The purpose of this site is for information and a record of Gerry McCann's Blog Archives. As most people will appreciate GM deleted all past blogs from the official website. Hopefully this Archive will be helpful to anyone who is interested in Justice for Madeleine Beth McCann. Many Thanks, Pamalam

Note: This site does not belong to the McCanns. It belongs to Pamalam. If you wish to contact the McCanns directly, please use the contact/email details    

Leveson Inquiry: The Newspaper Editors*

The focus of the Leveson Inquiry turns to former and current editors from the Sun, Telegraph, Mail, Indy, FT and Express.

Leveson inquiry: Dominic Mohan and Kelvin MacKenzie to appear next week, 05 January 2012
Leveson inquiry: Dominic Mohan and Kelvin MacKenzie to appear next week The Guardian

Lord Justice Leveson will focus on former and current editors from the Sun, Telegraph, Mail, Indy, FT and Express

Lisa O'Carroll
Thursday 5 January 2012 18.21 GMT

- Extract -

Thursday is Northern & Shell day with proprietor Richard Desmond and his editorial director Paul Ashford lined up alongside Daily Express editor Hugh Whittow and the paper's former editor Peter Hill.

Hill will be quizzed on allegations from a former Daily Express reporter that he was to blame for the slew of false stories about Madeleine McCann. Express Newspapers paid out £550,000 in 2008 to the McCanns for libellous coverage in its four titles, including the Daily Express.

Last month the inquiry was told that Hill was "obsessed" with the McCann story and put it on its front page repeatedly just to sell newspapers. Leveson put it to reporters that the stories were "piffle" and "tittle tattle".

  John Edwards

Leveson Inquiry: live, 09 January 2012
Leveson Inquiry: live Guardian News Blog

Full coverage as present and former Sun executives give evidence to the inquiry into phone hacking and media standards

Leveson inquiry: Sun picture editor John Edwards has followed Kelvin MacKenzie and Gordon Smart in giving evidence

Posted by Josh Halliday, Lisa O'Carroll and Jason Deans
Monday 9 January 2012

- Extract -

Sun picture editor John Edwards has now taken the stand.

He joined the Sun in 1992 and became picture editor in 2000.


Edwards is asked about press intrusion alleged by Kate and Gerry McCann.

"I'm a dad of a little girl who was seven at the time," he says. "I felt tremendous sympathy with the McCanns … Looking back on it now I don't think it was right that Mrs McCann had to drive through that crown of photgraphers and TV cameras."

He is referring to the ambush of paparazzi that greeted the McCanns on their arrival back in Leicestershire shortly after Madeleine disappeared.

"We got it spot on in Portugal," he says, "but we may not have been so good when it came back to Leicestershire, no."

He suggests in any other such case the number of TV cameras and photographers allowed to attend events should be limited.

Edwards has finished his evidence and the inquiry has broken for lunch. The hearing will resume at 2.15pm.


Transcript of Morning Hearing Leveson Inquiry

Monday, 9 January 2012

- Extract -

7   Q.  Okay.  Then you deal with Dr McCann. I note the time.

8       I only have another five minutes or so.

9   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  All right, carry on.

10   MR JAY:  That should finish it.

11           This is towards the bottom of page 53352. You tell

12       us what happened here, Mr Edwards. You did photograph

13       the McCanns on their return from Portugal. Photographs

14       were provided by the Press Association after their

15       arrival at the airport, and you did continue to cover

16       the story in the days that followed, and the Sun was

17       part of the press and TV crews who were stationed on

18       public land at the exit to the housing development where

19       they lived.  Then you say:

20           "From this vantage point, our photographer took

21       pictures of them leaving and arriving home by car."

22           Have you seen photographs where there are also

23       children in the car?

24   A.  I have.

25   Q.  Are you aware of the McCanns' evidence to this Inquiry


1       that distress was caused to the children, not

2       necessarily by Sun photographers, but at least by --

3   A.  I've read that evidence, yes.

4   Q.  Did you have any comment to make about that?

5   A.  I do. You know, I'm a dad of a little girl -- when I

6       say a little girl, not so little now, but she would have

7       been seven at the time, and, you know, I felt tremendous

8       sympathy with the McCanns and their situation. You

9       know, looking back on it now, I don't think it was right

10       that Mrs McCann had to drive through that crowd of

11       photographers and TV crews, no. I'd like to talk to you

12       quickly about -- when they were in Portugal, the

13       relationship the Sun had with them in Portugal was

14       excellent. My photographer, Lee Thompson, got on very

15       well with them. We'd often arrange picture -- times to

16       take pictures. If we met them in the morning, we would

17       leave them alone for the rest of the day, for example.

18       Sometimes Lee would shoot the picture as the only

19       photographer and supply the other papers. And

20       looking -- please God this never happens again, but I do

21       think that if it -- if something similar does happen

22       again, I think we have to maybe limit the amount of

23       photographers to maybe one photographer and one TV crew

24       to cover it for everybody.

25   Q.  I think from that answer you accept that certainly the


1       quantity of photographers and television cameras created

2       an oppressive atmosphere?

3   A.  If I were going through that, I wouldn't be happy, no.

4       With children in the car, of course not.

5   Q.  Was that assessment made at the time, though?

6   A.  Probably not, no. I mean, as I say, I've thought about

7       it a lot this last weekend, knowing I was coming here

8       today, and we got it spot on in Portugal, in my view,

9       but we may have not got it -- we may not have been so

10       good when it came back to Leicestershire, no.

11   Q.  Okay. Thank you for that, and we can read the rest of

12       your evidence there and indeed in relation to JK Rowling

13       and Charlotte Church.


Witness Statement of John Edwards Leveson Inquiry

09 January 2012

- Extract -

(b) Kate McCann

Did your newspaper instruct any photographer, employed or otherwise, to follow or take photos of Kate McCann on her return from Portugal in September 2007? Did your newspaper publish any photos of Kate McCann taken in this period? If so, did the picture editor inquire into the context in which the photos were taken? If so, what in your view justified the publication of these photos?

The Sun has never employed any photographer to follow Kate McCann but we did photograph her and family on their return from Portugal. On one occasion pictures were provided by the Press Association after their arrival at East Midlands airport. This was arranged on a pool basis. We did continue to cover this story in the days to follow. We were part of the press and TV crews who were stationed on public land at the exit to the housing development where they live. From this vantage point our photographer took pictures of them leaving and arriving home by car. We did not follow them at any time. On one occasion we took photographs of Mr and Mrs McCann walking to and from church, but we were already there and photographed them as they approached. I believe that in the early days after Madeleine's disappearance, they were prepared to be photographed without pixilation of their children's faces. However. as the story unfolded and media attention increased, the family's media representative requested that their children's faces should be pixelated and this was respected. At that time, no complaint about our behaviour was made, and we believed that continued publicity of this terrible story was paramount in the search for Madeleine. Had we been aware that our behaviour was causing the McCanns concerns, we would have acted upon them. I believe that The Sun has had a positive relationship with the McCanns since the very beginning of the search for their daughter. For example, I helped design, print and distribute about 2,000 missing posters of Madeleine with full co-operation from the family, especially Mr McCann's sister who had asked for our help directly (see Exhibit "JE1"). In May of this year The Sun serialised the McCann's book, running extracts every day for a week; and to promote the book Mrs McCann agreed to be photographed and interviewed by The Sun, and appear in a video that has been posted on the title's website.

Leveson inquiry: Sun picture editor regrets McCann media scrum, 09 January 2012
Leveson inquiry: Sun picture editor regrets McCann media scrum The Guardian

John Edwards says he feels sympathy for toddler's parents over press mob they faced when they returned home from Portugal

Lisa O'Carroll
Monday 9 January 2012 15.02 GMT

Leveson inquiry: Sun picture editor John Edwards has expressed sympathy over the the treatment of Kate and Gerry McCann, above, by the media when they returned to the UK.

The picture editor of the Sun has expressed regret about the media scrum that awaited Madeleine McCann's parents when they returned home shortly after the disappearance of their daughter in Portugal.

John Edwards told the Leveson inquiry the paper had got it right when it covered the story when the child when missing from a holiday apartment in Portugal.

But he said the treatment of Kate and Gerry McCann by the media when they returned to the UK with their other two children was not right.

"Looking back on it now, I don't think it was right that Kate McCann had to drive with the kids through those photographers and TV crews," he said, admitting that his daughter was seven at the time and he felt "tremendous sympathy" for the McCanns.

Last year the inquiry heard first hand from Kate McCann how the family had been besieged by photographers camped outside her home and following her as she drove the children about.

"Often they [the photographer] would spring out from a hedge so they could get a startled look so they could attach 'frail' or 'fragile' [to the caption or headline]," she said. She added that her daughter Amelie, who was two at the time, told her she was "scared" by the photographers.

Edwards said if a story like this were to happen again there should be new rules banning mobs of press and photographers.

"Please God this does not happen again, but if it does I think we have to limit the number of photographers to one photographer and one TV crew. If my wife faced that crowd, I would not have been happy – with the children in the car," he told Leveson.

"We got it spot on in Portugal, but we may have not have been so good when it came back to Leicestershire, no."

Edwards defended his paper's decision to send a photographer to the home of the mother of Hugh Grant's baby, Tinglan Hong.

Last year Grant won a court injunction against photographers harassing the mother of his child after she gave birth in early November.

However, he also revealed that the paper had decided not to publish photographs of a heavily pregnant Lily Allen.

The Allen photographs were taken in a public place, but the paper decided not to go ahead with them after a phone call to her agent established that she did not want them published. Edwards said: "It is a difficult line we walk sometimes."

He also revealed that the paper now has a strict policy of not publishing any pictures of Sienna Miller unless they are taken at a photocall or film premiere.

He said the new guidelines apply to those who have "previous experience of extreme paparazzi harassment or involvement in privacy litigation".

Eight people held over payments inquiry, 10 February 2012
Eight people held over payments inquiry BBC News

Five employees of the Sun were among those arrested as part of the Operation Elveden inquiry

11 February 2012 Last updated at 16:50

Five Sun employees are among eight people arrested over alleged corrupt payments to police and public servants.

A Surrey Police officer, a member of the armed forces and a Ministry of Defence employee were also arrested.

The BBC understands picture editor John Edwards, chief reporter John Kay, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker, reporter John Sturgis and associate editor Geoff Webster were arrested.

News International told staff Rupert Murdoch was committed to the paper.

The arrests are part of the Operation Elveden probe into payments to police.

But the latest arrests mark a widening out of the operation to include the investigation of evidence in relation to suspected corruption involving public officials who are not police officers.

News International chief executive Tom Mockridge issued a memo to Sun staff, which said: "The Sun has a proud history of delivering ground-breaking journalism.

"You should know that I have had a personal assurance today from Rupert Murdoch about his total commitment to continue to own and publish The Sun newspaper."

He also told staff that "today we are facing our greatest challenge" following the arrests of five of its staff, which was "difficult for everyone on The Sun and particularly for those of you who work closely with those involved".

