12 December 2011

Leveson Inquiry: Hearings - Day 15


"I want this inquiry to mean something", not end up as "footnote in some professor of journalism's analysis of 21 century history." LJ Leveson in reply to A Rusbridger's submission to Inquiry.

Lord Justice Leveson (from Telegraph)

The Panel : top row (left to right)
  • Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty
  • George Jones, former Daily Telegraph political editor
  • Sir David Bell, former chairman of the Financial Times
Bottom row (Left to right)
  • Elinor Goodman, former Channel 4 political editor
  • Lord David Currie, former chairman of Ofcom
  • Sir Paul Scott-Lee, former West Midlands chief constable
The proceedings are shown here live on the Leveson Inquiry website.
BBC Democracy Live Leveson Inquiry live-feed here.

Full list of Core Participants to be found here. (Guardian Website)

Relevant links from mainstream media, blogs and social media:

(Twitter feed for Leveson Inquiry on right of Home page of this (#pressreform) blog.) 

Follow Leveson Inquiry:-

Links to articles from media, blog pieces, comment relevant to today's proceedings:

BBC News - Phone-hacking: the Main Players

BBC News - Infographic on links in phone-hacking scandal 

Phone-hacking: Full text of Statement Issued By Dowler Family Lawyer - Guardian (following Police revelation over the weekend that NotW did not delete messages from Milly Dowler's mobile phone)
Police Logs Raise Questions Over Deletion of Milly Dowler's Voicemails - Guardian
Audioboo - Nick Davies on the Milly Dowler Voicemails on Sky News - via @lisaocarroll
Alan McGee: Phone-hacking: Why I Turned Down Compensation from the News of the World - HuffPost
Mahmood denies Indy Report He Paid Murder Case PI - Press Gazette

Lunchtime Summary From Guardian Live Blog

3.04 p.m.

T Portilho-Shrimpton

Monday 12th December 2011- ( Blog for Day 14 here )

Today's Witnesses: Mazher Mahmood, Neville Thurlbeck, Neil Wallis

Mazher Mahmood
(Mazher Mahmood's evidence will be given in sound only.)

Mazher Mahmood will remain unidentified

Profile of Mazher Mahmood - 'The Dirty Digger' - Telegraph

NotW Hired Disgraced Private Investigator to Protect Fake Sheikh - Independent

 Article from 2006, written by Roy Greenslade for the Independent:  
 Why I'm Out to Nail Mazher Mahmood

Guardian page with many articles about Mazher Mahmood 

BBC News - Reporter's String of Scoops
Mazher Mahmood: No Hacking Involved in Cricket Sting - Press Gazette
News of the World Goes To Print For the Final Time - Telegraph
News of the World Investigations Editor Denies Phone-hacking in Pakistan Cricket Fixing Trial - Telegraph
BBC Sport - Snooker - John Higgins Cleared of Match Fixing Claims - Sept. 2010
Truth Behind Beckham 'Kidnap Plot' - Observer
BBC NEWS - Beckham 'Kidnap' Case Collapses - June 2003
Mahmood denies Indy Report He Paid Murder Case PI - Press Gazette
Public Interest Overriding factor, 'Fake Sheikh' Tells Leveson Inquiry - the Free Speech Blog
'Fake Sheikh' Mazher Mahmood 'Lives Under Constant Death Threat' - Telegraph

The 'Fake Sheikh', aka Mazher Mahmood, vs George Galloway

Youtube video of a Channel 4 News item featuring John Snow, George Galloway who threatened to unmask Mazher Mahmood. 

Audioboo - Mazher Mahmood on Phone-hacking at News of the World - via @lisaocarroll

From Guardian Live Blog:

"The most high profile of his recent cases has been the case of the Pakistani cricketers convicted for match-fixing.
10.35am: He is currently working as an investigative journalist at the Sunday Times and had about 20 years' experience at the News of the World exposing "criminal and wrongdoing".
He has also worked for the Sunday People, the Daily Mail, the Sunday Times and TV-am.
Mahmood has said his work has resulted in 261 convictions."

Natalie Peck
RT : Mazher begins with outrageous misrepresentation of his 1989 Sunday Times departure

T Portilho-Shrimpton
MM: process at Sun Times and NoW essentially the same, but S Times more stringent and more formalised
From Guardian Live Blog:
"Mahmood says evidence given by author Peter Burden who wrote a book about the News of the World's news gathering techniques was "riddled with inaccuracies".He accepts that he had "disagreements" with the Sunday Times when he left the paper first time round."

Natalie Peck
: If they're famous, anything goes? MM: Yes, that's what they think. Leveson: No, that's what you think.

