Monthly Archives: March 2013

Piers Morgan’s illegal receipt of information from the police, his perjury and Operation Elveden part III

ELVEDENFriday, 22 March, 2013 10:51

From: “Paulette.Rooke@met.pnn.police.uk” <paulette.rooke@met.pnn.police.uk>Add sender to ContactsTo: anywhere156@yahoo.co.uk

Mr Henderson

I have been asked by my Inspector to ascertain if you have any new evidence with regard to your allegations against those mentioned in your correspondence.

Yours sincerely

Paulette Rooke

ADS PAULETTE ROOKE

JUBILEE HOUSE PUTNEY, 230-232 PUTNEY BRIDGE RD, London SW15 2PD

Internal  58526  External  020 8785 8526

————————————————————————————————————–

To

DC Paulette Rooke

Operation Eleveden

Metropolitan Police

New Scotland Yard

8/10 The Broadway

London  SW1H OBG

CC

John Whittingdale MP

George Eustice MP

John Whittingdale MP

George Eustice MP

Gerald Howarth MP

Keir Starmer (DPP)

mark.lewis@thlaw.co.uk

24 March  2013

Dear DC Rooke,

You ask in your email of 22 March whether I have any new information relating to the accusations I have made.  The short answer is no. However, having listened  again to the tape recording I made of my interview with Det Supt Jeff Curtis I shall be sending you a copy of that for the reasons given below in paragraph 4.

Happily  you do not need any further information to begin investigations into Piers  Morgan, Jeff Edwards and Det Supt Jeff Curtis. In fact, I think any disinterested third party would be rather surprised that the investigations  have not  already begun, bearing in mind that you have a letter sent to Morgan to the PCC in which he admitted that the Mirror had received information from a police officer in circumstances which can only have been illegal.

The reason the crimes  (apart from the accusations of perjury before Leveson) were not meaningfully investigated when I made my original complaints is beautifully  simple: corrupt practice by the police prompted either by the Blairs’ involvement in the story and/or a known or suspected corrupt relationship between Metropolitan Police officers and the Mirror (and other press and broadcasters).

The corrupt nature of the way my complaints were handled is exemplified  by Jeff Curtis’ failure to interview anyone at the Mirror even though he had the letter from Piers Morgan to the PCC.   Curtis told me this in a phone call and you can verify that this is the truth by looking at the original case notes. The tape recording of my meeting with Jeff Curtis is important because in it he says he will  be going to the Mirror, says the case revolves around Morgan’s admission and says it is a straightforward case.  The recording was made with Curtis’  knowledge and agreement.  The fact that he knew he was being recorded is significant because it removed the possibility from his mind of saying something to me thinking he could deny it later. Clearly something  irregular  happened between him leaving me and starting the investigation. It is reasonable to suspect he was leant on by someone even more senior not to investigate the Mirror.  That the police never interviewed anyone at the Mirror also means that the Mirror accounts and the journalistic records kept by Edwards  and Morgan (and perhaps others) were never scrutinised for evidence of payments to the police.  All in all, this is   a very obvious perversion of the course of justice.

The events to which the these crimes relate are 15 years old,   but that is irrelevant to whether they should be investigated now, both because of the serious nature  of the crimes and the fact that those I allege against Morgan and Edwards  were not investigated meaningfully when they were first reported. Nor is there any problem with a lack of compelling  evidence  because of the time which has elapsed. In the case of Morgan and Edwards you have  Morgan’s letter to the PCC and the Mirror story, while  Curtis’ perversion of the course of justice speaks for itself. Moreover, although it is 15 years since the events, the age of fully computerised accounts had arrived  before 1997 and   it is probable that a copy of the Mirror accounts  for the period is still held in digital form. The same could  apply to journalistic records held by Morgan and Edwards or other Mirror employees or freelances.  I know from my use of the  Data Protection Act soon after the Mirror published the story that the paper was holding information about me  which they refused to release under the journalistic purposes provision of the DPA. They may well be still holding it.

As for the perjury accusations against Morgan and Edwards, these are very recent complaints about crimes recently committed which have never been previously investigated.   You have the information you need to investigate the perjury because I have supplied you with the Morgan letter to the PCC, the Mirror story about me and the transcripts of the relevant passages in the evidence given by Morgan and Edwards before Leveson.