BBC News correspondent Joe Lynam said Sun employees he had spoken to were concerned there was something of a "witch-hunt".

Sun editor Dominic Mohan said: "I'm as shocked as anyone by today's arrests but am determined to lead the Sun through these difficult times.

"I have a brilliant staff and we have a duty to serve our readers and will continue to do that. Our focus is on putting out Monday's newspaper."

'Total support'

News Corporation confirmed five employees of the Sun were arrested.

Five men aged between 45 and 68 were arrested at their homes in London, Kent and Essex on suspicion of corruption, aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office, and conspiracy in relation to both offences.

A 39-year-old serving Surrey Police officer, a 39-year-old Ministry of Defence employee and a 36-year-old member of the armed forces were also arrested at their homes on suspicion of corruption, misconduct in a public office and conspiracy in relation to both. Two were arrested in Wiltshire and one in Surrey.

The Sun picture editor John Edwards is understood to be among those arrested

Those arrested are being questioned at police stations in London, Kent, Essex and Wiltshire, police said.

The homes of those arrested were being searched and officers were also carrying out searches at the offices of News International in Wapping, east London.

News Corp said its Management and Standards Committee (MSC) had provided information to the Elveden inquiry which led to the arrests.

The company said in a statement: "News Corporation remains committed to ensuring that unacceptable news-gathering practices by individuals in the past will not be repeated and last summer authorised the MSC to co-operate with the relevant authorities.

"The MSC will continue to ensure that all appropriate steps are taken to protect legitimate journalistic privilege and sources, private or personal information and legal privilege.

"News Corporation maintains its total support to the ongoing work of the MSC and is committed to making certain that legitimate journalism is vigorously pursued in both the public interest and in full compliance with the law."

'Robust' response

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: "We do not comment on ongoing investigations."

A Surrey Police spokesman said on learning about the involvement of one of its officers it had immediately referred the matter to the IPCC.

Assistant Chief Constable Jerry Kirkby said: "The force takes matters of this nature extremely seriously and we will not hesitate to respond robustly to allegations where there is evidence to support them."

Deborah Glass, IPCC deputy chairman, said: "Today's arrests are further evidence of the strenuous efforts being undertaken to identify police officers who may have taken corrupt payments."

The Surrey Police officer arrest is not connected to the Milly Dowler investigation.

Last week the Independent Police Complaints Commission cleared another Surrey police officer of leaking information to the press about the Dowler investigation.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said the information on which police appear to be making arrests is based on a database of 300 million emails dating back at least seven years.

Low morale

Media commentator Roy Greenslade told the BBC he was "shocked" by the arrests of the Sun journalists.

Asked whether the Sun was heading towards being closed down, as the News of the World had been, he said: "There are reports that Rupert Murdoch is flying in to quell suggestions of closure.

"You must realise that the Sun has a very large staff and none of the production journalists are affected by this, so there's no question of it not coming out.

"As for closure, I think that may be on the cards at some stage in the future but right now, clearly, it isn't."

Media consultant and former deputy editor of the now-defunct News of the World, Paul Connew, told the BBC that morale at the Sun would be "rock bottom".

Mr Connew said he was intrigued to see where the line would be drawn between whistleblowers who provide information for public interest purposes and those whom the establishment disliked.

He said: "If you have a police force or military or officials in the civil service who are so terrified to have contacts with journalists, that will not serve the public interest."

News Corporation is the parent company of News International which owns the Sun and the Times.

Last month, four former and current Sun journalists and a Metropolitan Police officer were arrested as part of the inquiry and released on bail.

The arrested journalists were former deputy editor Fergus Shanahan, former managing editor Graham Dudman, crime editor Mike Sullivan and head of news Chris Pharo, the BBC understands.

The remit of Operation Elveden has widened to include the investigation of evidence uncovered in relation to suspected corruption involving public officials who are not police officers.

Operation Elveden is being overseen by the IPCC, running alongside the Metropolitan Police's Operation Weeting inquiry into phone hacking at the now-closed News of the World.

More than 20 arrests have so far been made as part of Operation Elveden.

  Paul Silva

Leveson Inquiry: live, 11 January 2012
Leveson Inquiry: live Guardian News Blog

Leveson inquiry: Paul Silva
Leveson inquiry: Paul Silva

Posted by Josh Halliday, Jason Deans and Lisa O'Carroll
Wednesday 11 January 2012

- Extract -

Paul Silva, the picture editor of the Daily Mail, appears to be the first surprise witness of the day.

The Guardian's Lisa O'Carroll has just tweeted:
 Unexpected witness up first. Paul silva the veteran picture editor at the daily mail.

Silva is questioned about Kate and Gerry McCann.

Silva says that most pictures used of the McCanns were from outside agencies, rather than Daily Mail photographers.

He adds all of the photographs used would have been approved by the McCanns' press officer, Clarence Mitchell.

He admits the paper used unblurred pictures of the McCanns' children. "This was a unique situation … where we'd been allowed to stand in a certain position … and take pictures of the children," he says.

Silva says he understands the point that using the pictures was against the Mail's general policy.

Jays asks whether he should not have used the pictures.

"In hindsight, possibly … but there was no objection raised at the time," he adds.

11.29am: Silva is being asked why the paper's normal policy on pictures of children did not apply to the McCanns.

"It was the most intense story I've ever worked on," he says. "One of the most difficult I've ever had to work with."

11.31am: Asked if he has any recommendations, he says the PCC and NPA should get involved were there another situation like the McCanns.

"If you take the McCann situation, if we are unfortuately in that situation again, an organisation like the PCC should be stepping in."

He suggests a PCC training scheme for freelance photographers "where they're aware of their responsibilities".

11.33am: Silva has now finished giving evidence and the inquiry is taking a short break.


Transcript of Morning Hearing Leveson Inquiry

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

- Extract -

2   Q.  In paragraph 42, to be fair to you, you rejected

3       photographs provided to you by an agency of Hugh Grant

4       going to the hospital to visit the newborn baby?

5   A.  Mm-hm.

6   Q.  And you also say no UK newspaper has used those

7       photographs.

8           Can I deal now with the McCanns, please. If I can

9       taking this quite shortly. In Portugal there was one of

10       your photographers out there and that photographer took

11       photographs really on a consensual basis; is that the

12       position?

13   A.  Yes. I believe that's true.

14   Q.  When they came home, which was in or probably I think

15       before September 2007, there were photographs taken by

16       agencies. You tell us in paragraph 46 what's happened

17       more recently, but in this period, 2007, late 2007, were

18       any of your photographers outside or near to their home?

19   A.  Not that I can recall. Over the last two days I've been

20       going through the picture library to refresh my memory

21       on this to see what has actually been used and most of

22       the pictures were done by agencies like Reuters, Getty

23       PA, and the local agencies like News Team that are based

24       in Birmingham, that I can recall.

25   Q.  You said to the best of your knowledge these photographs


1       were taken with the approval of the McCanns' press

2       officer. Are you saying that you asked your

3       paragraph 12 questions and got that answer?

4   A.  No, I think what was done when they came back, the

5       photographers were allowed to stand in one position near

6       the home. I couldn't say exactly where it was. And

7       they were allowed to stand there and take picture from

8       there and I believe that was all set up with the

9       co-operation of the family and the press officer that

10       they had appointed at that time.

11   Q.  Did you take any photographs or rather did these

12       agencies take any photographs of the McCanns' children

13       which you used?

14   A.  Over that period of time, pictures did come in of the

15       McCanns as they were leaving home with their children.

16       They certainly were taken, yes.

17   Q.  What did you do with those photographs?

18   A.  Those photographs were used in our papers, along with

19       other papers.

20   Q.  I am not interested really with what other papers were

21       doing, but couldn't it be said that such photographs

22       were used in breach of your principles, since they were

23       out with their family, paragraph 17 of your statement?

24   A.  Well, this was a unique situation. This was a unique

25       news story where we'd been allowed to stand there by the


1       family. We had photographed the children with the

2       parents' approval in Portugal. Up to that point,

3       I don't recall any objection from the family about using

4       pictures of the other two children.

5   Q.  I appreciate that on one level this was a uniquely

6       interesting story, but on another level it engaged all

7       the principles, the general principle you've told us

8       about earlier.

9   A.  I appreciate -- I understand that.

10   Q.  It could be said, could it not, that photographs of the

11       parents, in particular out with their family, out with

12       the children, those photographs should immediately have

13       entered the bin, shouldn't they? Do you agree with that

14       or not?

15   A.  In hindsight, possibly, but as I said, at the time -- as

16       I said, it's all as it was at the time -- we had

17       photographed the family with their children, there was

18       no objection raised at the time, and on that basis we

19       were happy to continue using them.

20   Q.  I'm just concerned by your policy that it's the absence

21       of objection which matters, because there are many

22       reasons why people don't object, one of which is that

23       they just get fed up with it and move on. I'm looking

24       here --

25   A.  Well, if the press officer or the family had contacted


1       us and said, "Look, as of now we don't want our children

2       photographed or used in the paper", we would adhere to

3       that. There's no way we would ignore that.

4   Q.  But the general rule under the code is that photographs

5       of children aren't taken, or rather should not be used,

6       isn't that right?

7   A.  That's correct.

8   Q.  I just wonder what it is that usurps (a) the general

9       rule in the code, and (b) your policy that people out

10       with their family are not properly the subject of

11       photographs. Apart from the fact that this was seen to

12       be a unique story?

13   A.  Well, it was a unique story. It was the most intense

14       story I've ever worked on. It was one of the most

15       difficult we've ever had to deal with, you know.

16   Q.  In the Mail Online, again it's not you, we can see

17       a photograph of Dr Kate McCann with her two children,

18       unpixelated. The date is 17 September 2007. Do you

19       want to have a look at that one?

20   A.  Yes, please, yes.

21   Q.  It's right that she's looking at the camera, but she's

22       obviously in her car, yes. But we can see her two

23       children. We can draw our own conclusions from her

24       expression. There are other photographs which are

25       pixelated, it's fair to say.


1   A.  I think that particular picture, I do recall it, it was

2       put in by one of the agencies. It was by one of the big

3       national agencies, yes.

4   Q.  It was put in. It wasn't put in --

5   A.  It was taken and submitted to us, yes.


7   MR JAY:  There's one other picture I've seen which has been

8       pixelated.

9   A.  Mm-hm.

10   Q.  Of course, whatever the digital photograph, however it

11       comes to you from the agency, you have the ability,

12       whether it's online or on the print edition, to pixelate

13       it, don't you?

14   A.  Oh yes, we do, yes, yes.

15   Q.  Going forward, Mr Silva, you have a lot of experience.

16       Are there any suggestions or recommendations you feel

17       you could make to the Inquiry as to how we might go

18       forward?

19   A.  Well, with regards to if you take the McCanns'

20       situation, if we ever -- unfortunately we're in the same

21       situation again, I think an organisation like the PCC or

22       the MPA should be stepping in when they were back in

23       England to control the number of photographers or

24       cameramen or reporters that were outside their home.