Ben Fenton
it's our job to assess the quality of information offered to us. Says never worked with Paul McMullan.

From Telegraph Live Blog: 
"Mazher Mahmood has denied ever hacking phones but said that he and his colleagues always suspected the News of The World newsdesk of orchestrating the criminal practice.
After that, phone hacking was naturally the “talk of the office”, he said, but while “rumours abounded” he did not have any evidence against individuals.
But he added: “All the fingers were pointing towards the newsdesk.”"

Emily Wight
Mahmood: MPs should have no privacy at all. I wouldn't vote for my MP if I knew he was having an affair

Hacked off
MM says he doesn't accept Mr Justice Eady's criticism regarding kidnap plot story

David Coverdale
Got nothing but respect for Mazher Mahmood. Top journalist. Top professional. Top scoops.  

Neville Thurlbeck

Neville Thurlbeck

From the Guardian:
"Thurlbeck has been a key figure in the phone-hacking scandal – his name appeared on an email sent to private investigator Glenn Mulcaire which contained a transcript of messages left on a mobile phone belonging to professional footballers association chief executive Gordon Taylor.
This "for Neville" email took centre stage in July when Rupert Murdoch and his son James appeared before MPs who believed it was evidence they knew phone hacking was not limited to one "rogue reporter" at the paper. Both the Murdochs denied this was the case."
To Begin, Neville Thurlbeck's Evidence is still in draft - Wants to change part of it. A French defamation judgement on the Mosley case is now made and Thurlbeck wants to include it.

LJ Leveson says T has a right to claim privilege when giving evidence to Inquiry, but phone-hacking off limits.

Neville Thurlbeck's Letter to MPs - Full Text - Guardian
Neville Thurlbeck: 'News of the World Withheld Hacking Evidence' - Guardian
Video: BBC News - Former NotW Chief ReporterThurlbeck Vows to Clear His Name 

Mosley v Newsgroup - Lord Justice Eady's Judgement 

Video - ITV News - NotW Kiss and Tells 

Audioboo - Neville Thurlbeck on the Max Mosley Sting - via @lisaocarroll 

Video - Neville Thurlbeck Tells Leveson Inquiry 'News of the World Paid Six Figures For Beckham Story' - Telegraph

Thurlbeck at Leveson: 'The Era of Kiss and Tell is Over' - Press Gazette  

Ben Fenton
[The judge is clearly very sceptical of the evidence he is hearing about what knew about Mosley case. ]

Ben Fenton
not to be questioned on phone hacking. says he is determined not to prejudice any criminal inquiry. 

in 2005 he confirms he got scoop of the year for the Rebecca Loos story.
Thurlbeck keen to stress the danger he was in while investigating for some of his stories.

Thurlbeck: 1990s and early 2000s was undercover reporter, covering crime. Exposed gun runners, paedophiles

Jonathan Haynes
Thurlbeck: average price of a front page kiss and tell story? £15-20k.
Thurlbeck: "Kiss and Tell story is largely dead as a genre."

Thurlbeck: myth attached 2 NoW that we made it all up. But great deal of activity in establishing truth of what ppl were telling us  

Ross Hawkins
Neville Thurlbeck at : was ok to write about MP's affair because he used family in election literature

Thurlbeck agrees that in the Mosley case, there was no public interest element without the Nazi theme. 
"Thurlbeck is discussing about how he exposed David Beckham's alleged extramarital affair with Rebecca Loos in 2005.
We decided there was huge public interest in that matter because the Beckhams had been using their marriage to endorse products.
They were openly presenting themselves as a very happy, close-knit family and were making millions of pounds on the back of that image, presenting a fairty-tale marriage – they even got married on thrones."

Hacked off
NT: says when he said "when you're trying to get him to do the sieg heil" he meant "capture him doing it" not " make him do it"
From Guardian Live Blog:
"Thurlbeck says it was "the suggestion of the Nazi theme" in his conversation with the tipster Jason that "initially persuaded usethat it was in the public interest".He says he can't remember whether the discussion about the public interest was before or after 18 March 2008 – 12 days before publication and one day before his meeting with Jason."

Natalie Peck
Jay pursuing NT over "persuasive" emails sent to Women A and B. "Pretty clear there were two choices" NoW's terms or photos printed

Press Gazette
Neville Thurlbeck, after being pressed by , says former news editor Ian Edmondson dictated 'blackmail' email to him

Richard Peppiatt
Robert Jay has come into his own today. He's got Thurlbeck painting himself into all sorts of naughty corners.

