by Robert Henderson
Note: I attended a conference entitled Taking on the Media Barons on Saturday 17 March. Its subject was media abuse including the issues under consideration by the Leveson Inquiry. Harriet Harman was the first speaker. In the course of her talk she spoke enthusiastically about the fearless way the Leveson Inquiry was going about its work. The Q and A session which followed her speech allowed me to allowed me to both put her right about the reality of what the Inquiry was doing – suppressing evidence and deliberately ignoring questions which begged to be asked – and run briefly over my own evidence to the Inquiry during which I helpfully explained that my evidence arose the failed attempt by Tony and Cherie Blair to have me prosecuted on charges of Malicious Communications in the first week of the General Election campaign of 1997. I then asked her what she and her party would do to publicise it.
Harman left immediately after the questions and as luck would have it I was sitting close to where she had to come to leave the auditorium. I stopped her and she asked me to send her what evidence I had, which I promised to do. I also got her to depart with a copy of Piers Morgan’s letter to the PCC in which he admits to receiving information from the police in circumstances which can only have been illegal in her hot little hand. The email below details the information I have sent Ms Harman and what I have asked her to do. Robert Henderson 18 3 2012
Harriet Harman MP
Shadow Cabinet Member for Culture, Media and Sport
House of Commons
Fax: 0207 219 4877
Tel: 0207 219 4218
18 March 2012
Dear Ms Harman,
As you requested at the Taking on the Media Barons conference yesterday, I send you details of the information which Leveson is suppressing to add to the copy of Piers Morgan letter I gave you in which he admits to receiving information from the police in circumstances which can only be illegal.
To give you a flavour of the other evidence I have submitted to the Inquiry I enclose below my submission to the Inquiry. I also send as attachments the supporting documents referred to in the submission. They are there simply for you to use if you want verification of what I claim in the submission.
To avoid swamping you with material at this stage, the only other documents I send are my email to the Inquiry alerting them to the possibility of Piers Morgan perjuring himself under oath before the Inquiry and the final email exchanges between myself and the Inquiry leading up to the their refusal to either call me as a witness or pursue the question of the possibility of Morgan’s perjury. I am willing to make my full documentation available to you if you wish and answer any questions you may have, either in person or in writing.
Core Participant status
If anyone was qualified for the role it is me. I can cover every aspect of the remit of the Inquiry bar phone hacking. I have given the Inquiry irrefutable evidence of the grossest abuse by the Press in the shape of the Daily Mirror’s treatment of me; the complete absence of any attempt by the PCC to address my complaint; the Piers Morgan letter admitting that he had received information from the police in what could only have been illicit circumstances, my MP Frank Dobson’s bald refusal to assist me in gaining redress and, of course, Tony and Cherie Blair’s attempt to have me prosecuted on Malicious Communications charges which as lawyers they must have known were bogus – embarrassingly for the Blairs, the CPS ruled that my letters to them were entirely legal within hours of receiving the papers from the police. I would add that the Blairs did not go to the police when I sent the letters but only later when I circulated to the media copies of the letters with the non-replies I had received at the beginning of the 1997 General Election campaign.
The consequences of the Blairs’ sinister attempt to have me prosecuted and the Mirror article were a decade of harassment – the harassment only ended when Blair left office – which included death threats and an Internet campaign inciting violence against me by publishing my address and phone number with false claims such as I was a paedophile. The Mirror article itself was effectively also an incitement to attack me because it was a grotesquely libellous story about me which falsely labelled me as a crude and dangerous racist, a story which included my photograph and the area in which I lived. When I reported threats against me to the police they did nothing meaningful. They would register my complaints but do little actual investigating. It is worth noting that although the CPS ruled that there was no crime committed by me and I had never attempted to approach the Blairs physically or threatened to do so, Special Branch were set to spy on me – see the Mirror story.
Despite those impressive qualifications I was refused not only Core Participant status but even the status of an ordinary witness. When I made an application for Core Participant status I was asked to make a detailed submission about why I thought I qualified for the role. This I did. At the directions hearing to decide whether I would be a Core Participant, the first thing Lord Leveson said was “I have not read the submissions and shall not be doing so.” He then gave me just five minutes to make oral submission. It was simply impossible for me to cover all the arguments made in my submission in that time. After the oral submission was made, all the application was curtly dismissed with next to no reason given. The supposed impartial hearing was a joke in very bad taste.