25       They should be controlling that, so it could be done in


1       a much more orderly and better managed way.

2           Moving on to the paparazzi, maybe there is a time

3       that these photographers should be going to some sort of

4       PCC training schemes where they're aware of their

5       responsibilities, aware of the guides, aware of the

6       problems, get them properly trained and also properly

7       accredited as well. I think that's something we should

8       do.

9           I was wondering whether our questions, as

10       a template -- they can be improved on, I accept --

11       whether that should now be issued to agencies and they

12       should be answering these questions when they submit

13       their photographs.

14   Q.  Just wait a minute, please.

15   A.  Okay.  (Pause).

16   MR JAY:  There may be further questions from others, but

17       I've detained you for some considerable time. Those are

18       all the questions I have, Mr Silva.

19   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I'm just noting that last answer.

20   A.  Thank you.

21   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Ultimately I suppose it's right that

22       your paper is responsible for a photograph that appears

23       in it, however it was taken. So if it was taken in

24       breach of the rules, then that's down to you, even

25       though you didn't know about it?


1   A.  Correct, yeah.

2   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  So if there's some penalty attached

3       to that, it's quite important your organisation obtains

4       some comeback from those who have misled you about the

5       photograph, and that's really what you're talking about.

6   A.  Basically yes, basically yes.

7   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  All right.  Thank you.  Thank you

8       very much.

9   A.  Thank you very much.

10   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  That's a convenient moment.

11   MR JAY:  Yes. The time the statement of Mr Silva was put on

12       the system was 10.46 pm on 9 January.


14   MR JAY:  So it wasn't yesterday evening, it was the 9th.

15   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Yes, but those who are concerned with

16       his evidence are entitled to be concerned in the same

17       way that some representatives of the press were

18       concerned when other statements were late. It's

19       important that everybody has the chance to read these

20       statements.

21   MR JAY:  I appreciate that.

22   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  And consider them, and we'll have to

23       do what is necessary, if it is necessary.

24   MR JAY:  Thank you.

25   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Thank you. We'll have seven minutes.


1   (11.33 am)

2                         (A short break)


Witness Statement of Paul Silva Leveson Inquiry

Wednesday 11 January 2012

No witness statement yet available, as of 12 January 2012, 10:00am


Photograph of Kate McCann and the twins, referenced in Paul Silva's testimony Daily Mail

Kate with twins Sean and Amelie last week
Kate with twins Sean and Amelie last week

  Nicole Patterson

Leveson Inquiry: live, 12 January 2012
Leveson Inquiry: live Guardian News Blog

Full coverage as the Daily Express owner, Express editor and Sunday Express editor appear at the media standards inquiry

By Josh Halliday, Jason Deans and Lisa O'Carroll
Thursday 12 January 2012

- Extract -

Welcome to the Leveson inquiry liveblog.

The fourth day of the week devoted to the press focuses on Richard Desmond's newspaper empire, Northern & Shell.

Desmond, proprietor of the Daily Express, Daily Star and OK! magazine, will be the star witness of the day and is expected to be heard this afternoon.

Desmond and his executives and editors are likely to face questions on editorial interference by owners, the decision to quit the PCC, and the £550,000 libel payout to the parents of Madeleine McCann.

Although they will not necessarily appear in this order, the full line-up today is:

Dawn Neesom
, editor of the Daily Star
Hugh Whitlow, editor of the Daily Express
Peter Hill, former editor of the Daily Express
Paul Ashford, editorial director of Northern & Shell
Robert Sanderson, finance director of Northern & Shell
Nicole Patterson, head of legal at Express Newspapers
Richard Desmond, founder and owner of Northern & Shell

10.10am: Nicole Patterson, head of legal at Express Newspapers, is the first witness of the day.

Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, confirms that Richard Desmond will be the final witness.

Leveson inquiry: Nicole Patterson
Leveson inquiry: Nicole Patterson


10.47am: Robert Jay QC begins to ask Patterson about the Express's Madeleine McCann stories, which resulted in legal action.

However, he says he cannot ask Patterson about her advice on the McCann stories because it is covered by legal privilege.

10.49am: Patterson has now finished giving evidence.


Transcript Leveson Inquiry

Thursday 12 January 2012

- Extract -

24   Q.  No.  And then NP5, again, Ms Patterson, in a nutshell

25       what is this?


1   A.  This is just an explanation of some of those things that

2       we did find.  We asked them to have a look at certain

3       names that were perhaps of interest, so you can see at

4       1693 there's a mark A, which says:

5           "Natasha Murat."

6           That's a day rate, so £240 would have been a day

7       rate.  I don't know what that really means.

8           But the accounts department then prepared this --

9       the managing editor's office actually prepared this

10       sheet for me:

11           "Search for possible connection to Robert Murat."

12           What type of search that would have been I really

13       can't tell you.  A computer search?  I just -- I don't

14       know.


13   Q.  Thank you.  And finally this question: did you advise in

14       relation to any of the McCann stories?

15   A.  Yes, I did.

16   Q.  Which, of course, culminated in legal action?

17   A.  Yes, it did.

18   Q.  I'm not going to ask you about that.  The focus has been

19       on a number of stories between September 2007 and

20       January 2008, as you know.

21   A.  Yes.

22   Q.  Did you advise in relation to all or just some of those

23       stories?

24   A.  If I was on duty at the time, I would have advised as

25       and when.


1   MR JAY:  I can't ask you, I think, what you did advise --

2   A.  No.

3   MR JAY:  -- unless privilege is waived, and you're not the

4       person who could waive privilege.  I don't think I can

5       press that question further.

6   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Thank you.  Could I just ask

7       a slightly different question -- sorry, Mr Jay, have you

8       concluded?

9   MR JAY:  Yes, I have, sir.


Witness Statement of Nicole Patterson Leveson Inquiry

Nothing of relevance to Madeleine McCann case

PDF Downloads:

pdf logo

Transcript of Morning Hearing (pdf, 184KB)

click here to download file

pdf logo

Witness Statement of Nicole Patterson (pdf, 591KB)

click here to download file

  Dawn Neesom

Leveson Inquiry: live, 12 January 2012
Leveson Inquiry: live Guardian News Blog

By Josh Halliday, Jason Deans and Lisa O'Carroll
Thursday 12 January 2012

- Extract -

10.49am: Dawn Neesom, editor of the Daily Star, takes the stand.

Leveson inquiry: Dawn Neesom
Leveson inquiry: Dawn Neesom


12.08pm: Neesom is asked about the Daily Star's coverage of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

She confirms that she was involved in some of the stories but "not necessarily all".

Asked how the libellous stories ever saw the light of day, Neesom says: "The source of the stories was entirely coming from Portugal … and we were being fed stories by the Portuguese police and press."

"It was a risk and to this day I regret what happened in the McCann case and all I can do is repeat the apology on page 1 for the hurt and distress we caused them."

Jay describes the McCann stories as "extremely wounding and damaging", and asks Neesom about her thought process.

"With hindsight, I honestly don't recall what my thought process was. It was huge story, which everyone was talking about at the time," she says, adding that she thought the stories were coming from a reliable source.

"It was a huge huge story and mistake were made, for which I am truly sorry," she says.


Transcript Leveson Inquiry

Thursday 12 January 2012

- Extract -

23   Q.  Did you have any involvement with stories about the

24       McCanns?

25   A.  Yes, I did.


1   Q.  Did any of those stories result in litigation?

2   A.  Yes.

3   Q.  Against your paper?

4   A.  Yes.

5   Q.  And were those stories of similar character to the

6       stories we've seen in the context of the Express, your

7       sister paper?

8   A.  Yes.

9   Q.  And did you have any involvement in those stories, in

10       particular headlines?

11   A.  I would have done, yes.

12   Q.  You would have or -- don't use the conditional.  You

13       either did or you didn't?

14   A.  It depends on what headline we're talking about on what

15       day.

16   Q.  So some of them -- I think your answer is you were

17       involved in some but not necessarily all?

18   A.  Not necessarily all, no.

19   Q.  Right.  How did it come about that such defamatory and

20       distressing stories ever found the light of day in your

21       paper?

22   A.  From memory, we were -- the source of the stories was

23       entirely coming from Portugal.  We had one reporter out

24       in Portugal covering the story and we were being fed

25       stories by the Portuguese police and press.


1   Q.  You were being fed them, but that suggests that it was

2       almost an automatic response that you would include them

3       in your paper?

4   A.  Yeah.  The source of the stories was the Portuguese

5       police and press.

6   Q.  But is this right, that because of the nature of the

7       information, that it was really leaks from the

8       Portuguese police, that your sources couldn't really be

9       checked, could they?

10   A.  It was very hard to check sources, yes.

11   Q.  So you were running a huge risk, weren't you, in

12       publishing these stories?

13   A.  Yes, there was a risk, yes.

14   Q.  A risk or huge risk?

15   A.  It was a risk, and, you know, to this day I regret --

16       I regret what happened in the McCann case, and I can

17       only repeat the apology we published on page 1, very

18       happily published on page 1, to the McCanns for the hurt

19       and the distress we caused them.

20   Q.  Of course we understand that, Ms Neesom.  It's just the

21       thought process at the time, that it must have been

22       obvious to you that not merely was there a huge

23       litigation risk, which you called it wrong, but also

24       that the stories were extremely wounding and damaging --

25   A.  Yes, and I --


1   Q.  -- in that not merely had the McCanns physically lost

2       their daughter, she had disappeared, but the accusation

3       was they were responsible for that.  What was your

4       thought process, if any, as to the ramifications of

5       publishing such stories?

6   A.  With hindsight, I -- as I say, I am deeply sorry for the

7       upset we caused.  At the time, I honestly don't recall

8       what my thought process was.  It was a story that was

9       a huge story, it was the only story everybody was

10       talking about whenever you went, and the interest was

11       huge.  And the stories we were getting were coming from

12       what I thought at the time was a reliable source, ie

13       a police force.

14   Q.  But wasn't the guiding factor then this: that the story

15       was of huge interest to your readers --

16   A.  To everybody.

17   Q.  You knew that.  The story would have the possibility, at

18       least, of increasing your sales, and therefore,

19       regardless of its truth, you were going to run it.  Is

20       that not fair?

21   A.  I'm not sure that it did increase sales.  I can't

22       remember the sales figures.  We ran the story because it

23       was huge, it was the only story of the day.  Nobody else

24       was talking about anything else wherever you went.  You

25       went to the supermarket, people talked about it.  It was


1       a huge, huge story, and mistakes were made, for which

2       I am truly sorry.

3   Q.  It's the size of the story which is the predominant

4       consideration and also the impact it will have; is that

5       fair?

