REVIEW — UNTOLD: THE DANIEL MORGAN MURDER EXPOSED

May 18, 2017

 

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Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder Exposed
Alastair Morgan and Peter Jukes
(Blink Publishing, hardback £14.99, ebook £9.99)
Reviewed by Paddy French

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ONE OF the reasons why the 1987 murder of Daniel Morgan has not been properly covered by Britain’s national media is the fact he was part-Welsh.

After nearly two decades involved in this story, I’m convinced Daniel’s Welsh background is a significant factor.

His father John — a native Welsh-speaker from Pontardawe — was wounded and captured at Arnhem in World War 2.

After the war he was commissioned a captain and posted to Singapore.

There he met Isobel and their two sons, Alastair and Daniel, were born in the British colony.

Daniel was premature and there were problems with one of his legs.

John Morgan resigned his commission to bring him back for treatment in the newly-created NHS.

The family lived for many years in Llanfrechfa near Cwmbran.

John, who had worked as a coalminer on his return from Singapore, died of emphysema at 41.

Daniel didn’t reach that age.

He was just 37 when he was axed to death in the car park of a south London pub.

The private investigator was married with two small children.

The prime suspect has always been Daniel’s business partner, Jonathan Rees.

One of the Scotland Yard detectives who investigated the murder, sergeant Sid Fillery, was kicked off the inquiry when it emerged he was a close friend of Rees.

Within a year Fillery retired — and stepped into the dead man’s shoes as Rees’ new partner.

Both were finally charged in 2008 — Rees with the murder, Fillery with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The case collapsed.

For three decades the scandal was under-reported, especially in the broadcast media.

Just compare the hours of television devoted to another south London murder — that of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

One reason for this, I’m convinced, is Daniel’s Welsh connections.

The evidence is compelling: between 1987 and 2004 the only serious television documentaries on the murder were made by the Welsh current affairs strand, Wales This Week.

England — and especially London — has always had a problem with the Welsh.

It’s hard to put your finger on what it is exactly.

Partly, it seems to be indifference — “they’re not the same as us and some of them even talk another (foreign) language” sort of attitude.

FINAL BOOK JACKET

For some, though, there’s an active dislike of the Welsh — captured in the saying: “Taffy is a Welshman, Taffy is a thief.”

By the time I joined Wales This Week in 1999, the series had already made several programmes on the murder.

I picked up the baton and went on to make several more programmes.

In 2004 I helped persuade our sister series at ITV London to carry out a joint investigation into the murder — the first time an English broadcaster had taken any interest.

I got to know — and admire — Alastair Morgan and his partner, BBC journalist Kirsteen Knight, for their relentless dedication to securing justice for Daniel.

They’re ordinary people who have dedicated their lives to a single cause at an unimaginable cost.

The results, though, have been extraordinary …

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THE BOOK published today is the fusion of two projects.

For many years Alastair has been writing a book on the saga but there never seemed to be a natural end.

For example, the independent inquiry into the murder commissioned by Theresa May in 2013 — and chaired by Baroness Nuala O’Loan — has yet to publish its report.

Then author, screenwriter and playwright Peter Jukes became interested in the murder as a result of his research into the hacking scandal.

Jukes had chalked up a first with his crowd-funded live-tweeting of the dramatic Old Bailey trial of Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks in 2014.

When he realised the prime suspect in the Daniel Morgan murder case, Jonathan Rees, was also a major player in supplying illegal information to the News of the World, he was hooked.

The result is the award-winning Untold podcast — co-produced with Deeivya Meir — which has attracted more than 4 million listeners around the world.

That success — it was iTunes Best Podcast of 2016 — persuaded Peter Jukes and Alastair Morgan that a book was timely.

The result is a forensic account of a scandal that has tarnished the reputation of Scotland Yard, added another sorry episode to the history of the Murdoch press – and shamed the establishment into action.

It reads like pulp fiction — a dark tale of bent cops, murderous criminals,
unscrupulous hacks, self-serving police chiefs and devious politicians.

But it’s all true.

In nearly 400 pages, the book charts the unfolding scandal with Alastair — and his partner Kirsteen Knight — telling the chilling story from their point of view

Peter Jukes takes up the narrative between the sections of their personal testimony.

It’s a format that works well: the style is crisp and the result is an important book about the interaction between organised crime, corrupt police and illegal journalism.

Of course, some of the story still remains untold — after thirty years of twists and turns, it’s clear there’s more to come.