Apart from the killer fact of Curtis’ failure  to interview anyone at the Mirror and a consequent failure to investigate the Mirror’s records, the circumstances of that failed investigation and of other complaints I made at the same time provide very  strong circumstantial evidence that my original complaints against Morgan and Edwards were not  treated  normally.  For example, why was a Det Supt from Scotland Yard  investigating crimes  which would normally be investigated by a Det Sergeant or just possibly a Det Inspector?  To that you can add the array of senior police officers  (the details of which I  sent to you in my email of 29th January) who became involved in my various complaints at one time or another,  despite the crimes being of a nature which would normally have been investigated by  policemen of lesser rank.   The only reasonable explanation for their involvement is the political circumstances surrounding my complaints.

There are two scenarios which fit the receipt of information by the Mirror from the police.  The first is straightforward: a police officer, possibly of senior rank because of the Blairs’ involvement, has sold the information to the Mirror for mere personal gain.

The second scenario is more complex. It involves  a senior police officer engaging in a conspiracy with Tony and Cherry Blair  assisted by Alastair Campbell to feed misinformation to the Mirror.   This is more than a little plausible because the Mirror story was a farrago of grotesque  lies such as the claim that I had bombarded the Blairs with letters  or that the letters were “full of graphic racist filth”. There was also  a completely fabricated  quote “if he gets elected he’ll let in all the blacks and Asians”.  Ask yourself why the Mirror would have printed such things if they had read my letters after   they were given them by a police officer simply out to make money with no political axe to grind. It would not make sense. If, on the other hand, this was all part of a conspiracy between the Blairs, a senior police officer and Alastair Campbell  it would make perfect sense,  because then it transmutes from a political story  into an exercise in political propaganda to nullify me by smearing.  The story would then be whatever they wanted it to be with the content of the letters an irrelevance.

It is noteworthy that Morgan in his  letter to the PCC admits that the Mirror did not have copies of my letters and that he had not seen them.  That could mean one of four things: the Mirror did not have copies, the Mirror had copies but did not wish to admit it because they knew the letters would not substantiate their printed story about me, Edwards had seen the letters but  realised they were innocuous and not the basis for a smear story  or  no one at the Mirror had ever seen my  letters but had written their story simply from false information given to them by the police informant. The last possibility fits in most neatly with the conspiracy theory.

Why would the Blairs wish to engage in such a conspiracy?  The most plausible answer lies in the fact that they did not go to the police when I wrote to them, but only later after I had sent copies of my letters to the Blairs and the non-replies I was receiving from their offices to every mainstream media outlet at the beginning of the 1997 General Election campaign.  That can only mean the Blairs  wanted to  silence me during the election campaign.   Why? Only they can tell you that for sure. What is certain is that the Blairs  must have been very seriously worried about the media taking up the story told in my letters and their non-replies to get involved with a criminal investigation during the most important weeks of Blair’s life, namely, the General Election campaign.  Having miserably failed in the attempt to have me prosecuted it would have made perfect sense from their point of view to try to neutralise me by getting a friendly media outlet to print a false and hideously libellous story about me to dissuade anyone in the media from taking up the story told in my letters to the Blairs and their non-replies to me.

Here is something for you and your superiors to think upon. If the Met refuses to  properly  investigate my complaints (including questioning Morgan and Edwards) it will look  like yet another cover-up to go along with the persistent failure  by the Met to investigate phone-hacking until political pressure forced them  to  re-investigate cases which had previously been deemed to provide insufficient evidence for a prosecution or even a sustained investigation. The re-investigation of these supposedly hopeless cases has  resulted in dozens of arrests and quite a few charges, a fact which tells its own tale.

I repeat my previous requests for an interview with you and a senior officer within  Operation Elveden, preferably Steve Kavanagh . Apart from anything else you should be taking a formal statement from me based on the very strong evidence I have provided.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson

See also

https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/piers-morgans-illegal-receipt-of-information-from-the-police-his-perjury-and-operation-elveden/

https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/piers-morgans-illegal-receipt-of-information-from-the-police-his-perjury-and-operation-elveden-part-ii/

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Tape recording of my interview with Jeff Curtis has been sent to you

Tuesday, 26 March, 2013 7:05
From:
“robert henderson” <anywhere156@yahoo.co.uk>

View contact details

To:
“Paulette Rooke” <Paulette.Rooke@met.pnn.police.uk>
                                      To

DC Paulette Rooke

Operation Eleveden

Metropolitan Police

New Scotland Yard

8/10 The Broadway

London  SW1H OBG 

26 3 2013

Dear DC Rooke,

I have posted a copy of the tape recording of my interview on 8 April 1999 with Det Supt Jeff Curtis to you by recorded delivery. I have sent the tape to JUBILEE HOUSE PUTNEY, 230-232 PUTNEY BRIDGE RD, London SW15 2PD which is where you appear to be physically stationed.