6   A.  Yes.  Obviously big stories are big stories, yes.

7   Q.  Thank you.


Witness Statement of Dawn Neesom Leveson Inquiry

Nothing of relevance to Madeleine McCann case


PDF Downloads: 

pdf logo

Transcript of Morning Hearing (pdf, 184KB)

click here to download file

pdf logo

Witness Statement of Dawn Neesom (pdf, 429KB)

click here to download file

Neesom expresses regret over Star's McCann coverage, 12 January 2012
Neesom expresses regret over Star's McCann coverage Press Gazette

Dawn Neesom
Dawn Neesom

By PA Mediapoint
12 January 2012

Daily Star editor Dawn Neesom has expressed regret for her paper's reporting of Madeleine McCann's disappearance in Portugal in May 2007.

The missing girl's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, took legal action against Express Newspapers and in March 2008 received £550,000 in damages paid to their fund to find their daughter and front-page apologies in the Star and Express titles.

"To this date I regret what happened in the McCann case, and I can only repeat the apology which we very happily published on page one to the McCanns for the hurt and distress we caused them," said Neesom.

"I am not sure that it did increase sales. I can't remember the sales figures. We ran the story because it was huge, it was the only story of the day."

The Daily Star was one of eight newspapers sued by Christopher Jefferies over stories published after he was wrongly arrested for the murder of Joanna Yeates, the inquiry heard.

Neesom said she had words with the journalists, news editor and duty editor involved after her paper settled the libel action and published an apology.

"They weren't cuddly [discussions[. I was annoyed. It shouldn't happen," she told the inquiry.

Asked about a front-page story headlined "Muslim thugs, age just 12, in knife attack on Brit schoolboy", which the counsel to the inquiry, Robert Jay QC, Jay said in fact related to a threat on Facebook rather than a physical assault, Neesom said: "We are not biased against Muslims. This is one story that I am frustratingly not aware of.

"I don't remember writing this headline, so it's an issue I will address when I get back to the office."

Neesom also rejected suggestions that a February 2011 story headlined "English Defence League to become a political party" was "entirely fabricated".

It was based on a source connected to the group and reflected concerns about the possible move, she said, adding: "We are a Jewish-owned company, we were worried by this development, and we still are."

Stories are 'accurate and true'

She told the inquiry that entertaining the readers "doesn't necessarily mean you can just make a story up".

Former Daily Star journalist Richard Peppiatt has claimed previously that the newspaper shaped stories to fit its "ideological perspective" and that quotes and details of articles were regularly made up.

But Neesom insisted that stories had to be "accurate and true".

Asked whether the tabloid resorted to spinning them to make them more entertaining, she said: "I think the Daily Star has a certain style of writing that appeals to its readers and stories are written in a way that appeals to the readers."

Peppiatt also accused the paper of having an "obsession" with glamour model Katie Price, the inquiry heard, but Neesom denied that stories about her had been "embroidered".

She said: "I've known Katie since she was 17 years old and believe me, Katie doesn't need help in embroidering her life, she does that quite well herself."

The tabloid always employed journalists who value accuracy "above all else", she added.

It had come as a surprise to her that the paper used search agencies, Neesom told the hearing, adding: "I wish I had known."

She stressed that the paper always took note of privacy, adding: "It gets expensive if you don't."

Dawn Neesom at the Leveson inquiry: an editor trapped in the headlights, 12 January 2012
Dawn Neesom at the Leveson inquiry: an editor trapped in the headlights The Guardian

Richard Peppiatt, who worked for the Daily Star, says its editor was subjected to a masterfully forensic filleting

Richard Peppiatt
Richard Peppiatt
Thursday 12 January 2012 19.06 GMT

Dawn Neesom at the Leveson Inquiry.

Watching her Sun rival Dominic Mohan's light basting at Leveson on Monday Daily Star editor Dawn Neesom must have strode into the Royal Courts of Justice filled with clicking-heeled confidence.

Yet, unfortunately for her (if less so for us observers) Thursday was the day Robert Jay QC, the inquiry counsel, discovered he'd been driving with the handbrake on. My former editor looked truly trapped in the headlights as she was exposed to a masterfully forensic filleting.

Her defence of the inflammatory splash "English defence league to become political party", that Northern & Shell – as a "Jewish company" – feared their growing influence was clearly panic usurping planning. Set aside the flawed logic of giving acres of publicity to a group you claim to reject, I doubt Richard Desmond would have desired she frame the socio-political persuasion of the company's titles in such overtly religious terms.

The theological undercurrent continued; when Jay asked Neesom whether someone could be both British and Muslim ("Of course they can", she pattered, incredulously), past Leveson inquiry proceedings offered little suggestion that examples of excruciating Daily Star juxtaposition ("Muslim thugs aged just 12 in knife attack on Brit schoolboy") would then be thrust aloft, betraying a worldview suggesting otherwise. Seizing the buck that seems to dangle so temptingly above the heads of Leveson witnesses, we were told that as the hands-on editor of a small editorial team this could in no way be her handiwork.

Amid the fluttered eyelashes and nervous laughs, Neesom's evidence at times bore comparison with fellow hackette Sharon "top spin" Marshall. A computer mock-up of a burning aeroplane beneath the splash headline "Terror as plane hits ash cloud" was not "untrue", as suggested by Jay, it was "dramatic" or "eye-catching", until, finally, with Jay's eyebrows showing no sign of returning earthward, an "over-egged pudding".

Sadly, this creep toward openness was short lived. "We do have a balanced agenda", Neesom insisted. She used the death of three Muslim brothers in Birmingham during last summer's riots ("Heroes" bellowed the headline) as an example of the paper's unheralded egalitarianism. Memo to Neesom: Nowhere in the article is there a mention the men were Muslims. A subbing error, no doubt.

After all, this was a newsroom without whistleblowing channels, without staff appraisals. Having a relatively small editorial team was not a hindrance, but "focused the mind" on accuracy. The words slapped off the desk before her like a rain-soaked copy of the Daily Star, "Britain's most successful newspaper", lest we forget.

Richard Peppiatt is a former Daily Star reporter who quit in March 2011 over what he said was the paper's anti-Muslim bias. He gave evidence to the Leveson inquiry in November

From the archives...

Cops probe Muslim attack on McCanns, 28 April 2008
Cops probe Muslim attack on McCanns Daily Star (No online link, appeared in paper edition only)

EXCLUSIVE by Jerry Lawton

Vile slurs on Maddie parents

POLICE are set to investigate a vile attack on Madeleine McCann's parents by Muslim extremists.

In a hysterical rant on an internet website fanatics blame the couple for her disappearance.

They also call on Catholics Kate, 40 and Gerry, 39 to "embrace islam".

The tirade comes as the McCanns prepare to mark the first anniversary of Maddie's disappearance in Protugal last May.

Last night a close family pal called on police to probe the rant. He said: "Statements like this are clearly designed to whip up hatred and should be an issue for the police."

Tory MP Patrick Mercer added: "I am appalled that this poor family should be attacked in such a sickening manner." Fanatical cleric Abu Waleed is believed to be behind the rant.

The website features footage of him speaking at the London School of Shariah, which provides a platform for firebrand Muslim preachers.

The Brit-born radical is already facing a police probe for allegedly inciting racial hatred. He claimed one in eight muslims would be proud to related to a terrorist.

He was also videoed making sick jibes about the London 7/7 bombings, and instructed Islamic students on how to cheat taxpayers.

On the website an un-named blogger wrote: "The recent so called 'disappearance' of Madeleine McCann is nothing more than another fruit of British values at their best.

"So called moral values which we, the Muslim community, are rather sick of hearing." It added: "Kate and Gerry McCann really should question so called Western values and embrace Islam - as should the rest of the British public."

Last night a spokesman for the London School of Shariah said: "Mr Abu Waleed is not available to speak to you on any of these matters."

Muslim Maddie, 03 November 2009
Muslim Maddie Daily Star

Daily Star, 03 November 2009
'Is Maddie a Muslim?'

By Jerry Lawton
3rd November 2009

BRITISH police believe Madeleine McCann could now be living as a Muslim.

They think she might have been held captive in the human trafficking haven of North Africa.

Detectives last night launched a global internet appeal urging people to help catch Maddie's kidnapper.

They also released an image showing how the youngster, who vanished in Portugal in May 2007, would now look if she had been raised by Arabs.

Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for Madeleine's parents Gerry and Kate, both 41, of Rothley, Leics, said: "Even though she has much darker hair and features, Kate knows she's still looking at her beloved daughter."

  Hugh Whittow

Leveson Inquiry: live, 12 January 2012
Leveson Inquiry: live Guardian News Blog

By Josh Halliday, Jason Deans and Lisa O'Carroll
Thursday 12 January 2012

- Extract -

12.18pm: Hugh Whittow, editor of the Daily Express, has taken the stand.

Leveson inquiry: Hugh Whittow
Leveson inquiry: Hugh Whittow


12.37pm: Whittow is asked about the Daily Express's decision to withdraw from the PCC. He points out that he was deputy editor, not editor, at the time.

But he says he agrees with the decision. He says one of the reasons for withdrawing was because it failed to stop the paper publishing defamatory articles about the McCanns.

"Because of the McCanns I think that was a huge problem for us and I think they should have intervened … no one was intervening at all. Everybody had too much leeway, it just went on and on," he says.

Jay asks Whittow if he is seriously putting that forward as a reason for leaving the PCC.

"I don't blame the PCC," Whittow says. "I just think in hindsight they might have been able to intervene and perhaps this will reflect in the body that you set up."


1.06pm: The inquiry has broken for lunch, after which Whittow will resume giving evidence.


Transcript Leveson Inquiry

Thursday 12 January 2012

- Extract -

11   Q.  But was that the real reason for leaving the PCC?

12   A.  I don't know the real reasons, because it was taken at

13       director level.

14   Q.  But weren't you party to the discussions which led to

15       that decision?

16   A.  No, I wasn't the editor then.

17   Q.  True.

18   A.  I was the deputy.

19   Q.  So it's Mr Hill I should really ask about that?

20   A.  Yes.

21   Q.  I think I can ask you this: is it your personal view

22       that that decision should have been taken or not?

23   A.  I think, yes.  I do go along with it.  I don't think

24       that it was serving our best interests at the time.

25       I think -- you know, I'm not an expert on this but


1       because of the McCanns, I think that was the a huge

2       problem for us, and I feel that perhaps they should have

3       intervened, you know.  Everybody had too much leeway.

4       There was nobody intervening at all and as a result the

5       story carried on and on and on.

6   Q.  So is this right: your feeling is that it was right to

7       leave the PCC --

8   A.  Yes.

9   Q.  -- because the PCC let you down in failing to stop your

10       paper publishing --

11   A.  That was one of --

12   Q.  Just wait for the end of the question -- publishing

13       defamatory articles about the McCanns; is that your

14       evidence?

15   A.  That's one of the reasons, yes.

16   Q.  Are you seriously putting that forward as a reason, that

17       the PCC failed to stop you freely publishing a

18       defamatory article?

19   A.  As I say, it was one of the things that was happening at

20       the time.