Lunchtime Summary From Guardian Live Blog

2.00 p.m.  Thurlbeck being questioned by Jay about the emails he attributed earlier to Edmonson, offering a bribe/blackmail to prostitutes to reveal more gossip about Mosley. Thurlbeck 'holds hands up' to responsibility but says he didn't send them. Decisions were not made by him to use girls' testimony for 'Part 2' of the story. Thurlbeck does not see what was offered to the girls as blackmail, tho' Justice Eady and others did.
Thurlbeck says Myler would have stopped it if it was in any way blackmail.
Now being asked if he ever thought about the rights of the women.
Says he merely contacted the girls with a view to a story.Thurlbeck says he offered them anonymity for a story.
Jay asks if he ever considered what he was doing as wrong. Thurlbeck intimates that the Nazi element made it in the public interest. Then describes all of the activities at Mosley's party which were of public interest.
Thurlbeck says there was a feeling at the NotW and across most of the media that there was a public interest justification for the story.
Colin Myler put the story forward for Scoop of the Year.
Didn't mention it to Thurlbeck.
Won't say whether he is proud of the story or not, just that he's certain he got the facts right.
Mosley v Newsgroup - Lord Justice Eady's Judgement 
Thurlbeck now saying that part of his witness statement to Leveson is incorrect.  
Jay now accusing Thurlbeck of making part of a story up. Thurlbeck now blustering. Says he can't remember properly as it was so long ago. Leveson now expressing surprise that Thurlbeck's evidence to Justice Eady was inaccurate.
Thurlbeck now insisting that the story about Mosley was accurate and no-one has ever gainsayed him.

Jay now asking about McMullan's statement to Leveson. Thurlbeck says what McMullan said does not match with his experience. Now lauding the ethos and staff at NotW. 'Small caucus of people gave us our bad reputation.'

Hugo Rifkind
Not wholly comfortable with the tone of questioning on today. V hostile for what is supposed to be a learning exercise. No?

Ben Fenton
What happened was a tiny part of 168-year history and I was privileged to be part of it, tells Jay passes no comment.

David Wooding
Neville Thurlbeck at - "I don't recognise picture of NotW painted by (self-confessed hacker) Paul McMullen." Neither do I.
2.30p.m. Thurlbeck defending the printing of the Mosley story even against the tastelessness charge. Leveson asks why they didn't go to Mosley and say they were going to print it. Thurlbeck says decision not to approach Mosley wasn't his and that he surmises it was because with delay it may have been stolen by their rivals.
Mentioning Myler's part in signing off stories. 
Leveson now asking about Thurlbeck's ethical approach to journalism. Thurlbeck says he hasn't ever thought about what he would have done with the Mosley story had the decision been his.

Jay now asks him about expenses. Thurlbeck says everything had to be 'receipted' and Mr Kuttner was a forensic checker of expenses. Completely refutes what McMullan said about expenses. Leveson asks Thurlbeck why McMullan would lie.
Jay asks about Derek Webb. Thurlbeck describes how Webb was used. Says he used him from approx 2002-3. Dozens of assignments were given to Webb by Thurlbeck. Webb good at 'observing human behaviour', compiled reports and sent them on to the office. Investigated relationships (e.g.police officer consorting with known criminals), drug-taking, fraternising with undesirables.
Sometimes Webb would be put on a story but would often be taken off a story for another.
Thurlbeck said several had been used over the years - doesn't remember using Whittamore, tho' he knows his name apprears on documents linked to Whittamore.
Thurlbeck said there were no concerns in the office about what Webb did for them. Pleased with his work.
Says didn't feel any uneasiness at perhaps salacious nature of Webb's information.
Now retelling story of Union leader having an affair for justification of prying into private lives thro' Webb.
Says circulation numbers show how popular with the public such stories were.

Jennie Kermode
"What journalists do is observe and report on human behaviour," says Thurlbeck. But he's describing paying some else to do that.
Sherbourne standing to counter some of Thurlbeck's evidence.
  • Thurlbeck has already adnitted in previous trial evidence to coaching the prostitutes
  • Thurlbeck said he already knew it was to be a Nazi party from the beginning. Already testified in another place that he hadn't known.
  • Sherbourne cites LJ Eady's statement re Thurlbeck's evidence.
  • Challenging what Thurlbeck said about the emails to the women in the Mosley case. Reads from testimony of one of the girls completely contradicting what Thurlbeck said today. (already placed in Mosley's evidence)
  • Jay says LJ Leveson probably has a clear idea about Thurlbeck's ethics.