Only one side of the tape has been used. You will need to listen to the entire tape, but Jeff Cutris’ comments about going to the Mirror, it being a straightforward case and so on are towards the end of the meeting with around 5/6ths of the tape played.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson

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Press regulation and the British constitution

Robert Henderson

The proposed regulation

The considerable constitutional implications of the proposed regulation of the  press by Royal Charter with  statutory restraints preventing the Charter’s  change and legislation creating different classes of plaintiff in civil cases seems to have passed our politicians by.

The proposal is for the normal ultimate control of a Royal Charter by politicians working through the  Privy Council to be circumscribed by a clause in a statute. In addition, further legislation to allow exemplary damages and costs. will be needed.  To demonstrate why this raises constitutional difficulties it is necessary to first understand what the proposed system will be and do. That requires a detailed examination of the draft Royal Charter.

The Royal Charter

There have been three draft Royal Charters: the original Tory Charter, the Labour/Libdem Charter and the third and latest which is the  draft  (published on 18th march) containing the agreed text by all three major party leaders. The  18th  March Charter  can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/142789/18_March_2013_Royal_Charter_on_self-regulation_of_the_press__for_publication_.pdf. A commentary on and full text of the previous draft Royal Charters produced by the Tories and  the combined efforts of the Labour and the LibDems can be found  at http://martinbelam.com/2013/royal-charter-diffs/.

The statutory underpinning

The statutory underpinning will be,  according to the BBC, a general instruction for all  new Royal Charters after a certain date in 2013, viz:

“Early on Monday a deal was struck, under which a clause in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill would be tabled in the Lords.

This would state that a royal charter cannot be changed unless it meets requirements stated within that charter for amendments.

It does not mention any specific charter, Leveson or the press – but the royal charter on press regulation would itself state that it cannot be amended without a two-thirds majority of Parliament. “(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21825823)

This statutory underpinning is intended to give absolute force to these provisions in the 18th March  Royal Charter:

“9.2. Before any proposal (made by any person) to add to, supplement, vary or omit (in whole or in part) a provision of this Charter (“proposed change”) can take effect a draft of the proposed change must have been laid before Parliament, and approved by a resolution of each House. For this purpose “approved” means that at least two-thirds of the members of the House in question who vote on the motion do so in support of it.

9.3. The Recognition Panel may only propose a change to the terms of this Charter if a resolution has been passed unanimously by all of the Members of the Board, who shall determine the matter at a meeting duly convened for that purpose.

10.1. This Charter, and the Recognition Panel created by it, shall not be dissolved unless information about the proposed dissolution has been presented to Parliament, and that proposal has been approved by a resolution of each House. For this purpose “approved” means that at least two-thirds of the members of the House in question who vote on the motion do so in support of it.”

The power to take or refuse complaints

The 18th March draft Charter gives  the proposed press regulator the power to take or refuse complaints as follows:

Schedule 3

“11. The Board should have the power to hear and decide on complaints about breach of the standards code by those who subscribe. The Board will need to have the discretion not to look into complaints if they feel that the complaint is without justification, is an attempt to argue a point of opinion rather than a standards code breach, or is simply an attempt to lobby. The Board should have the power (but not necessarily the duty) to hear complaints:

a) from anyone personally and directly affected by the alleged breach of the standards code, or

b) where there is an alleged breach of the code and there is public interest in the Board giving consideration to the complaint from a representative group affected by the alleged breach, or

c) from a third party seeking to ensure accuracy of published information.”

This gives both a very wide range of complainant and much subjective discretionary power to the Regulator.

The power to impose penalties

The penalties and procedures which the Regulator has to punish and enforce its judgements by the 18th March Charter are:

“15. In relation to complaints, where a negotiated outcome between a complainant and a subscriber (pursuant to criterion 10) has failed, the Board should have the power to direct appropriate remedial action for breach of standards and the publication of corrections and apologies. Although remedies are essentially about correcting the record for individuals, the power to direct a correction and an apology must apply equally in relation to:

a. individual standards breaches; and

b. groups of people as defined in criterion 11 where there is no single identifiable individual who has been affected; and

c. matters of fact where there is no single identifiable individual who has been affected.

16. In the event of no agreement between a complainant and a subscriber (pursuant to criterion 10), the power to direct the nature, extent and placement of corrections and apologies should lie with the Board.

17. The Board should not have the power to prevent publication of any material, by anyone, at any time although (in its discretion) it should be able to offer a service of advice to editors of subscribing publications relating to code compliance.

18. The Board, being an independent self-regulatory body, should have authority to examine issues on its own initiative and have sufficient powers to carry out investigations both into suspected serious or systemic breaches of the code and failures to comply with directions of the Board. The investigations process must be simple and credible and those who subscribe must be required to cooperate with any such investigation.

