Dowler story could 'fatally damage' police-press relations

The Guardian’s July 2011 bombshell revelation that News of the World journalists listened to Milly Dowler’s voicemail messages has the potential to ‘fatally’damage relationships between journalists and the police, the Leveson Inquiry has heard.

Giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry today, Sunday Express associate editor James Murray said: ‘That [the 5July story] had an enormous impact throughout the industry to chronically – and potentially fatally – damage relationships between journalists and the police, because we do have a relationship of trust.”

The Guardian’s Nick Davies said there had been a ‘backlash’that threatened to undermine the relationship between police and the press when he appeared at the inquiry for a second time in February.

He warned the ultimate effect would be to prevent any form of unauthorised contact between journalists and the police.

Explaining why the Sunday Express does not belong to the Crime Reporters’ Association (CRA), Murray added: ‘At the moment relations seem to be very poor between the Met and journalists.

“The normal lines of communications have been chronically damaged, potentially for a long time.

“We don’t see any value at this stage in being a member of the CRA when so little information is coming out of the Yard.”

Murray also described being given champagne by former Met commissioner Lord Blair when he visited New Scotland Yard with the Sunday Express’s editor, former deputy editor and former crime editor.

He said: “He (Lord Blair) was very friendly, very convivial, and there was a glass or two of champagne – certainly not a third glass – by way of just being pleasant.”

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