Neil Wallis

Neil Wallis

Neil Wallis to Leave News of the World - Guardian 2009
Neil Wallis Advised Andy Coulson Before Election - Guardian July 2011
Arrested Ex-News of the World Executive Neil Wallis Worked For Met - Guardian July 2011
No10 Boss Attended Scotland Yard Dinner With Ex-News of the World Deputy Neil Wallis - Guardian July 2011 
Fedorico 'Did Not Ask Neil Wallis About Phone-hacking Before Appointing Him' - Guardian July 2011 
Cameron Orders Met Chief to Say Why he Hired NotW's Wolfman - Evening Standard
News International paid Neil Wallis While He Was at Scotland Yard - Telegraph

Video :- BBC Democracy Live - Sir Paul Stephenson Questioned Over Hiring of Neil Wallis - 19th July 2011

T Portilho-Shrimpton
Wallis was headhunted by the Sun in 1986, became deputy editor of the NoW in 2003, stayed there until 2009

15.33 p.m.
Neil Wallis has opted not to speak about phone-hacking at the News of the World. LJ Leveson explains that although this seems strange to many that he will be looking at ethics in press, it would jeopardise police investigations and will be looked at in Part 2 of Leveson Inquiry.

T Portilho-Shrimpton
Wallis being asked about the Code of Practice Committee. Wallis a member from 2003 until 2009
From Telegraph Live Blog: 
"1545 Neil Wallis, the former Deputy Editor of the News of the World, is now giving evidence. He has been praised by Lord Leveson for his role in conceiving the National Police Bravery Awards, somethnig he said was "all to the public good"."
From Guardian Live Blog:
"Wallis gave police briefings of media relations – how to go about them and why it was worth doing.He did not have "ethical considerations" about doing this.
There was some discussion however why it was right to consider police-media relations because newspapers could act as the voice to the people they served."

Ben Fenton
says lawyers have shifted cleverly from libel to privacy, which became the field sport.

Ben Fenton
says that isolated events apart, national papers have behaved better since death of Diana in 1997.

Mark White
Wallis says revenge is the primary motivation for those selling their kiss and tell stories

From Guardian Live Blog: 
"Wallis says it had always been policy to make a phone call on Saturdays at 4pm to targets of Sunday stories well into the 1990s and early 2000s, but that was now impossible because of the decisions taken by Saturday duty judges.As the success of late night injunctions increased … it became clear whatever the rights or wrongs of the case, it become much more easy for a judge to grant an injunction. All that hard work had to be put on hold and the story would be used [in rival papers]."

Ben Fenton
people have a right to know a lot about their MPs. Editors don't need to held responsible in same way, he tells
From Guardian Live Blog:
"Wallis says decisions taken at the newspapers he has worked on will consider whether the "story do more harm than good to the subjects or to an institution" or "wrongly damaged" by a story.He remembers editing the Sun one day and it had a story about major captain of industry's personal life.
The person in question phoned him and in the end he made a decision that it would be "wrongfully damaging" and the story wasn't published.
Jay puts it to him he would be more likely to think harder about stories if he spoke to the subject of the story as this was "human nature"."

Ben Fenton
[a telling moment there missed by Jay QC: said after tip comes in you "task a reporter to go and make that story work" ]
From Guardian Live Blog:
"Wallis is asked about the use of freelance journalists. He says that quite often they would be the source of tips for stories."I [would] go and task a reporter to make story work, see if that story works," he adds.
He says freelances' stories often had to be checked, but there were some, such as the German-based Allan Hall, whose "enormous reputation" meant that they were regarded as reliable."

james robinson
Wallis: 'I've never heard of a policeman, a civil servant or a lawyer wanting me to pay them for information'

From Guardian Live Blog:

"Here's a summary of today's developments: • Leveson says he wants to "get to the bottom" of the truth around the Guardian story relating to Milly Dowler voicemails. He may call on policewoman heading up the phone hacking investigation to give evidence.
• Police confirm NoW private eye Glenn Mulcaire was not asked to target Dowler's phone until after voicemail deletions that gave family false hope she was alive.
• Ex-NoW executive editor Neil Wallis says no policeman ever asked him for payment for a story.
• Former NoW investigations editor Mazher Mahmood says he was not aware of phone hacking. He says "all the fingers were pointing towards the [NoW] news desk" over hacking after Clive Goodman was arrested
• Former NoW chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck says Rebecca Loos story was in the public interest
• He says "kiss and tell" stories are a 'dead' genre because of privacy rulings.
• Thurlbeck says he was not out to "get" Max Mosley and was not asked to put his story to him pre-publication. Privacy of the women in the Mosley story was not discussed."