The former crime editor of the News of the World says she believes a “distorted picture” has been presented of how journalists work.
Panton, who has been arrested and bailed as part of Operation Elveden, the Metropolitan police’s investigation into payments to police officers, wrote that she found it “bizarre that there seems to be such interest in what champagne I did or did not drink.”
Discussing her contact with police officers, Panton wrote that her objective was to “have a long term relationship with the police, which meant an open and honest relationship with the people I met.”
She added: “I am a journalist and therefore my objective is to seek information but not to the detriment of a police operation. I have never met a senior officer who is so ill-informed and naive that he or she gives out information that they were not authorised to divulge.”
She told the Inquiry that former assistant commissioner John Yates had attended her wedding, ”along with many other police officers”, some of whom were “friends”. Panton added that her contact with former Met commissioner Lord Blair was “minimal”, she had not had drinks with fellow ex-commissioner Lord Stevens in a pub or restaurant setting, and had drank champagne with police officers when others were present, namely at the Crime Reporters’ Association (CRA) Christmas parties.
She also described an October 2010 email sent to her by her then news editor James Mellor, in which Panton was asked if she had spoken to Yates about an aviation bomb plot story, as “banter”.
Mellor’s email, read to the Inquiry during Yates’ evidence on 1 March, read: “Think John Yates could be crucial here, have you spoken to him, really need an exclusive splash line, time to call in all those bottles of champagne.”
“It’s the way people spoke to each other in our office,” Panton told the Inquiry. “I would read that at that time as banter mixed with a bit of pressure”, she said, describing the message in her written statement as similar to “many I received at work that contained an element of banter with a serious note of expectation that they were relying on me for a big story”. She later added that she did not feel there was a bullying culture at the now defunct tabloid, and that pressure was “part of the job.”
Panton also said she was “sad” to hear from colleagues that lines of communication between police officers and the press “seem to have stopped”.
“I would hate to see crime reporting over and police feeling they can’t have professional relationships with journalists,” she added.
Also giving evidence today was Chief Superintendent Derek Barnett of the Police Superintendents’ Association, University of Leicester criminology lecturer Dr Rob Mawby and Ed Stearns, head of media at the Met’s renamed Directorate of Media & Communications (formerly known as Directorate of Public Affairs).
A directions hearing for the third module of the Inquiry, which will examine the relationship between the press and politicians, will take place this afternoon.
The Inquiry continues tomorrow.
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