21   Q.  I'm just surprised that -- I know you're not the only

22       one to put this forward, but it does cause the notional

23       eyebrows to be raised.  I'm surprised it's put forward

24       as a reason at all.  Do you see that?  You were entirely

25       free to publish those articles or not.  They were


1       grossly defamatory, we know.  You end up paying

2       GBP 550,000 and you blame the PCC for failing to stop

3       you doing it?

4   A.  I understand.  No, I don't blame the PCC.  I just feel

5       that -- I think I did say in hindsight I thought that

6       perhaps they might have been able to intervene, someone

7       from outside, and perhaps this will reflect in the body

8       that you will be setting up.

9   Q.  Do you have some better reasons for leaving the PCC or

10       not?

11   A.  I think it's best if others answer those questions,

12       because I was not the editor at the time.

13   Q.  Okay, I'll take up that invitation with others.


Witness Statement of Hugh Whittow Leveson Inquiry

Nothing of relevance to Madeleine McCann case


PDF Downloads:

pdf logo

Transcript of Morning Hearing (pdf, 184KB)

click here to download file

pdf logo

Witness Statement of Hugh Whittow (pdf, 513KB)

click here to download file

Daily Express editor: PCC 'should have intervened' in McCann story, 12 January 2012
Daily Express editor: PCC 'should have intervened' in McCann story

Editor of the Daily Express Hugh Whittow tells the Leveson inquiry he supports the media group's decision to withdraw from the Press Complaints Commission

By: Rachel McAthy
Posted: 12 January 2012

Hugh Whittow told the inquiry 'everybody had too much leeway' on reporting on the McCann case

Daily Express editor Hugh Whittow told the Leveson inquiry today that the Press Complaints Commission "should have intervened" in reports on the parents of missing child Madeleine McCann, for which the Express and Daily Star both made front-page apologies for in 2008.

In evidence to the Leveson inquiry Whittow was asked by counsel to the inquiry Robert Jay what the reasons were for publisher Northern & Shell's withdrawal from the PCC in January 2011, when it was excluded by the Press Standards Board of Finance (PressBof) for allegedly not paying a levy to support the commission.

The move meant the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star, Star on Sunday and OK! Magazine have since not been covered by the PCC.

Whittow first told Jay that he did not know the "real reasons" as the decision was "taken at director level" and that he was not editor at that point.

When asked if it was his personal view that the decision should have been taken, he said he does "go along with it", adding that he did not think "it was serving our best interests at the time".

He went on to say that while he was "not an expert on this", the McCann story was "a huge problem for us", adding that the PCC "perhaps should have intervened".

In 2008, Express Newspapers paid damages to the McCanns and published front-page apologies for incorrect allegations made against the couple.

"Everybody had too much leeway, there was nobody intervening" Whittow told the inquiry today. "As a result the story carried on and on."

In further questioning on this evidence by Jay, Whittow repeated that "in hindsight perhaps they [the PCC] might have been able to intervene".

Earlier in his evidence Whittow told the inquiry he would not "put anything in the paper unless I think it is true".

In reference to his written statement the editor confirmed that "ethics play a big role" in the titles he is responsible for.

"I am law abiding, I behave properly, I treat people properly," he said. "I will not publish anything unless I'm confident it's accurate."

  Peter Hill

Leveson Inquiry: live, 12 January 2012
Leveson Inquiry: live Guardian News Blog

By Josh Halliday, Jason Deans and Lisa O'Carroll
Thursday 12 January 2012

- Extract -

2.14pm: Peter Hill, former editor of the Daily Express, takes the stand.

Leveson inquiry: Peter Hill
Leveson inquiry: Peter Hill


2.34pm: Hill is being asked about Express's coverage of the Madeleine McCann case.

He accepts he was running a very high risk running the stories.

"This was an unprecedented story that in my 50 years of experience I can't remember the like. There was an enormous clamour for information … it was an international story on an enormous scale. It was not a story you could ignore. You simply had to cover it as best you could."

2.36pm: Hill denies that, in effect, he accused the McCanns of killing their child.

The former editor says: "I did not accuse them of killing their child. The story that I ran were the people that did accuse them and those were the Portuguese police."

He adds that there was "reason to believe that they might possibly be true."

Jay accuses Hill of "whacking the story" into the paper.

Hill responds that Jay is putting him on trial.

He is reassured by Lord Justice Leveson that this is not a trial.

2.40pm: Hill says the paper did its best to check the accuracy of the McCann stories it printed.

He says: "We did the best we could do which was not very much. I'm not saying it was nothing but it was not very much."

Jay puts it to him that he had one eye on the circulation figures. "One always has an eye on the circulation figures," Hill replies.

Hill says he received estimates of sales figures on a daily basis. He adds that McCann stories boosted circulation "on many days".

2.43pm: Hill denies that he was "obsessed" with the McCann story, as claimed by former Express journalist Nick Fagge at the inquiry last year.

He adds that "it was nothing to do with an obsession; it was more to do with a method of working".

Jay argues that there is a difference between stories about Big Brother and about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

"On the McCann story the entire country had an opinion," says Hill. "These were strong opinions and were informed by the information that was coming from Portugal. We were not to know at the time the Portuguese police were not behaving in a civil manner."

2.47pm: Information is "a free for all", Hill says, adding that had newspapers stopped being printed "it might have made it worse", referring to the internet.

2.48pm: Hills says he was not troubled by the direction of the stories. "There was an enormous clamour for information and I felt this story should keep running," he tells the inquiry.

Jay asks: "What happened between you and the board after the £550,000 libel case with the McCanns?"

Hill: "Nothing."

2.49pm: Hill has now completed giving his evidence.


Transcript Leveson Inquiry

Thursday 12 January 2012

- Extract -

2   Q.  Yes.  Thank you.  Your second statement, Mr Hill, deals

3       with the McCanns.

4   A.  Oh yes.

5   Q.  Of course, you've given evidence to the Parliamentary

6       Select Committee about this, haven't you?

7   A.  Yes, extensively.

8   Q.  Can I take you to that statement and refer to a number

9       of points.

10           At paragraph 2 --

11   A.  What --

12   Q.  This is in the second file under tab 23.

13   A.  Oh, 23.  Okay.  Yes, paragraph 2.

14   Q.  The question which was asked of you was in effect what

15       fact checking your paper indulged in.  Your answer was:

16           "That is a very, very good question.  In this

17       particular case, as I explained to you, the Portuguese

18       police were unable, because of the legal restrictions in

19       Portugal, to make any official comment on the case."

20           Then I paraphrase: they leaked things to the press

21       and therefore checking the stories was not very easy.

22       And then you went on to say newspapers operate at high

23       speed, et cetera.

24           I think the question I have is that those very

25       circumstances, that you were dealing with leaks to the


1       Portuguese press, together with the fact that you knew

2       at the time that it was going to be next to impossible

3       to verify the truth of the leaks, meant that you were

4       running a very high risk by running these stories at

5       all, weren't you?

6   A.  Yes.

7   Q.  May I ask you, given that answer, why did you run that

8       risk?

9   A.  Because this was an unprecedented story that in my 50

10       years of experience I can't remember the like.  There

11       was an enormous clamour for information and there was

12       enormous -- there was an enormous push for information.

13       It was an international story, on an enormous scale, and

14       there had not been a story involving individuals, as

15       opposed to huge events, like that in my experience and

16       it was not a story that you could ignore and you simply

17       had to try to cover it as best you could.

18   Q.  You often published the same sort of story on the front

19       pages, though, didn't you, sometimes on consecutive

20       days?

21   A.  Of course.

22   Q.  Did you at any time, given your assessment of the level

23       of risk, which was a high risk, put into account the

24       position of the McCanns?

25   A.  Of course.  We published many, many, many, many stories


1       of all kinds about the McCanns, many stories that were

2       deeply sympathetic to them, some stories that were not.

3   Q.  Yes, but the stories that were not were a little bit

4       more than unsympathetic.  Some of them went so far as to

5       accuse them of killing their child, didn't they?

6   A.  This is what the Portuguese police were telling us.

7   Q.  Yes, but regardless of that, we've already covered that

8       issue, do you accept that some of --

9   A.  You haven't covered it with me.

10   Q.  Just wait, Mr Hill.  Do you accept that some of your

11       stories went so far as to accuse them of killing their

12       child?

13   A.  I did not accuse them of killing their child.  The

14       stories that I ran were from those who did accuse them,

15       and they were the Portuguese police.

16   Q.  These stories weren't going to find their way into your

17       newspaper unless you took the editorial decision to

18       publish them; that's correct, isn't it?

19   A.  Correct.

20   Q.  You had a choice.  You could either say, "No, the risk

21       is too high and/or the stories are too damaging to the

22       interests of the McCanns, I'm not going to publish

23       them", or you might say, "I am going to publish them

24       because there is such a clamour for information."

25           That's correct, isn't it?


1   A.  I felt that the stories should be published because

2       there was reason to believe that they might possibly be

3       true.

4   Q.  So that was a sufficient basis: reason to believe that

5       they might possibly be true, so we'll whack it in the

6       paper.  That's true, isn't it?

7   A.  I don't use expressions like "whack it in the paper".

8       I find that to be a very judgmental expression.

9   Q.  Yes, well, I don't actually apologise for it.  I'm going

10       to carry on.

11           At the same time, Mr Hill, you knew --

12   A.  The fact of the matter is that this is a public Inquiry

13       and I do not believe that I am on trial.

14   Q.  I'm sorry, Mr Hill, I'm just going to carry on.

15   A.  But I think you are putting me on trial.

16   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  You're not on trial, Mr Hill.  What

17       we're looking at is the culture, practices and ethics of

18       the press.

19   A.  Yes.

20   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  That includes the newspaper which you

21       had the responsibility and doubtless the honour to edit

22       for many years.

23   A.  Indeed.

24   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  And therefore, looking at the way in

25       which you are conducting that responsibility is


1       important, and in relation to the McCanns, the question

2       does arise, given that you knew that officially the

3       Portuguese police were not allowed to talk to the press,

4       what you should be doing to check up or to work on the

5       validity of stories that were being leaked.

6   A.  Indeed.

7   MR JAY:  And the answer is what?  What did you do to check

8       on the validity of those stories?

9   A.  We did the best that we could do, which was not very

10       much.

11   Q.  Which was nothing, wasn't it?

12   A.  I'm not saying it was nothing, but we tried our best.

13   Q.  Okay.  But against that, of course, you had another eye

14       on the circulation figures, didn't you?

15   A.  One always has an eye on the circulation figures.

16   Q.  You told the committee, I think it's also your evidence

17       to us, paragraph 8 of this statement, in answer to

18       question 620:

19           "It certainly increased the circulation of the Daily

20       Express by many thousands on those days without a doubt.

21       As would any item which was of such great interest."

22   A.  Yes.  Would you like to carry on?

23   Q.  Yes, of course:

24           "It also massively increased the audiences on the

25       BBC as their Head of News has acknowledged.  It did this


1       for all newspapers."

2   A.  Yes.

3   Q.  That merely goes to support the point: it was the view

4       of everybody that publishing the story would increase

5       circulation or would increase viewing figures, wouldn't

6       it?