19. The Board should have the power to impose appropriate and proportionate sanctions (including but not limited to financial sanctions up to 1% of turnover attributable to the publication concerned with a maximum of £1,000,000) on any subscriber found to be responsible for serious or systemic breaches of the standards code or governance requirements of the body. The Board should have sufficient powers to require appropriate information from subscribers in order to ascertain the turnover that is attributable to a publication irrespective of any particular accounting arrangements of the publication or subscriber. The sanctions that should be available should include power to require publication of corrections, if the breaches relate to accuracy, or apologies if the breaches relate to other provisions of the code.

19A.The Board should establish a ring-fenced enforcement fund, into which receipts from financial sanctions could be paid, for the purpose of funding investigations.”

These powers are considerable and the fines  could cause genuine financial difficulty to lesser players in the press field because  fines are on turnover not profit.  The risk is severe because of the immensely broad definition of a publisher who is not a broadcaster:

Schedule 4 b) “relevant publisher” means a person (other than a broadcaster) who publishes in the United Kingdom:

i. a newspaper or magazine containing news-related material, or

ii. a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper or magazine);

The recklessly broad  definition will almost certainly make the system next to unworkable if the Regulator is genuinely to take complaints from both third parties and  complaints about everything from a blog run by a private individual to the largest circulation daily. The experience of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is instructive with the ICO regularly taking one to two years to complete investigations.

The penalties for not being registered with the Regulator

The proposal is that any publisher (as defined by the Royal Charter) who does not sign up with the new regulator will leave themselves open to exemplary damages plus costs if sued  successfully in the courts and may be liable for costs even if they successfully defend a suit in certain circumstances.

These penalties are not part of the Royal Charter or the statutory underpinning already described. Consequently further  legislation will be required. This will be direct statutory control of the press no matter how much politicians try to fudge the matter.  How far such law would be subject to successful legal challenge is debatable because the Human Rights Act contains this:

“Article 10 Freedom of expression.

1Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.” (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42)

The constitutional issues 

If the Charter cannot be amended or dissolved  with less than a two-thirds majority of both houses of Parliament  because a statute has been passed forbidding it,  this  is an  attempt at a de facto superior law, a law moreover, which is binding on future governments. As the two thirds  majority would be extremely difficult to achieve, it would in effect sabotage the constitutional principle that no Parliament can bind its successors by passing laws which cannot be repealed. This is even the case with treaties emanating from the EU. All the major British parties have at one time or another maintained that Parliament is sovereign and the treaties and legislation resulting from   Britain’s membership of first the European Economic Community and its successor the European Union could be nullified by Parliament’s repeal of laws and repudiation of treaties.

Unless a formal framework for such a superior law is introduced into our Constitution, the present  attempt would fail because the restrictions on change or repeal supposedly created by the statutory underpinning could be overcome simply by repealing the entire law in which the statutory restrictions  are  enshrined. That would apply even if a separate Act was passed dealing solely with  restricting changes to the Charter or its abolition. This is so because there could be no such restriction under present circumstances on repealing an entire statute because all statutes are equal and subject to repeal by simple majorities in the two houses of Parliament. In passing it is worth noting that the legislation to make the early calling of general elections difficult  suffers from the same insecurity of application because it requires more than a simple majority.

The next problem is the clash between the general rules governing amendments to Royal Charters and the proposed restrictions imposed by statute:

…once incorporated by Royal Charter a body surrenders significant aspects of the control of its internal affairs to the Privy Council. Amendments to Charters can be made only with the agreement of The Queen in Council, and amendments to the body’s by-laws require the approval of the Council (though not normally of Her Majesty). This effectively means a significant degree of Government regulation of the affairs of the body, and the Privy Council will therefore wish to be satisfied that such regulation accords with public policy. (http://privycouncil.independent.gov.uk/royal-charters/chartered-bodies/).

And

(d) incorporation by Charter is a form of Government regulation as future amendments to the Charter and by-laws of the body require Privy Council (ie Government) approval. There therefore needs to be a convincing case that it would be in the public interest to regulate the body in this way; (http://privycouncil.independent.gov.uk/royal-charters/applying-for-a-royal-charter/)

The Privy Council practices come  into direct opposition with the draft Royal Charter  where it touches on amendments  to or dissolution of the  Charter.  It is important to understand that  if granted the Royal Charter will not be an artefact of Parliament.  Technically it will be a Royal artefact although in reality a government artefact.   It might be thought that Parliament being sovereign could override the Privy Council procedures, but it is not as simple as that. The Privy Council procedures are separate from Parliament.  If Parliament wants them to be subordinate to Parliament that would make Royal Charters in effect artefacts of Parliament in the same way that secondary legislation such as statutory instruments and orders  in council  are semi-detached   artefacts of Parliament.