The general conduct of the Inquiry
Apart from the evidence which I have submitted, there is also the general manner in which the Inquiry is proceeding which point to the true intent of the Inquiry. Although there is a good deal of scandalous evidence being heard, it is noteworthy that no new evidence of criminal behaviour has been uncovered to date. The revelations of such behaviour have either come from police witness or have been from journalists who have admitted they knew of misbehaviour but have refused to name names or have failed to give any names. When this happens they have not been pressed to give names. A prime example of the latter behaviour is the evidence of the Mirror’s one-time chief crime reporter Jeff Edwards who claimed that he had been directly instructed by his superior to bribe police officers, viz: “You’re not invoicing me for money to be splashed about. You should be essentially bribing more police officers.” (pp 105/6 http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Transcript-of-Morning-Hearing-14-March-2012.txt)
Strangely, you may think, Edwards was not asked to name the person who told him to bribe the police. Edwards, incidentally, is the person who wrote the Mirror story about me to which Morgan refers in his letter to the PCC. That must mean he was the recipient of the information about me from the police and consequently he is at least guilty of breaching the Official Secrets and Data Protection Acts.
There are other oddities about the taking of evidence. When it comes to the question of the police illegally supplying the Press with information, counsel to the Inquiry are behaving in an astonishingly naïve manner. Instead of building up to the question of whether the Press witness knows of bribes being paid to the police for information by establishing the social relations between the witness and the police, counsel are simply plunging in with a bald “Have you ever paid the police for information?” A witness tempted to lie under oath will weigh up the chances of being found out and probably come to the conclusion that to deny paying the police would be a pretty safe lie to tell because probably only the police officer and themselves will know for sure whether a payment was made. On the other hand, if they had to face a question such as “Have you ever illegally received information from the police ?” the witness might well find that a much riskier lie because more people would know about it.
It is telling that the question “Have you ever illegally received information from the police ?” has not been put to any witness. There is every reason to put the question because, even if no bribe has been given, the police officer and the journalist will have committed offences under the Official Secrets Act and almost certainly the Data Protection Act. The police officer could also be prosecuted for misconduct in a public office. It is difficult to believe a barrister of Robert Jay’s experience does not realise that the questioning on this point is embarrassingly incompetent. If that is correct, why is he persistently letting the fish off the hook?
As things stand it is simple for evidence to the Inquiry to be suppressed. Your belief that Leveson will publish all the evidence submitted to him is mistaken. He is free to publish only what he chooses to publish. Indeed, because the Inquiry is taking evidence under oath and in other aspects has the aspect of a formal legal process not dissimilar to court proceedings, it could be argued with some force that as a matter of principle nothing which has not been introduced formally into evidence during the Inquiry should be included in the Lord Leveson’s report.
The other issue I would ask you to keep in mind is the possibility that the conclusions of Lord Leveson’s report will not reflect the evidence given to the Inquiry. A prime example of this happening after a public inquiry is the Hutton Report on the death of David Kelly which unambiguously supported the government’s contention that Kelly had committed suicide despite the considerable forensic and circumstantial evidence that was uncovered during the Inquiry which suggested otherwise.
All the evidence to date points to the Inquiry’s real purpose being to restrict serious damage to News International. Other national newspapers are simply not being brought into the frame fro criminal behaviour. I have no time for Murdoch, but it is impossible clean out these modern Augean Stables by attending to only part of the stinking refuse. To believe that criminal press misbehaviour does not extend to other mainstream titles is either terminally naïve or disingenuous. Nor should there be an obsession with phone hacking. Highly objectionable as that is, corrupt relationships between the police and the press are far more important because they affect the population generally because they corrupt law enforcement and the administration of justice. Ditto collusive relationships between politicians and the media which both undermine democratic accountability and the Press’ claim to be a public watchdog barking when corrupt or otherwise immoral practices exist. As for the effects of libellous Press stories, these can be catastrophically damaging to victims.
What do I want you to do? (1) Expose Leveson’s censorship of evidence using the example of my evidence. (2) Ask why I was neither granted Core Participant status or called as a witness. (3) Question why the Piers Morgan letter to the PCC was not acted upon. (4) Call for Piers Morgan to be investigated by the police on the basis of his admission and for a general investigation of the Mirror for corrupt relationships between the police and paper. (5) Ask why the questioning about the supply of illegal information to the police is so inept. (6) Question the useful purpose of the Inquiry when it has shown itself to be so willing to suppress evidence and to ignore questions which could lead to criminal prosecutions. (7) Call for papers other than the Murdoch press and the Mirror to have the spotlight shone on their misbehaviour.
I am going to start from the assumption that you sincerely want to clean up the mess which politicians, the police and the Press have wrought. However, whatever you intend you need to do it in the context that I have removed the possibility of deniability from you. You have this email, the attached documentation and my comments – before an audience of over 100 – during the question and answer session at the Taking on the Media Barons conference to inform you of what Leveson is really up to. You are consequently no longer in a position to say you didn’t know.
Royal Courts of Justice
25 November 2011
Dear Lord Leveson,
I submit examples of misbehaviour by the media and the PCC plus collusion between the police and the media . In every case I was the person who was directly affected by the behaviour. For each case I enclose documents which strongly support my accusation.
