Leveson Inquiry: Richard Desmond and Peter Hill on Madeleine McCann and live blogs
RICHARD Desmond has taken the stand at the Leveson Inquiry – and the main topic of his Q and A was Madeleine McCann. Before him was Peter Hill, former editor of the Daily Express, “who was in charge during the disappearance of Madeleine McCann“, notes the Telegraph. Our Maddie now defines journalists’ careers.
* Hill says the vanishing of Madeleine McCann was the biggest story event he had seen in 50 years.
* “It was not a story that you could ignore and you simply had to cover it as best as possible.”
* “I did not accuse them of killing their child.”
* ”The story that I ran were the people that did accuse them and those were the Portuguese police.”
* “It was nothing to do with an obsession, it was more to do with a method of working”.
* “There was an enormous clamour for information and I felt this story was something which should keep running.”
Richard Desmond owner of Express Newspapers, OK!, New and Star magazines.
* “Every paper was doing the same thing, which is why every paper or most papers paid money to the McCanns. Only we were scapegoated by the ex-chairman of the PCC”
* He says Peter Hill, then his editor at the Express, was vilified for “printing the facts” about the McCann case.
Telegraph live blog (Andy Bloxham):
To summarise, Desmond has just claimed that the McCanns must have been happy about coverage in the Daily Express because they did not complain for weeks, then only decided to sue when they got a new team of lawyers. He says the McCanns were happy to have the articles printed about Maddie but says that it was only when “new lawyers” came along that the situation changed, “that’s a fact”. Jay is angrier than I’ve seen him appear in saying his claims are outrageous that the McCanns weren’t upset by the coverage.
Robert Jay QC: “Your newspaper had accused them of killing their daughter. Are you seriously saying they were ‘quite happy’?”
Court 73 turns into a maths lesson as Desmond works out that of 102 articles on McCanns only 38 were ‘bad ones’ ie defamatory #leveson
* Desmond: “On your figure, we ran 102 articles for four months, nothing happened until a new firm of lawyers – who were on contingency – then came in to sue us.”
* Desmond: “Once again I do apologise. I am very sorry that we got it wrong … every paper was doing the same thing, which is why every paper paid money to the McCanns. But only we were scapegoated by the PCC.”
* Desmond tries to justify his papers’ McCanns coverage because he says there was different points of view about what might have happened. “There has been speculation that Diana was killed by the royal family,” he says. The speculation has gone on and on. I don’t know the answer. I apologise again to the McCanns etc etc etc, but there are views about the McCanns and what happened,” he adds.
* Leveson: “…there is no comparison between Madeleine McCann and Diana. In the case of Diana we have a dead body.”
* Jay points out that the logic of that argument is that the paper could write anything it liked. Desmond says he’s not advocating that.
* Desmond apologises to the McCanns over his papers’ coverage.
* “I don’t wish to minimise it … and I’m not trying to win points here, but if there were 102 articles on the McCanns, and 38 bad ones … you could argue there were 68 or 70 good ones.”
* Desmond emphasises again that he isn’t wishing to play down the effect of the bad stories.
* Desmond: “Every paper, every day, for that amount of time, was talking about that story. Poor old Peter Hill … I remember calling him that night, I spoke to him for about two hours, because he’d done it to the best ability, reported the facts. Unfortunately, it was fair to assume that the Portuguese police were a reliable source.”
* Desmond says he didn’t think the stories boosted circulation.
Desmond: “With respect to journalists, (putting money and DVD giveaways on the front cover) is the only way you increase circulation”
* Jay accuses Desmond of making a “grotesque characterisation” of the McCanns, as he says it took a long time for the family to get involved in legal dispute with the press.
* Desmond says: “Everybody was interested in the McCanns, and everybody had a view on the McCanns”.
* He adds newspaper editors “have to believe” that circulation goes up with big stories, countering Peter Hill’s claims about boosts when running stories on the McCanns.
* He tells Leveson: “This inquiry is probably the worst thing that’s happened to newspapers in my lifetime”.