The third and last difficulty is the fact that the proposed Charter would create a quasi-judicial authority (I think that that would make it  unique amongst Royal Charters).  That quasi-judicial function would leave it open to legal challenge, both at the level of the Recognition Panel (RP) which appoints the regulator and the regulator itself . Because there is statutory underpinning  of both the RP and the regulator and the RP is  in receipt of public funds at least in the early years, it might well be that either body could  be subject to judicial review because either could be deemed a public body and  a regulatory body established by statute  (http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/you-and-the-judiciary/judicial-review).

The other objection to the quasi-judicial status created by the proposed regulatory system is the fact that quasi-judicial powers (and very considerable ones) are being granted by a body other than  Parliament .

The likely outcome

The proposals are a cynical ploy to prepare the ground for serious interference  with the traditional press and the broader internet media because of the breadth of the definition of a publisher.   These are proposals which are incompatible with any society that calls itself free or has pretensions to be a democracy because by definition anything may be debated in a democracy.

The intended consequences of the proposals are clearly to manipulate the press and internet media both in instances of actual publication and through the deterrent effect of the possible consequences which publication of a story will bring. Moreover, anyone who believes that this will be the end of political interference with the press and internet publishers is credulous to the point of imbecility.  Once state regulation of any degree becomes the status quo  it will provide the psychological launching pad for further control. This will be difficult to argue against because the pass on press freedom will already have been sold.

The fact of such an agreement amongst the leadership of all our major parties is profoundly depressing because it means not one of them collectively understands the value of  free expression as a cleansing lotion for immoral behaviour, especially that by the powerful and influential.  To that is added the contemptible portrayal of the proposed scheme  by the major parties as anything but what it is, namely, grubby authoritarianism.

None of that is to  say that those abused by the press do not require protection.  A statutory right of reply (RoR) would do what was required without any chance of political interference. This is because it is a self-organising process which would involve only the newspaper and the complainant or, where an RoR was refused, the courts to enforce it.  The involvement of the courts would not require the courts to make a judgement on what the publication had written or what the subject of their story wanted to say in reply. All the court would be doing is forcing the publication to provide the RoR. The detailed arguments for an RoR  can be found at https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/curing-media-abuse-a-statutory-right-to-reply-is-needed/.

Is all lost? Happily there is some hope.  That exists not because there is likely to be any turnabout out of principle by our politicians. Rather, it exists because they have, as so very often,  not thought through the consequences of a policy.    Apart from the constitutional difficulties,  the practical difficulties are huge.  The great breadth of the definition of what is a publisher will potentially make the work of  the Regulator impossible simply because they will be overwhelmed with work.

In addition, there will be endless opportunity for the wealthier subscribers to the Regulator to pursue legal challenges to the rulings of the Regulator, not least because as I have described the legal position of the Regulator and the RP is a dog’s dinner.

Finally, there is the question of whether the  big press publishers will all sign up, even though that will protect them from exemplary damages and costs even if they have won a case in the courts.  There are signs that some at least  might well refuse.  If many refused that would kill the proposals stone dead. But even if they all signed up they could sabotage the intentions of the Royal Charter  by engaging in a barrage of legal actions against the Regulator.

The Financial Times goes after The Daily Mirror

Dear Robert

I hope you don’t mind me emailing you directly.
I am writing about phone hacking on behalf of the FT and investigating wider incidences of press abuse at other newspapers such as Trinity Mirror.
I would be keen to meet with you as I understand from one of my contacts that you may have evidence of wider press abuse.
Do let me know if you would be happy to meet. I am happy to discuss matters on background only.
All best
Rob

— Rob Budden Chief Media Correspondent Financial Times +44 (0) 207 775 6839 +44 (0) 7785 952 688 www.ft.com
Follow me on Twitter: @RobertoBud

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Rob Budden

Chief Media Correspondent

Financial Times 

1 Southwark Bridge,

 London SE1 9HL

Tel: 0207 775 6839

Email: rob.budden@ft.com

9 March 2013

Dear Rob,

As promised at our  meeting of 8th March, I send you additional information relating to Piers Morgan, the Blairs, the police, the Leveson Inquiry and myself. The details of the new material and the material I supplied to you when we met are listed below.

If you want to expose Trinity Mirror I have provided you with all the evidence you need to demonstrate their abuse of members of the public,  the committing of criminal acts through the receipt of information from the police illegally by the Mirror, probable perjury before Leveson by Morgan and Jeff Edwards and the wilful suppression of evidence by the police of police supplying information illegally to the Mirror. In addition, you have the wider story of the Blairs attempting to prosecute me for crimes they must have known were bogus and their subsequently use of the security services and Special Branch to harass me.

