Piers Morgan & The Leveson Inquiry: An Unsolved Mystery
ONE OF the most important questions the Leveson Inquiry should have asked Piers Morgan was never put to him.
That question was: did he authorise one of the largest payments ever made by a tabloid editor to a police officer?
Piers Morgan was News of the World editor when the paper paid for details of a confidential police report on anonymous calls being made by Princess Diana.
The sum involved is believed to have been between one and two hundred thousand pounds.
It's a story that cemented Morgan's reputation as a red top editor.
The Leveson Inquiry knew all about the allegation because I told them about it a month before Morgan appeared before it.
So why was the question never put?
WHEN PIERS MORGAN appeared before the Leveson Inquiry in December 2011 he did so via satellite link to New York.
Robert Jay QC, the Inquiry's counsel, asked him the following question:
"Can I ask you, please, about paying police officers? Is that something which happened at the Daily Mirror?"
"I have no reason to believe so."
Jay continued with Morgan's comment after Rebekah Brooks told a House of Commons select committee in 2003 that she'd paid police officers for information.
Morgan had written:
" ... Rebekah excelled herself by virtually admitting she's been illegally paying policemen for information."
DROPPING THE TABLOID BATON
REBEKAH BROOKS told a select committee she'd paid police officers for information — a criminal offence. Piers Morgan said she'd "dropped the tabloid baton". Photo: PA
"I called her to thank her for dropping the tabloid baton at the last minute."
Jay asked Morgan:
" ... whether your reference to 'dropping the tabloid baton at the last minute' was a general acceptance that illegally paying policeman was a practice which went on in the tabloid press generally? Would you agree with that?"
"No" said Morgan.
"it was getting huge attention from the press and was clearly a clanger on her part, a mistake."
Jay pressed him:
"From your standpoint, was it a mistake because she shouldn't have said it, or was it a mistake because it was untrue?"
"I have no idea," replied Morgan, "if it was true or not."
Robert Jay left the issue there.
But he should have gone much further.
The clue was already present in the statement Morgan had made the month before he appeared before Lord Leveson.
This was in answer to a standard questionnaire sent to all witnesses.
One of the questions was if police had been paid for information.
Morgan's response was telling:
"I have no knowledge or recollection of payments (or payments in kind) being made to serving police officers from my time at either the News of the World or the Daily Mirror, whether in return for stories, access to information, access to information sources or corroboration of existing stories."
The key element in this response is the word "serving".
The reason it's so important is because it's the word Piers Morgan uses to cover the payment of a huge sum to a senior police officer for one of the biggest stories of his career...
IN August 1994 Piers Morgan's crime reporter at the News of the World, Gary Jones, came to see him.
Jones told him the paper was being offered access to a confidential police report into anonymous telephone calls made by Princess Diana.
The catch — the source wanted an enormous sum of money for the privilege.
Morgan agreed to pay it.
The resulting story was one of the biggest tabloid stories of the decade.
Jones was News of the World crime reporter in 1995 when the paper paid a police officer a colossal sum of money for a secret report on Princess Di's anonymous phone calls. Jones later joined Morgan at the Daily Mirror where he became ringmaster of the paper's illegal "dark arts" activities.
When Princess Diana initially denied the story, Morgan received a phone call from Rupert Murdoch in New York.
The tycoon said:
"Hi Piers. I can't really talk for long but I just wanted you to know that your story is one hundred per cent bang on."
"Can't tell you how I know, but I just know. So get on TV and tell the world she's a liar."
Then the focus turned to the News of the World source.
"Everyone seemed to be blaming the police," Morgan later wrote, "so I issued a statement saying it was categorically not a serving police officer, which is perfectly true.”
To me, this comment means a deal was done with a senior police officer who resigned from the force so that the News of the World payment would take place after his retirement.
(For more on the Princess Diana anonymous calls — and just how blatant the News of the World was in parading material from the police report — see the article Whodunnit?, the first part of the Press Gang series "A Pretty Despicable Man".)
ALL OF this was known to the Leveson Inquiry.
I first published the material on 10 July 2011 in an article called "Rupert Bared” on another website, Rebecca.
This was three days before David Cameron announced the appointment of Brian Leveson to head the inquiry into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press.
I was determined to make sure Lord Leveson was aware of the article.
It seemed to me to show Piers Morgan's News of the World was helping to corrupt police officers — and it was possible Rupert Murdoch all knew about it.
To make sure that it was considered by the Leveson Inquiry, I emailed the Cabinet Office on 23 September 2011.
This was before the Leveson Inquiry had a press office.
The man I sent the article to was John Toker, a former ITV journalist who was Cabinet Office Communications Director for Security and Intelligence.
He was handling Leveson inquiries.
I pointed out that the website Rebecca “has published two articles on the News of the World scandal which the inquiry team may find informative.”
(The other article concerned the 1987 murder of private eye Daniel Morgan which the Inquiry subsequently decided not to include in its deliberations.)
I added: “I would be grateful if you would pass them on."
He never replied to me.
By mid-November, by which time the Inquiry was up and running, I had heard nothing.
So I emailed its general enquiries section to ask if team had received the articles.
It turned out it hadn’t.
WHY DID his Inquiry fail to ask Piers Morgan about the Princess Diana story?
The man who answered this email was ... John Toker.
He'd been appointed Head of Communications to the Leveson Inquiry.
“I think you sent the material to me when I was working in Cabinet Office … “
“I was under the impression they were for my information only rather than to be formally submitted to the Inquiry”.
“I would be grateful if you would re-send.”
This lame excuse is hard to credit coming from such an experienced journalist.
(I later complained about Toker’s conduct but it was handled by the Cabinet Office.
Unsurprisingly, the complaint was rejected).
DESPITE THE “Toker delay”, by mid November the Inquiry Team knew about the allegations I had made.
Yet when Piers Morgan appeared before the Inquiry, he was never questioned about the Princess Diana story.
My investigation into what happened is far from over.
For the proposed unauthorised biography “A Pretty Despicable Man” I'll track down the police officer who revealed the contents of the Princess Diana police investigation.
And I’ll get to the bottom of what went on inside the Leveson Inquiry to find out why Piers Morgan got away so lightly …
I hope you’ll be interested in crowdfunding this important project.
(You can, by the way, use an alias if you want to protect your identity.)