7   A.  Yes.

8   Q.  Was that something that you felt you could establish and

9       did establish empirically in relation to the

10       Daily Express's circulation figures?

11   A.  On many days, yes.

12   Q.  Because you looked at them at the time and your

13       assessment was, on a day-to-day basis: this story must

14       be contributing to an improvement in circulation.  Was

15       that your assessment?

16   A.  Yes.

17   Q.  But did you get the circulation figures on a daily basis

18       or on a weekly basis?

19   A.  A daily basis.  That is to say, estimates on a daily

20       basis.  Because it takes some time for the actual

21       figures to be validated.

22   Q.  Yes.  How long does it take for the actual figures to be

23       validated?

24   A.  Perhaps a week.

25   Q.  And when you looked at the actual figures, did that


1       change the picture or not?

2   A.  Sometimes.

3   Q.  We do have the data under tab 25.

4   A.  Yes.

5   Q.  For what it's worth, and this is absolutely nothing,

6       I am not able to correlate, because I don't know when

7       the stories were published, or discern whether there is

8       a trend in relation to circulation.  All that one can

9       see is that on Saturdays circulation tends to be much

10       higher; is that right?

11   A.  Yes, but that's all the time.

12   Q.  Yes, yes.

13   A.  Yes.

14   Q.  Because what one would need is to be there on the ground

15       at the time and with expert knowledge of all that's

16       happening in the paper at the time, is that so?

17   A.  And all that's happening everywhere else.

18   Q.  But your clear evidence is, is it, that circulation did

19       go up with the McCann stories?

20   A.  I think so.

21   Q.  That must have been, therefore, a factor in your

22       persisting with the story, was it not?

23   A.  Yes.

24   Q.  Together, you say, with the clamour for information and

25       the pressure for information.  Is that so?


1   A.  Yes.

2   Q.  Mr Fagge gave evidence, and I just put it to you in

3       these terms, although we have a transcript of it under

4       tab 40, that you were obsessed with this story.  Would

5       you agree with that or not?

6   A.  No.

7   Q.  And why not?

8   A.  Well, I can see, perhaps, why Mr Fagge would use that

9       word, but Mr Fagge was not privy to my inner thoughts,

10       he wasn't part of my inner team, and he would

11       misunder -- I can see that he misunderstood the reasons

12       that I used the story as many times as I did, but I've

13       already explained to you the basis for that decision,

14       which had gone all the way back to my time on the Daily

15       Star when I had realised that it was -- that the readers

16       were more -- the readers continued to be interested in

17       the stories far longer than the journalists, and it was

18       my policy to continue the stories and I followed it with

19       many different stories.  It started with Big Brother, it

20       went on to Princess Diana, various other things, and

21       that had always been my policy.  It was nothing to do

22       with an obsession, it was more to do with a method of

23       working.

24   Q.  Yes.  Can I just probe a little bit into that last

25       answer.  Would you accept that there's rather


1       a difference between, on the one hand, persisting in the

2       publication of stories relating to Big Brother, which

3       frankly, whether they're true or not, who cares, and

4       the --

5   A.  Some people cared a lot.

6   Q.  Well, the persistence of publication of the stories in

7       relation to the McCanns, where some people might care

8       extremely deeply, because whether or not they're true

9       and whether or not they're capable of damaging people is

10       a predominant consideration?  Do you begin to see that

11       difference?

12   A.  I perfectly see the difference.  On the McCanns story,

13       the entire country had an opinion about that story, and

14       wherever you went, whether you went to a social

15       gathering or, as somebody said, to the supermarket,

16       people were talking about it and they all had an opinion

17       about it, and these were opinions, these were stronger

18       opinions, and these opinions were informed by the

19       information that was coming from Portugal.

20           Now, we were not to know at the time that the

21       Portuguese police were not behaving in a proper manner.

22       Portugal is a civilised country, part of the European

23       Union.  We had no reason to believe that its police

24       force was not a proper body.  So, as I explained to you,

25       there was an enormous body of opinion on both sides of


1       this story and you couldn't stop that.  There was no

2       stopping it.

3   Q.  Apart from to stop publishing it, particularly --

4   A.  That wouldn't have stopped it, because you couldn't --

5       well, as someone's explained, we now have the Internet,

6       we have Facebook, we have Twitter, we have all these

7       different things.  Information is -- it's a free-for --

8       it's an information free-for-all that we live in.  So

9       whether the newspapers stopped publishing would have

10       made no difference.  In fact, it might well have made it

11       worse.

12   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Was Mr Pilditch one of your

13       reporters?

14   A.  Yes.

15   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Highly regarded?

16   A.  Very much.

17   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  He told me that there was a problem

18       accessing the police because of the secrecy laws.

19   A.  Yes.

20   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  And he got the impression that a lot

21       of the way that this information leaked out was thinking

22       out loud, as a result of which he had misgivings.

23   A.  What do you mean by "thinking out loud"?

24   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I'm sorry?

25   A.  I don't know what you mean by "thinking out loud".


1   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  The police thinking out loud.

2   A.  Oh, the police thinking out loud.

3   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Not you.  And to which he said:

4           "I discussed my misgivings with the news desk."

5           Did you get involved in a discussion about the

6       misgivings that your man on the ground had about this

7       story?

8   A.  I'm sure I would have done.

9   MR JAY:  I think it did go a bit further than that as well,

10       that every story went up with the moniker "legal please"

11       on it, didn't it?

12   A.  I can't remember.

13   Q.  Mr Fagge told us in answer to one of my questions:

14           "In the evenings, over a beer in Portugal with your

15       colleagues, seeing this obsession played out [that was

16       his term, not mine] on the front pages of the Express,

17       weren't you troubled by the direction in which this was

18       going?

19           "Answer:  Yes."

20           Were you troubled?

21   A.  No.

22   Q.  And why not?

23   A.  Because I thought it was the right thing to do.

24   Q.  Because?

25   A.  Of what I've explained, that there was an enormous


1       clamour for information and I felt that this story was

2       something that should keep running.

3   Q.  When all this went wrong, and it went very wrong, with

4       a price tag of £550,000, what, if anything, happened

5       between you and the board?

6   A.  Nothing.

7   Q.  Was there no gentle criticism of you?

8   A.  There's been -- there have been hundreds of libel cases

9       in newspapers and newspaper administrations have got to

10       live with them.

11   Q.  Mm.  Were your board aware that circulation was

12       improving as a result of these stories?

13   A.  I'm sure they were aware of the business points of the

14       organisation, yes.

15   Q.  And may that have been the reason for the absence of any

16       criticism of you, do you think?

17   A.  I think editors are normally left to run their

18       newspapers.

19   MR JAY:  Thank you, Mr Hill.

20   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Mr Hill, thank you very much indeed.

21   A.  Okay.


Witness Statement of Peter Hill Leveson Inquiry

Nothing of relevance to Madeleine McCann case

Reference is made in Peter Hill's testimony to a 'second statement' that 'deals with the McCanns'. However, this has not been made available on the Leveson Inquiry website. 


PDF Downloads:

pdf logo

Transcript of Afternoon Hearing (pdf, 150KB)

click here to download file

pdf logo

Witness Statement of Peter Hill (pdf, 404KB)

click here to download file

  Paul Ashford

Leveson Inquiry: live, 12 January 2012
Leveson Inquiry: live Guardian News Blog

By Josh Halliday, Jason Deans and Lisa O'Carroll
Thursday 12 January 2012

- Extract -

2.49pm: Paul Ashford, editorial director of Northern & Shell, has taken the stand.

Leveson inquiry: Paul Ashford
Leveson inquiry: Paul Ashford


3.05pm: Ashford tells Leveson that after the McCanns took legal action against Express Newspapers the PCC chairman denigrated the Express editor, Peter Hill.

He describes the PCC as "wholly hypocritical and unhelpful" over the McCanns.

Ashford says on the PCC: "It was the combination of the criticism and the doing nothing about [the McCann coverage] that really rankled".


Asked by Leveson for his thoughts on the future of press regulation, Ashford says: "One of my points I made was that it probably was not in the PCC's remit to say anything [when the McCann stories were being published]... because there hadn't been a complaint."

He says it should be "empowered to be proactive" and should be able to step in and prevent problems before they are reached. "I think that's one area that should be looked at," he says.

Ashford says that it would be "draconian" to not allow members to leave.


3.25pm: Ashford has now completed his evidence. The inquiry is taking a short break.


Transcript Leveson Inquiry

Thursday 12 January 2012

- Extract -

9   Q.  Okay.  Paragraph 5 you touch on the McCann story.  Can

10       I deal with your attitude to the PCC's response to it?

11       You say you found the behaviour of the PCC to be wholly

12       hypocritical and unhelpful.  Could you expand on that,

13       both in the context of wholly hypocritical and then

14       unhelpful?

15   A.  I think my problem with it was the contrast between the

16       fact that our editor, Mr Hill, was on the PCC committee,

17       so he had total access to them and they to him

18       throughout the period in which all the newspapers and

19       other news organs were covering this story to a greater

20       or lesser extent in the same way that we were, so they

21       had total access, but there was complete silence.  They

22       didn't raise it for an extraordinary discussion.  Maybe

23       they would say it was not in their remit to do so, but

24       every opportunity was there to do so.  And it was

25       a contrast between that inaction and after the McCanns


1       took legal action and we apologised and gave them

2       redress, then the chairman of the PCC took it upon

3       himself to publicly denigrate our editor, and it was

4       that mismatch of the two things that I, and I think

5       other members of the board, found upsetting.

6   Q.  The other thing that you put into the equation are

7       what's contained in PA1, which you see is the last

8       sentence of paragraph 5.  You point out that other

9       newspapers were running similar stories; is that

10       correct?

11   A.  It's correct, and I believe arrangements were made with

12       the McCanns and certainly some other newspapers that

13       they too gave some redress.

14   Q.  What you say is correct.

15           May I hand PA1 to Lord Justice Leveson, since he

16       doesn't have it in that bundle.

17   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I've just noticed.

18   MR JAY:  I copied it overnight.  (Handed)

19   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Thank you.

20   MR JAY:  It probably isn't in that bundle either,

21       Mr Ashford.  I wouldn't worry about it, though.  I've

22       looked at the articles and I take your point.

23           The McCann settlements were, I think, in the summer

24       of 2008, but you tell us in paragraph 7 that you didn't

25       resign from the PCC immediately; you continued with it


1       for a while longer, although nonetheless you felt that

2       you'd been scapegoated; is that right?

3   A.  We did.

4   Q.  Of course, it might be said, though, that the McCanns

5       took the decision, as they were entitled to do, on the

6       basis of advice, to sue the Daily Express primarily --

7       of course they sued other papers as well -- and that had

8       nothing to do with the PCC.  Would you agree with that?

9   A.  I agree that the PCC could easily have said it was not

10       within their remit to do anything.  As I said, it was

11       a combination of the criticism and the doing nothing

12       that really rankled.