I wish to give testimony in person before your inquiry.
The examples of misbehaviour are:
1. The illicit receipt of information supplied by the police to the Daily Mirror
On 15 March 1997 the Daily Mirror ran a hideously libellous story about me which contained numerous serious inaccuracies. I made a complaint to the PCC. As part of their investigation the PCC sent me a copy of a letter sent to them by the then Mirror editor Piers Morgan.
In it he admits receiving information from the police , viz.: “ The police source of our article (whose identity we have a moral obligation to protect) gave us the detail of the letters that we then published.” This can only have been illegal because there would be no need to protect the police source if the information had been given legitimately.
A copy of Morgan’s letter is in the attached Word file PCC Piers Morgan letter.docx . I have also placed a second copy beneath it with my remarks on Morgan’s comments interpolated within his text – see the square bracket contained text marked RH. A hard copy of Morgan’s letter will be sent to you.
2. The failure of Scotland Yard to meaningfully investigate the supply of illicit information to the Mirror
I referred Morgan’s letter to Kentish Town police with a request that they investigate the selling of information to the Mirror. A copy of the letter is contained within the Word file Mirror Police source complaint.docx The case was referred to Scotland Yard. There it was supposedly investigated by Det Supt Ian Curtis. In fact, no meaningful investigation was undertaken because Curtis admitted to me in a telephone conversation that no one at the Mirror was interviewed, not Morgan, not the author of the piece Jeff Edwards, the Mirror’s chief crime reporter.
3. The failure of the PCC
I made complaints to the PCC about the Mirror’s libel of me and their refusal to either make a retraction or allow me any opportunity to reply. The PCC refused to come to a determination citing article 53.5 of the PCC’s MEMORANDUM OF ASSOCIATION which states “The Commission shall not consider a complaint which it believes to be frivolous or which it believes to be inappropriate to entertain or proceed with for any other reason”. In other words, they can get rid of any complaint simply by saying they do not like it.
Mike Jempson, the director of what was then Presswise (now Mediawise] a charity set up to help victims of the press, sent them several stinging letters about their refusal .
Copies of the correspondence between Mike Jempson and the PCC are contained in the attached Word file PCC Mike Jempson.docx. Hard copies of the letters will be sent to you.
4 The Mirror’s Behaviour
Copies of the Mirror story and that of its sister paper the Daily Herald are contained within the attached Word file Daily Mirror and Daily Record stories.docx. Hard copies of the stories will be sent to you.
Both stories had a series of grotesque libels of me. As you will see from Morgan’s letter to the PCC, the Mirror admit they do not have letters from me to the Blairs. Hence, they had no ground whatsoever for believing the libels to be true.
My unpublished response to the Mirror story “Moral Simpletons target innocent man” was written soon after the story’s publication and covers in depth the libels and inaccuracies contained within the story. A copy is contained within Word file Moral Simpletons.docx.
Mike Jempson saw my letters to the Blairs and concluded that although robust there was absolutely nothing to support the Mirror’s description of me as a crude, foulmouthed and dangerous racist . In addition, the Conservative MP Sir Richard Body had sight of the letters and afterwards put down this Early Day Motion in the Commons, viz.:
10 November 1999
CONDUCT OF THE RIGHT HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR SEDGEFIELD 10:11:99
Sir Richard Body
That this House regrets that the Right honourable Member for Sedgefield [Tony Blair] attempted to persuade the Metropolitan Police to bring criminal charges against Robert Henderson, concerning the Right honourable Member’s complaints to the police of an offence against the person, malicious letters and racial insult arising from letters Robert Henderson had written to the Right honourable Member complaining about various instances of publicly-reported racism involving the Labour Party; and that, after the Crown Prosecution Service rejected the complaints of the Right honourable Member and the Right honourable Member failed to take any civil action against Robert Henderson, Special Branch were employed to spy upon Robert Henderson, notwithstanding that Robert Henderson had been officially cleared of any illegal action.
This motion is now part of the official House of Commons record – see http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=16305&SESSION=702
The effect of the Mirror story
I was unable to gain any redress from the Mirror, the PCC or the police. Following the publication of the Mirror story I became the subject to harassment which included people posting my name, address and phone number on social websites and inciting people to attack me.
This was on top of the unrequited media abuse I received after the publication of my article in Wisden Cricket Monthly “Is it in the blood?” in July 1995. This resulted in dozens of stories in the press totalling thousands of words to which I was denied any reply whatsoever, including by WCM who failed in the first obligation of as publisher to defend that which they publish.
In short, I was both grotesquely abused by the press and failed by every body which supposedly exists to give redress for press misbehaviour.
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