Please keep these facts firmly in front of you:

1. There was so little substance to the Blairs’ complaints against me that the police never contacted me about them, while the CPS rejected the complaint within hours of receiving it with a firm “No Crime”.

2. The Blairs did not go to the police when I sent them the letters, but only after I had circulated copies of my letters to them and the replies I received at the beginning of the 1997 General Election Campaign.

3. The Blairs failed to take any civil law action against me even though that has only the balance of probability evidential test.

4. At no time did I threaten directly or by implication either of the Blairs, nor did I ever attempt to physically approach them.

5. Despite being deemed innocent of any crime and despite never having threatened either of the Blairs, Special Branch and MI5 were set upon me.

6. I made various complaints to the police relating to the Mirror and the Blairs. None were meaningfully investigated.  The most blatant example was the failure of Det Supt Jeff Curtis of Scotland Yard to claim that he had investigated my complaint relating to the Piers Morgan admission of receiving information from the police without interviewing anyone at the Mirror or looking at their accounts for evidence of payments to the police.

7. The harassment I suffered after the Blairs failed to have me investigated in March 1997 lasted for the entire Blair premiership and ended once he was out of office.

If you want me to write an article for the FT on any aspect of the business I shall be happy to do so.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson

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Schedule of documents supplied to Rob  Budden

At our meeting on 8th March I supplied you with the following in paper form:

1. A copy of Is it in the blood? as it was printed.

2. Copies of the Mirror and Daily Herald stories relating to the Blairs and me dated  25 3 1997.

3. A copy of Piers Morgan’s letter to the PCC dated 16 October 1997  in which he admits to receiving information from the police in circumstances which can only have been illegal.

4. Copies of the correspondence between the PCC and Mike Jempson of Presswise on my behalf relating to my complaints against the Mirror  and Daily Herald  following the stories of 25 3 1997.

5. A copy of Sir Richard Body’s EDM of  detailing the harassment I was subject to after the Blairs’ attempt to have me prosecuted during the 1997 General Election  campaign failed.

Copies of documents supplied 9 3 2013 via email in digital form (Wordfile)

1. The version of  the Wisden Cricket Monthly article  Is it in the blood? as I sent it to David Frith with supporting documents – see wordfile IsitinthebloodFT.docx

2. My initial submission to the Leveson Inquiry including original attachments (sent by separate email).

3. Details of Piers Morgan’s   perjury before Leveson  –  see wordfile  piersmorganperjury.docx

4.  Details of Jeff Edwards  perjury before Leveson  – see wordfile  jeffedwardsperjury.docx

5.  File relating to Robert Jay’s inept questioning  – see wordfile  LevesonRobertJay.docx

6.  My complaints  to Operation Elveden  regarding Morgan and Edwards’  receipt of information  about me illicitly supplied by the police to the Mirror and Morgan and Edwards – see wordfile  OperationElvedensubmissionFT.docx

The Letwin Plan – Freedom of the Press in a post-Leveson UK

The Letwin Plan – Freedom of the Press in a post-Leveson UK

Freedom Association meeting  25 February

Speakers

John Whittingdale MP (Chairman of the DCMS select committee).

George Eustice MP

Harry Cole Blogger

Depressingly John Whittingdale and George Eustice are both wholeheartedly in favour of the Letwin Plan which is the Government’s response to Leveson’s proposals.   I say depressingly because the Plan is dishonest in overt intent because it produces a system of regulation which pretends to be independent but is in reality authoritarian.

The proposed structure of the new system of regulation consists of a  Recognition Panel (RP) which licences a Regulator, the relationship between the two being broadly akin to that of  Ofcom licensing broadcasters, although here there will be three tiers of interested parties  –  the RP, the regulator and the press – rather than two.

The RP will carry out an assessment of the work of the Regulator  every three year. However, in exceptional circumstances an inspection can be made when deemed necessary.  The Regulator will have the power to levy substantial fines , viz:

15. 19. The Board should have the power to impose appropriate and proportionate sanctions(including but not limited to financial sanctions up to 1% of turnover of the publication concerned with a maximum of £1,000,000) on any subscriber found to be responsible for serious or systemic breaches of the standards code or governance requirements of the body.

The possible size of fines could have an excessive  intimidatory effect, especially on publications which have relatively small publications.