13   Q.  The singling out of Mr Hill by Sir Christopher Meyer at

14       the BBC interview.

15   A.  Correct.

16   Q.  That was the point which you found unacceptable, did

17       you?

18   A.  Yes.


25   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Have you, Mr Ashford, given any


1       thought to other ways in which regulation might be

2       improved?  You've identified non-editors -- serving

3       editors, you've identified some legal and lay input, but

4       is there anything else that you, who have clearly given

5       some thought to the issue, would want to see in a new

6       system, if there was to be a new system?

7   A.  One of the points I made was that it probably was not in

8       the PCC's remit to actually say anything during the

9       McCann situation when everyone was publishing

10       everything, because there had been no complaint.  So

11       maybe some mechanism that if something emerges in the

12       press that's of that kind of profile, any body that

13       existed perhaps ought to look at it before a complaint

14       comes, rather than after it.  And I'd have to work out

15       what I meant by looking at it, but certainly discuss it,

16       debate it.

17   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I see.  So the body ought to be

18       capable of being proactive, not merely reactive?

19   A.  I think that's an area that should be explored, yes.


Witness Statement of Paul Ashford Leveson Inquiry


Question 7: What your role was in instructing, paying or having any other contact with such private investigators and/or other external providers of information.

8. For convenience, I deal with questions 7 and 8 together. The only instance I personally recall that could be relevant is that I arranged the use of an ex-police chief constable to try and locate Madeleine McCann in Portugal. However, I cannot recollect ever using a private investigator.


[Reference is made in Paul Ashford's testimony to a 'second statement' that deals, at least in part, with the PCC and the McCanns. However, this has not been made available on the Leveson Inquiry website.]


PDF Downloads:

pdf logo

Transcript of Afternoon Hearing (pdf, 150KB)

click here to download file

pdf logo

Witness Statement of Paul Ashford (pdf, 280KB)

click here to download file

  Richard Desmond

Leveson Inquiry: live, 12 January 2012
Leveson Inquiry: live Guardian News Blog

By Josh Halliday, Jason Deans and Lisa O'Carroll
Thursday 12 January 2012

- Extract -

3.36pm: Richard Desmond has taken the stand.

Leveson inquiry: Richard Desmond is giving evidence
Leveson inquiry: Richard Desmond is giving evidence


4.13pm: Asked about the PCC, Desmond says: "This is an association where our competitors - or our idiots, shall we say … At the end of the day all newspapers were doing the same thing. I saw it that we were the only one who was honest and apologised properly …

"Then to see the chairman of the PCC on BBC TV and vilify Peter Hill and Express Newspapers, that was the final straw. I felt it was a useless organisation run by people who wanted tea and buscuits, and phone hackers; it was run by people who wanted to destroy us."
4.14pm: Desmond defends Express editor Peter Hill over the paper's Madeleine McCann coverage.
"Every paper, every day, for that amount of time, was talking about that story. Poor old Peter Hill … I remember calling him that night, I spoke to him for about two hours, because he'd done it to the best ability, reported the facts. Unfortunately, it was fair to assume that the Portuguese police were a reliable source."
Desmond says he didn't think the stories boosted circulation.


4.25pm: Desmond apologises to the McCanns over his papers' coverage.

"I don't wish to minimise it … and I'm not trying to win points here, but if there were 102 articles on the McCanns, and 38 bad ones … you could argue there were 68 or 70 good ones."

Desmond emphasises again that he isn't wishing to play down the effect of the bad stories.

4.28pm: Desmond tries to justify his papers' McCanns coverage because he says there was different points of view about what might have happened.

"There has been speculation that Diana was killed by the royal family," he says.

"The speculation has gone on and on. I don't know the answer."

"I apologise again to the McCanns etc etc etc, but there are views about the McCanns and what happened," he adds.

Jay points out that the logic of that argument is that the paper could write anything it liked.

Desmond says he's not advocating that.

4.33pm: Desmond tells the inquiry that if you agree that newspapers are important, then they should be allowed to report on opinions.

Jay interrupts and accuses Desmond of a "grotesque characterisation" of the way Fleet Street reported disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

Desmond continues:
"On your figure, we ran 102 articles for four months, nothing happened until a new firm of lawyers – who were on contingency – then came in to sue us.

Once again I do apologise. I am very sorry that we got it wrong … every paper was doing the same thing, which is why every paper paid money to the McCanns. But only we were scapegoated by the PCC."

4.36pm: Desmond has now finished giving evidence.


Transcript Leveson Inquiry

Thursday 12 January 2012

- Extract -

[Richard Desmond:]

4           So when it came to the PCC, you had that thinking

5       behind it, plus you had the fact, you know, of the way

6       they strung out poor old Peter Hill, because at the end

7       of the day, all the newspapers were doing the same, you

8       know, plus or minus, you know, it was a major story, and

9       basically I saw it that we were the only honest ones and

10       straightforward ones.  We stood up and said, "Yes, we

11       got it wrong, there's the money for the McCann fighting

12       fund, let's try and help find McCann", the poor little

13       girl, "Let's get rid of it, put it on the front page and

14       apologise properly", which is what they did.

15           Then to see the chairman of the PCC, whatever his

16       name is, you know, stand on BBC television and vilify

17       Peter Hill and vilify Express Newspapers was sort of

18       a final -- you know, like a -- you know, that was like

19       the final straw.  Because I felt it was a useless

20       organisation run by people who wanted tea and biscuits

21       and phone hackers, you know, and it was run by the

22       people that hated our guts, that wanted us out of

23       business, that tried every day to put us out of

24       business, and yet smiled at us and were completely

25       ineffective.


1           I mean, what else do you want me to say about the

2       PCC?

3   Q.  Can I ask you two follow-up questions, please, in the

4       context of that answer?  The first is: aren't you

5       treating the PCC as if it was some sort of trade or

6       marketing organisation rather than at least an attempt

7       to regulate an important industry?

8   A.  Well, I don't -- yes, you're probably right.  Yes.

9   Q.  I'll come back to that, if I may.  Secondly, in relation

10       to the McCanns, if one accepts that other newspapers

11       also defamed the McCanns, accept that, would you not

12       accept, though, that given the, if I may say so, the

13       systematic and egregious defamations which your

14       newspaper perpetrated on the McCanns, that it's a bit

15       rich to blame the PCC for failing to provide you with

16       guidance, as you say under paragraph 18 of your

17       statement?

18   A.  Yes.

19   Q.  Because, after all, it was up to your editor not to

20       behave in such a way.  Would you accept that?

21   A.  No, not at all.  Every paper -- I didn't bring every

22       paper with me, but I'm sure we can justify my

23       statement -- every paper every day for that period of

24       time was talking about the McCanns.  It was the hot

25       story -- it was the story.  And poor old Peter Hill, you


1       know -- I remember that night after he was attacked by

2       the chairman of the PCC, I remember calling him at

3       11 o'clock at night.  I think he was convinced I was

4       going to fire him.  But I didn't fire him, I spoke to

5       him from 11 o'clock for about two hours and my ex-wife

6       spoke to him for about an hour afterwards, you know,

7       because he'd done to the best ability -- report the

8       facts.  And unfortunately, when it came to it, as he

9       said earlier, I mean, it's fair to assume that the

10       Portuguese police that were giving him the information

11       would have been a reliable source.

12   Q.  Hmm.  When the stories were being published between,

13       I think, September 2007 and January 2008, did you take

14       any interest in those stories at all?

15   A.  Not -- interest, of course, but -- you know, I would go

16       down, "What's happening now?  What's happening?"  It was

17       a big -- I remember going to people's homes or social

18       functions or charity raisers and 10, 15 people would

19       come up to me, "What's going on with the McCanns?"  It

20       was a big, big, big story.  Everybody was interested in

21       the McCanns and everybody had a view about the McCanns.

22   Q.  I understand that, Mr Desmond, but in your discussions

23       with Mr Hill, did it come out that in his view the

24       perpetuation of these stories increased circulation?

25   A.  No, no.


1   Q.  But you had your finger on the pulse of circulation, did

2       you not?

3   A.  Well, I saw the figures every day and basically the

4       figures don't move, as I said earlier on.

5   Q.  I think you're saying Mr Hill's perception is incorrect

6       and that the McCann stories could not have increased

7       circulation; is that right?

8   A.  With respect to editors, editors have to believe that by

9       putting a good story in, they're going to sell more

10       papers.  They have to believe that.  The day they don't

11       believe that is the day they go home and play golf, or

12       whatever ex-editors do.  They have to believe by running

13       a big story that the sales will go up, but that doesn't

14       necessarily correlate, or it may do for a week.


18   MR JAY:  Can I just go back to the McCanns and raise one

19       question?  You're concerned, I think, at the lack of

20       consistency in the position the PCC took in singling

21       out --

22   A.  Yes.

23   Q.  -- the Express in particular, is that --

24   A.  Absolutely.  First of all, I apologise to the McCanns

25       and we have apologised to the McCanns and we have put it


1       on the front pages and nothing would give me greater

2       pleasure to find Madeleine and, you know, we've tried on

3       many, many, many occasions to, in spite of some bad

4       editorial, to try and find Maddie.  So if I can just put

5       that.

6           Basically, every other paper was doing the same

7       thing and yet, I forget his name, the ex-chairman and

8       his cronies thought, "We'll hang out Peter Hill and the

9       Daily Express".  They should have all stood -- I think

10       they should have all stood up and said, "You know what,

11       we've all wronged, let's all bung in 500 grand each",

12       which would have been GBP 3 million.  In fact they did

13       in the end, they probably spent more than £500,000.  But

14       we could have all done it as a united body, which might

15       have been better instead of singling us out.

16   Q.  But isn't it fair to say, Mr Desmond, that if you look

17       at the hard facts, I think the McCann litigation

18       involved 38 defamatory articles.  It is right, and

19       Mr Ashford has drawn to our attention that there are

20       other newspapers who also perpetrated defamations, but

21       not to the same extent as your papers.

22   A.  Is that -- I'm not sure that's right.  I'm not sure

23       that's right at all.

24   Q.  If it's wrong, Mr Sherborne here, who -- the McCanns are

25       his client -- will demonstrate that in due course, but


1       it's certainly my understanding that we're talking about

2       38 defamatory articles over a four-month period and that

3       your paper was guilty, if I can put it in those terms,

4       of the most egregious and serious defamations, and other

5       papers were guilty of defamations of perhaps less

6       severity in terms of quantity.  Do you accept that?

7   A.  Once again, I don't wish to minimise it, right?  But

8       four months is -- let me see now, it's 12 weeks?

9   Q.  It's 17 weeks, on my reckoning.

10   A.  17 weeks, thank you.  17 weeks times 6 -- you have to

11       help me again.

12   Q.  102, is it, Mr Desmond?  I don't know.  You're the

13       businessman.

