Leveson Inquiry hears of Mail paparazzi policy

Paul Silva: There had been "no inclination that there was a privacy problem" in relation to photos being taken of Hugh Grant after the birth of his child

The Daily Mail checks that people in paparazzi shots have not been harassed before running the photos, the Leveson Inquiry into the media has been told.

Questions were now asked - such as what lens had been used - in response to "the change in culture" in recent years, said picture editor Paul Silva.

Paparazzi photos taken in public places were considered acceptable, he said.

He added that the Mail was offered up to 400 shots a day of Pippa Middleton, but saw "no justification to use them".

The inquiry, at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, on Wednesday heard evidence from staff at the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday and their publisher, Associated Newspapers.

'No justification'

Mr Silva told the inquiry that someone's driveway would not be considered a public place, but the pavement would be. "We are only talking about a matter of yards," he said.

For the past three or four years he had asked a number of questions about the photos submitted by paparazzi "automatically on every story", he said.

If a photographer had followed a celebrity all day, they would have to justify that.

"Times have changed and we've had to change accordingly - and as a result of that we come up with these questions on every occasion when we deal with paparazzi pictures," he insisted. "We've reacted to the change in culture."

Mr Silva said the Daily Mail used photos of some celebrities more than others, depending on the interest they had for its readers. Since the royal wedding, Mr Silva said the Daily Mail had not used paparazzi photos of Pippa Middleton - though it received 300-400 a day.

He said the paper would use photos of Miss Middleton at events but "her just coming out of her door every day, there's no reason to use it".

Celebrities' children

Mr Silva discussed the issue of photographs of celebrities' children, saying they were rarely used but that if they were, the paper would check with the celebrities' agents or the children would be cropped out or their faces pixelated.

"We're very careful with regards to people's children," he said.

Counsel to the inquiry Robert Jay QC questioned Mr Silva about Kate and Gerry McCann, whose daughter Madeleine went missing in Portugal in 2007.

About the publication of unpixelated pictures of the McCanns' other children, Mr Silva said: "This was a unique situation … where we'd been allowed to stand in a certain position … and take pictures of the children."

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First really detailed defence of a story by a lawyer acting for the papers here”

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But when asked whether he should not have used the pictures, Mr Silva said: "In hindsight, possibly … but there was no objection raised at the time."

Mr Silva said the Daily Mail had tried to get photos of actor Hugh Grant and his baby at the child's mother's house, believing it a public matter because an agent had issued a statement confirming the baby's birth.

Liz Hartley, head of editorial legal services for Associated Newspapers, later told the inquiry that Mr Grant could have asked the paper to leave the child's mother alone.

"We regularly get notices from people asking to be left alone via PCC [the Press Complaints Commission] or agents or individuals and we comply with that," Ms Hartley said.

"We don't want to waste time and resources trying to speak to somebody who's reluctant to speak to us."

Investigator convicted

Mail on Sunday editor Peter Wright told the inquiry that the subject matter covered by newspapers had "changed enormously" in the 32 years since he began work, initially at the Daily Mail.

He said the star reporters when he started were industrial reporters, but newspapers no longer employed people in that role. However, he said the other star at the Daily Mail when he first began was the gossip columnist.

"There has always been interest in celebrities - where there is probably a difference is that there are a great many more of them today."

Mr Wright said he did not believe staff at the Mail on Sunday had used phone hacking to obtain stories.

Peter Wright said he instructed staff to take "enormous care" when using Whittamore

But the paper had continued to use a private investigator for months after he was arrested by police investigating illegal obtainment of information, the hearing heard.

Mr Wright told the hearing that the newspaper stopped using Steve Whittamore from September 2004, "apart from two payments which no-one can explain".

An Information Commissioner investigation previously found the Mail on Sunday was among 22 newspapers that had regularly used Whittamore's services.

Whittamore, who was arrested in 2003 and convicted in 2005 of illegally accessing data and passing it on, had been used hundreds of times by the Mail on Sunday.

"He didn't ring up and offer stories; he simply offered a service where he would trace names and addresses and telephone numbers." But if a reporter rang for such details, Whittamore might offer information as well, said Mr Wright.

Mr Jay asked why the substantial sums that had been paid to the investigator were classed as "payments for taxis and accommodation".

"That was administratively how they'd been classed - I don't think there was any attempt to conceal them," Mr Wright replied.

Editors and executives

The inquiry's focus this week has been on newspaper editors and executives.

On Tuesday, it heard evidence relating to the Financial Times, Independent and Telegraph broadsheets, while Monday's evidence concentrated on the Sun.

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Wright Mail on Sunday: I have no evidence phone hacking ever did occur at paper. #Leveson #hacking”

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On Thursday, representatives from Northern and Shell - including Daily Express and Daily Star owner Richard Desmond and two of his editors - will give evidence.

Prime Minister David Cameron established the Leveson Inquiry in July 2011 amid new revelations of phone hacking at the now-shut News of the World (NoW) tabloid.

A second phase of the inquiry will commence after the conclusion of a police investigation into NoW phone hacking and any prosecutions. It will examine the extent of unlawful conduct by the press and look at the police's initial hacking investigation.

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