The regulatory structure is to derive its legitimacy from a Royal Charter rather than a statute  (The full draft Charter can be found at http://tinyurl.com/Draft-Royal-Charter-for-Press).  This supposedly gives it independence from politician. Apart from being the thin end of the wedge to more extreme regulation, the personnel of the RP  will be drawn from the usual cast list of the Great and the Good and,  in the cases of both the RP and the Regulator,  there will not be an outright  ban on people with a media background , merely restrictions on serving   mediafolk or their numbers.  The funding  of  the RP will come from the fees charged to those applying to be Regulators  with top ups from the taxpayer if required (the taxpayer will fund the first three years). The Regulator’s income  will come from subscriptions and fines levied from subscribers found to be misbehaving.

The dishonesty  continues with the claim that signing up to  the new regulator will be a voluntary choice for the press.  It will give a very strange meaning to the word voluntary,  because those who choose not to sign up will  leave themselves open to punitive damages in the courts whereas those who do sign up will be legally protected against such  damages.  This legal protection will require legislation.

During questions I pointed out the dishonesty and said that if the government was going to be authoritarian it was better if it was honest about what it was doing,  because this type of pretence was precisely what was disillusioning the general public when it came to politics.  Another questioner made the pertinent point that two classes of plaintiffs  would exist. There would be those suing subscribers to the Regulator (who would be protected against punitive damages)  and those  suing newspapers who had not signed up with the regulator who would be liable for punitive damages.  This could have the perverse consequence of allowing two plaintiffs with equal cases being awarded substantially different amounts in damages , or  even worse, a less serious instance of press misbehaviour resulting in higher damages than a more serious instance.   It could also  have a seriously  intimidatory effect on  the smaller publishers.

The  general problem with the Letwin Plan as outlined in the draft Royal Charter is the structural complexity of the system. The RP  will have an appointments committee which creates an executive  board  licenses the Regulator which also has an appointment panel to create an executive board for the regulator. The Regulator then has to set up a Code committee to develop the Code of Conduct.  This type of diffuse relationship is a recipe for buck passing.

Harry Cole was against the plan because the use of a Royal Charter brought with it difficulties of its own, most notably the fact that an amendment to a Charter required a two thirds majority of the Commons,  as opposed to a simple majority to repeal or amend a statute.  The draft Charter does indeed state this, viz:

9. CHARTER AMENDMENT

9.1. The Recognition Panel may add to, vary or omit (in whole or in part) any of the provisions of this Charter if, and only if:

a) a resolution has been passed unanimously by all of the Members of the Recognition Panel, who shall determine the matter at a meeting duly convened for that purpose;

and

b) the requirements of Article 9.2 are met.

 9.2. Before any proposal to add to, vary or omit (in whole or in part) a provision of this Charter (“proposed change”) can take effect:

a) the leaders of the three main political parties in the House of Commons (being the parties with the first, second and third greatest numbers of Members of Parliament at the relevant time) must each confirm in writing to the Chair of the Board that he agrees to the proposed change;

and

b) a draft of the proposed change must have been laid before Parliament, and approved by a resolution of each House. For this purpose “approved” means  that at least two-thirds of the members of the House in question who vote on the motion do so in support of it. (http://tinyurl.com/Draft-Royal-Charter-for-Press)

Similar qualifications apply to the dissolution of the Charter – see 10. DISSOLUTION10.1

These  Charter provisions would, if valid, make the alteration or the dissolution of the Charter very difficult – the procedures have to be initiated by a unanimous resolution of the Recognition Panel and before any change can be put to Parliament (both houses) the leaders of the three largest parties in the Commons have to each agree to either a Charter change or dissolution of the Charter.   However, there is a rather large question mark over whether they are valid.  Here are the general rules governing amendments to Royal Charters:

…once incorporated by Royal Charter a body surrenders significant aspects of the control of its internal affairs to the Privy Council. Amendments to Charters can be made only with the agreement of The Queen in Council, and amendments to the body’s by-laws require the approval of the Council (though not normally of Her Majesty). This effectively means a significant degree of Government regulation of the affairs of the body, and the Privy Council will therefore wish to be satisfied that such regulation accords with public policy. (http://privycouncil.independent.gov.uk/royal-charters/chartered-bodies/).

And

(d) incorporation by Charter is a form of Government regulation as future amendments to the Charter and by-laws of the body require Privy Council (ie Government) approval. There therefore needs to be a convincing case that it would be in the public interest to regulate the body in this way; (http://privycouncil.independent.gov.uk/royal-charters/applying-for-a-royal-charter/)

The Privy Council practices appear to come into direct opposition with the draft Royal Charter  where it touches on amendments  to or dissolution of the  Charter.  It is important to understand that  if granted the Royal Charter will not be an artefact of Parliament.  Technically it will be a Royal artefact, although in reality a government artefact.   It might be thought that Parliament being sovereign could override the Privy Council procedures, but it is not as simple as that. The Privy Council procedures are separate from Parliament.  If Parliament wanted them to be subordinate to Parliament that would mean a redrawing of the Constitution, something which has can have wide ramifications, as was show all to starkly by the last Labour government’s botched attempt at ending of the post of Lord Chancellor.

