
not to set in train.
8 A. My Lord, I prefer your version.
9 LORD JUSTICE
LEVESON: Yes, well, I'm trying to move on.
10 MR JAY: Of course, we see after your
time, arguably at
11 least, another manifestation of what happens in
12 a frenzied situation with the Jefferies case. You would
agree with that, would you?
14 A. It looked like it, yeah.
But had the PCC adopted a more proactive position in
16 relation to the McCanns,
it is possible -- one can't put
17 it higher than that -- that the press
might have acted
18 with more restraint in the Jefferies case. Would
20 A. No. I wouldn't agree.
21 Q. Is that because the press will just do what they like
anyway, or --
23 A. No, Mr Jay, you're not going to lead me down that path.
25 A. Let me explain that one of the successes, if you will
1 entertain the notion of success in relation to the
3 Q. Yes.
4 A. -- which seems difficult at the moment.
5 Q. Okay?
6 A. One of the successes of the PCC was in containing media
7 scrums. Now, if you don't believe me, you can go and
ask Lady Newlove, who is sitting in the Lords now, widow
9 of Garry Newlove,
who was beaten to death by yobs. She
10 precisely wished to avoid media
scrums and we succeeded
11 in doing that and I think her appreciation is a
12 of record.
I don't know what happened in the Jefferies case.
14 I was long gone from
the PCC, but what I would refute
15 absolutely is your -- I'm looking for
16 adjective -- I'll just say "connection" between
17 McCanns and Jefferies because of a --
I think what you really mean is my tendentious and
19 unfair attempts to link
the two in any way? That's what
20 you really want to say, isn't
21 A. You have stolen the words from my mouth, Mr Jay.
It does cut both ways, though, doesn't it, because the
23 PCC adopting
a more prominent position, cajoling the
24 press better to behave might have
had a causal impact on
25 what happened in December 2010/January 2011, mightn't
2 A. I respectfully decline to
answer questions on
3 a situation where I have no control and no knowledge
4 over and of the circumstances. All I'm saying to you is
that if you look at the record over the years, you will
6 see that one area
where the PCC has shown remarkable
7 success, including with the McCanns when
8 to England, is in dealing with scrums and stories based,
9 according to Mr Jefferies, on police sources. That's
all I can say about the case. I just don't know any
12 Q. But a different analysis of the position -- I'm just
putting this forward as a possibility -- is perhaps
14 a common theme between
the McCann case and the Jefferies
15 case is that the press fails to analyse
16 objectively and clearly and tends to come up with a line
17 which it either believes is probably true or believes
chimes in some way with the beliefs and prejudices of
19 its readers, and it's
that tendency which needs to be
20 resisted -- it's a tendency which we
all need to
21 resist -- and requires firm leadership and direction
22 from a regulator to eschew. Do you see that as
a possible analysis?
24 A. I -- I'm just trying to work out in practice the meaning
25 of what you have just said. We have -- maybe it's
1 actually too difficult to answer. In -- you cannot
2 generalise for the whole of the British press in that
way. Some do their job of reporting well, some do it
5 Q. I wasn't intending to.
6 A. No, well, you sounded like that.
That's my only point.
7 If what you're saying is that every time there's
8 story like that, the chairman of the Press Complaints
Commission must go out on the media or issue a press
10 release invoking --
exhorting the press to report this
11 responsible, I can tell you straight
off, after three
12 months of this, it would have no traction whatsoever.
13 This is not the thing to do. This is not the
14 to do. The fact of the matter -- this is what -- this
15 is what people so fail to understand. It's as if you
would say to the police: "You're a useless organisation
you can't stop crime", or you would say to the
18 bishops: "We
still have sin after all these years.
19 You'd better give up and go."
20 It's ridiculous. It's a ridiculous set
21 arguments. As long as there are human beings involved,
22 there will be fallibility, and the Press Complaints
Commission doesn't always get it right and it needs
24 strengthening, but
it is a service to the public, and
25 a vast increase in the number of people
who use it over
1 the last few years pays testament to a confidence which
2 you seem, frankly, to ignore.
3 Q. At no stage am I expressing
a personal view. I am
4 testing propositions. Because the nature
5 exercise involves an attempt to be precise, sometimes it
6 might appear that I am going too far, but I make it
absolutely clear, I'm not expressing a view,
8 Sir Christopher.
9 A. You will forgive me, my Lord -- I hope you'll forgive me
if I do push back from time to time rather than sitting
11 here like a coconut.
12 Q. I don't think anybody would fear that that is what's
14 Can we turn on to a different topic,
which is the
15 ICO interaction --
16 A. Yes.
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