14   A.  Well, I don't know.  102, very good.  Is 102.

15   Q.  Yes.

16   A.  And there were 37 --

17   Q.  38.

18   A.  I'm not trying to win points here, because we did do

19       wrong, but I could say there were more, if there were

20       102 articles on the McCanns, there were 38 bad ones,

21       then one would say -- and I'm not trying to justify,

22       please, I'm not trying to justify anything, but you

23       could argue there were 65 or 70 good ones.

24   Q.  But the effect of the bad ones are really twofold.  One,

25       the possible pragmatic effect, namely if people thought


1       that Madeleine had been killed, there would be less

2       interest in trying to find her.  Do you follow that?

3   A.  From my memory, and it was a long time ago and -- but

4       I mean it was just the story every day.  It just went on

5       all the time, was she killed?  Was she --

6   Q.  You are not listening to my question and the, I would

7       suggest, inexorable logic behind it.  If people thought

8       Madeleine might have been killed, particularly by her

9       parents -- it doesn't matter by whom actually -- there

10       would be less incentive to try and find her.  Do you

11       agree with that proposition or not?

12   A.  No.  Because if you take Diana as an example, you know,

13       all these situations where no one actually knows the

14       answer, as it turns out, it just goes on and goes on.

15   Q.  Mr Desmond, I'm beginning to sound irritated, but I am.

16       There is no comparison between these two cases because

17       to be absolutely stark about it, in the case of

18       Princess Diana we have a dead body.  What has that got

19       to do with the McCann case, please?

20   A.  Well, you know, there has been speculation that Diana

21       was killed by the Royal Family.

22   Q.  Mm?

23   A.  And the speculation has gone on and gone on and gone on

24       and there has been all sorts of speculation about Diana,

25       and you know what?  I don't know the answer.  And if you


1       go into a bar or coffee shop or whatever the thing is,

2       and you start talking about Diana, you will get a view

3       on Diana and you will get a view, and once again I do

4       apologise to the McCanns, you know, et cetera,

5       et cetera, et cetera, but there are views on -- there

6       are views on the McCanns of what happened.  And there

7       are still views on the McCanns of what happened.

8   Q.  But that argument would justify newspapers such as yours

9       publishing anything it liked at any time because it

10       could say, "There's always another point of view"; would

11       you accept that?

12   A.  Probably not.

13   Q.  Again, there's an inexorable logic behind it which must

14       be right, isn't there?

15   A.  What I think is free speech is very important and if we

16       get any more regulation -- I mean, what are we trying to

17       do in this country?  Are we trying to kill the whole

18       country with every bit of legislation and every bit of

19       nonsense?  You know, I go to Germany, I put OK! Magazine

20       into Germany.  A British company, we go into Hamberg.

21       The Mayor of Hamberg -- we have 30 people working there

22       six years ago -- the Mayor of Hamberg welcomed me in,

23       gives us, the company, 500,000 euros and says, "Welcome

24       to Hamburg", you know.  In this country I want to put

25       a new print plant up in Luton.  We go to Luton, you


1       know, we have a warehouse, we buy a warehouse in Luton,

2       11 acres, 12 acres.  Luton, as you may know, is on

3       a road called the M1.  The first objection is that we

4       may clog up the roads at 2 in the morning by having

5       lorries come out of our printing works.  Okay?

6           Then we go the next objection and just more

7       objection, more objection, more objection.  The bottom

8       line is how much more -- at the end of the day, we put

9       our printing plant up and the MPs walk round it on our

10       opening night and I said thank you very much but what

11       have you done to (a) encourage me, to encourage

12       businesses, to encourage anything, to invest in the

13       future the newspapers?

14           So, I mean, if we think that newspapers are

15       important, which I do, and you do, otherwise you

16       wouldn't be here, you'd be doing other things, we have

17       to be in a situation where people do have opinions and

18       ideas, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, which, to the

19       best of their ability, if you take the case of the

20       McCanns, you know, we did send journalists or reporters

21       or whatever you want to call them to Portugal to get the

22       facts.  We did do, you know, everything reasonable, or

23       Mr Hill did everything reasonable to make sure he was

24       getting the facts and getting the stories across.

25           At the end of the day, the McCanns, you know, as


1       I understood it, although I've never met them, were

2       perfectly -- if we ran it for four months, you know, it

3       took them a long time to get involved in a legal dispute

4       with us.  They were quite happy, as I understand, in

5       articles being run about their poor daughter, because it

6       kept it on the front page.  I think it was only when new

7       lawyers came along, who I think were working on

8       a contingency, that the legal --

9   Q.  I can't --

10   A.  Well, that's the facts.  I'm sorry, that is the facts.

11   Q.  Mr Desmond I'm going to interrupt you.

12   A.  I'm sorry, that is the facts.

13   Q.  That must be a grotesque characterisation.

14   A.  I'm sorry, that is the facts.

15   Q.  Your paper was confusing the McCanns on occasion of

16       having killed their daughter.  Are you seriously saying

17       that they were sitting there quite happy, rather than

18       entirely anguished by your paper's bad behaviour?

19   A.  I'm sitting here --

20   Q.  Just think about the question before you answer.

21   A.  I'm going to answer your question, and I've already

22       answered it.  We ran -- on your suggestion, we've run

23       102 -- your figure, 102 articles.  For four months you

24       say we ran it, right?  Nothing happened, to the best of

25       my knowledge, until a new firm of lawyers were


1       instructed, who were on a contingency, that then came in

2       to sue us.  And, you know, I mean that's a fact.  Up

3       until that stage, as I understand Mr Hill, they had a PR

4       company who were working alongside Peter Hill and the

5       team.

6           But once again, please, I do apologise to the

7       McCanns.  I'm not trying to -- I am very sorry for --

8       you know, I am very sorry for the thing and I am very

9       sorry that we got it wrong, but please don't, you know,

10       try and -- every paper was doing the same thing, which

11       is why every paper, or most papers, paid a -- paid money

12       to the McCanns.  Only we were scapegoated by the

13       chairman or the ex-chairman of the PCC.


Witness Statement of Richard Desmond Leveson Inquiry


Question 4: What your role is in ensuring that the corporate governance documents referred to above and all relevant policies are adhered to in practice. If you do not consider yourself to have been/be responsible for this, please tell us who you consider to hold that responsibility.
Question 5: Whether the documents and policies referred to above are adhered to in practice to the best of your knowledge.

18. I do have a role in the corporate governance at board level and with regard to approval of expenditure (which I comment upon further below). For example, in January 2011, the board made the decision for Express Newspapers to withdraw from the PCC. I no longer saw the benefit of the PCC. On the occasions when we may do something wrong, the subject of the story will sue, and use a PCC adjudication to support his or her case. The McCann story (referred to below) is a good example of how the PCC failed to provide us with any guidance during that entire time.


Question 12: Whether, to the best of your knowledge, your newspapers used, paid or had any connection with private investigators in order to source stories or information and/or paid or received payments in kind for such information from the police, public officials, mobile phone companies or others with access to the same: if so, please provide details of the numbers of occasions on which such investigators or other external providers of information were used and of the amounts paid to them (NB. You are not required to identify individuals, either within your newspapers or otherwise).

26. To the best of my knowledge, the newspapers have not used, paid or had any connection with private investigators in order to source stories or information and/or paid or received payments in kind for such information from the police, public officials, mobile phone companies or others with access to the same. This is however subject to the following three caveats:
a. I have recently found out that some reporters have instructed - and the company has paid - search agencies in order to quickly find out routine information about a potential source of information to enable the reporter to speak to that source, such as telephone numbers or addresses.

b. When Madetine McCann disappeared, there was huge amount of public interest in what had happened to her. We decided to hire an ex-police chief constable to try to find Madeline and I would have known about that expense being incurred;

c. The Company pays politicians from time to time to write columns for the newspapers.


PDF Downloads:

pdf logo

Transcript of Afternoon Hearing (pdf, 150KB)

click here to download file

pdf logo

Witness Statement of Richard Desmond (pdf, 471KB)

click here to download file

Leveson Inquiry: Express owner accused of 'grotesque' misrepresentation, 13 January 2012
Leveson Inquiry: Express owner accused of 'grotesque' misrepresentation The Telegraph

The owner of the Daily Express, Richard Desmond, was accused of a "grotesque" misrepresentation of his newspaper's legal battle with Madeleine McCann's parents when he appeared before the Leveson Inquiry.

The owner of the Daily Express was accused of a "grotesque" misrepresentation of his newspaper's legal battle with Madeleine McCann's parents when he appeared before the Leveson Inquiry yesterday.

By Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter
6:30AM GMT 13 Jan 2012

Mr Desmond claimed that Kate and Gerry McCann were initially "quite happy" with stories in the Express, which included speculation they had murdered their daughter, and complained after four months only because "new lawyers came along".

He also suggested Portuguese police were partly to blame for coverage of the three year-old's disappearance, which led to a £550,000 damages payment to the McCanns, because it was "fair to assume" that information leaked by them was "reliable".

On Thursday, Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, described Mr Desmond's version of events as a "grotesque characterisation".

A spokesman for the McCanns also rejected Mr Desmond's suggestion that they were happy with the bulk of the coverage, saying the Express group was "by far the worst offender".

When the McCanns appeared before the Leveson Inquiry last year they said some of the stories that appeared in newspapers after their daughter went missing in 2007 were "nothing short of disgusting".

Mr Desmond, who also owns the Sunday Express, the Daily Star and Star on Sunday, repeatedly told Lord Justice Leveson he was sorry for the pain caused to the McCanns, but said they sued only when they hired new lawyers.

"It took a long time for them to get involved in a legal dispute with us," he said. "They were quite happy, as I understand it, in articles being run about their poor daughter because it kept it on the front page."

Mr Jay interrupted, saying: "That is a grotesque characterisation of what happened. Your paper was accusing the McCanns on occasion of having killed their daughter. Are you seriously saying that they were sitting there, quite happy, rather than entirely anguished by your paper's bad behaviour?"

Mr Desmond replied: "For four months we ran it. Nothing happened until a new firm of lawyers were instructed who were on a contingency [a no-win no-fee arrangement] who came in to sue us. That's a fact."

Mr Desmond tried to spread the blame for the untrue stories that appeared in his newspapers, saying: "It was fair to assume that the Portuguese police, who were giving the information to [us] would have been a reliable source."

When it was put to him that the McCanns had complained about 38 defamatory articles appearing in the space of four months, he suggested that in the same period there would have been 70 other "good" articles.

Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns' spokesman, said the stories the couple took issue with "massively added to the stress and upset" they were already suffering.

"For Mr Desmond to claim that Kate and Gerry were happy with the bulk of his newspaper's coverage ... well, they weren't," he said.

Mr Desmond said he had withdrawn the Express group from the industry regulator, the Press Complaints Commission, because "they hate our guts".

He suggested replacing it with a new body called the RCD — Richard Clive Desmond. He used his appearance to criticise the Express's main rival, the Daily Mail, calling it the "Daily Malicious".

With thanks to Nigel at McCann Files


Site Policy Sitemap

Contact details

Website created by Pamalam