The problems do no end there. Reading through the  draft Royal Charter  there is a distinct whiff of the PCC about the set up. For example, take the parameters of the Code of Conduct:

15  7. The standards code must ultimately be adopted by the Board, and be written by a Code Committee which is comprised of both independent members and servingeditors.8. The code must take into account the importance of freedom of speech, the interests of the public (including but not limited to the public interest in detecting or exposing crime or serious impropriety, protecting public health and safety and preventing the public from being seriously misled), the need for journalists to protect confidential sources of information, and the rights of individuals. Specifically, it must cover standards of:

a) conduct, especially in relation to the treatment of other people in the process of obtaining material;

b) appropriate respect for privacy where there is no sufficient public interest justification for breach; and

c) accuracy, and the need to avoid misrepresentation.

The likely code of Conduct will be one close that of the PCC Code , which apart from being frequently not applied by the PCC also gave plenty of wriggle room, especially when the question of the public interest was raised.

None of the panellists suggested that rather than having this great regulatory edifice  a statutory right of reply (RoR) would do what was required without any chance of political interference. This is because it is a self-organising process which would involve only the newspaper and the complainant or, where an RoR was refused, the courts.   Consequently I did.  John Whittingdale tried to dismiss the idea by saying it would be unworkable because of the number of people asking to reply would be vast.  I pointed out that this would not be a problem if the RoR was restricted to a reasonable length.

I also suggested that claims for  financial redress by  those abused by the press should be dealt with through the Small Claims courts with no right of appeal from the Small Court’s verdict and no lawyers allowed, that is, just the lay plaintiff confronting the lay representative of the newspaper involved.  Again this met with a blank lack of interest by the two MPs.    The Small Claims court could also deal with refusals of a newspaper to publish an RoR.

Had I been given the time I would also have raised the problem of how the Regulator would possibly be able to handle the likely number of complainants. In this context the Information Commissioner’s office  (ICO) can give some idea of the difficulties which are likely to arise. A complaint under either the Freedom of Information or the Data Protection Acts to the ICO is likely to take a year or more to gain an adjudication despite the fact that the IFO employs several hundred people.   You can bet your life that the proposed Regulator will not employ hundreds of people because the funding of the Regulator will come from the subscribing newspapers .  The difficulty of the numbers  complaining vastly exceeding the resources available is exacerbated by the allowing of third party complaints:

15.11. The Board should have the power to hear and decide on complaints about breach of the standards code by those who subscribe. The Board should have the power (but not necessarily the duty) to hear complaints: a) from anyone personally and directly affected by the alleged breach of the standards code, or b) where an alleged breach of the code is significant and there is substantial public interest in the Board giving formal consideration to the complaint, from are presentative  group affected by the alleged breach, or c) from a third party seeking to ensure accuracy of published information.

Third party complaints also raise the problem of subjectivity by the Regulator, whose board members, being human, are likely to favour complaints which fit with their political sympathies whilst discriminating against those of which they disapprove.

In short, the proposed regulatory regime is, apart from being the thin end of the wedge for state control of the press, dishonest in intent, constitutionally unsound and administratively impractical .

During the course of the meeting I  raised  (1)  the failure of  Leveson to use the letter from Piers Morgan to the PCC in which he admitted receiving  information from the police in circumstances which  could only have been illegal  and (2) Morgan’s subsequent perjury  when giving evidence before Leveson under oath. I offered these as  examples  of the failure of Leveson to pursue cast iron evidence of serious media misbehaviour.    Harry Cole expressed an interest and asked for a copy of the letter which I subsequently supplied.

After the meeting I spoke with John Whittingdale  about Leveson  and he was very loth indeed to discuss the matter. I eventually persuaded him to  take a copy of the Morgan letter from me, although it was with the look of a man picking up a live grenade with the pin pulled out. When he had read the letter  he  said, believe or not, that he did not think it worth pursuing because it was 15 years old. I pointed out that crimes were frequently pursued after such a time, for example, the Savile investigations ,  while some of the phone hacking accusations were over ten years old.  I also pointed out that the only reason my complaints were not investigated at the time  was the police  failure  to meaningfully investigate.   Mr Whittingdale left taking a copy of the Morgan letter with him.

Robert Henderson 2 March 2013

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