One area, for example, that has never been explored is the role of freemasonry.

Rees and Fillery were masons yet virtually nothing is known about their masonic connections.

The only criticism I have of Untold is the lack of an index — it means the book cannot become the work of reference it deserves to be.

Hopefully, the updated edition promised after the report of the Daniel Morgan Inquiry Panel is published, will add one.

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NOTES
1
The sister website to Rebecca — Press Gang — has reported extensively on the murder. See the Daniel Morgan page for more information.

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EDITOR’S LOG — CHANGES

May 8, 2016

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YOU’LL SEE there are changes to the site today.

Rebecca Television becomes just Rebecca.

And this new personal column is introduced.

Why the changes?

Well, there haven’t been any TV programmes since the three produced in the website’s early years.

I’m sad about that because television is a powerful tool in the armoury of investigative journalism.

And, having previously worked for the ITV series Wales This Week where programmes normally cost around £10k for 23 minutes, the Rebecca videos weren’t expensive.

But Rebecca doesn’t generate the money needed to produce them.

Another problem is politics.

Two of the three programmes that were produced had to be withdrawn because they infringed ITV Wales copyright.

I acknowledged this — but hoped that, since ITV Wales had never been interested in the material, they wouldn’t mind me using it.

Or, at least, allow me to use it for a fee.

However, someone at ITV in Wales or London took exception to a critical programme about Ofcom Wales director Rhodri Williams.

This included an interview with Williams’ former boss filmed by ITV Wales but never broadcast.

ITV insisted the interview be removed — and wouldn’t even allow me to pay for the use of it.

(For those of you who’re interested, the battle with ITV is told here and the material that was censored is in the article A Man Of Conviction?)

The fall-out of this was that another programme also had to go.

It also used an interview that ITV Wales had never broadcast.

So, with just one programme surviving, it’s time to call it a day.

The second change is this Editor’s Log which gives my views rather than those of Rebecca.

This needs a little explanation — after all I write everything that appears on the site.

The fact is Rebecca articles operate to very high standard of evidential proof.

In a major Rebecca investigation readers need to have a large amount of accurate information to test the editorial line being advanced.

This is not to say these pieces are “impartial” — such a thing does not exist.

But, readers should have enough accurate information to make up their own minds.

This column allows me to say things from my personal point of view.

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TOMORROW, Rebecca begins the long analysis of the Macur Review.

This is the government’s judge-led examination of the work of the 1996-1999 North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal.

Rebecca now has the figure of how much this exercise cost: £3 million — all of it to be paid for by the Ministry of Justice.

Was it worth it?

Rebecca says it wasn’t — and there’ll be a raft of articles to say why.

But here I want to say something about my involvement with the Review.

When David Cameron announced the Review in 2012, I thought “perhaps this time the judiciary will get to the bottom of what happened”.

There’s always the suspicion the exercise is going to be a con — just a sop to show concern and then produce a whitewash.

But, if you’re trying to find out the truth, you have no choice but to hope the process will be an honest one.

So I spent some two weeks preparing long statements — and then flew to London to meet Lady Justice Macur.

In the end, of course, it was all smoke and mirrors: she produced the suspected whitewash.

I have to say, though, I felt compromised by the whole process.

And, of course, the report is a gift to the conspiracy theorists.

A judge is persuaded to take on the dirty job of protecting the establishment — and then, a few months later, gets appointed to the Court of Appeal.

This is the elite of the judiciary — just 42 strong, bringing with it the equivalent of a knighthood and membership of Her Majesty’s Privy Council …

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BUT IT turns out to be a lot less simple than that.

Lady Justice Macur may have produced a whitewash — but she does seem, bizarrely, to have had a conscience about it.

Yes, she clears the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal and says its conclusions were correct.

And, yes, she also stoops to a shoddy and shameful handling of the Rebecca material.

But, having protected the conclusions of the Tribunal, she then lays into the Tribunal chairman, Sir Ronald Waterhouse.

By the time she’s finished with him, his reputation is in tatters.

She uses mild language but the sentiments are brutal.

She does this in two ways.

She provides an enormous amount of new information — and then condemns him for the way he either handled or ignored it.

The result is a whitewash that, strangely, provides ammunition for the Tribunal’s opponents — including me.

She even makes this point more or less explicitly.

On page 18 of her report, she states baldly:

“Where there is information that runs contrary to my conclusions, I have reported on it.”

The result is a report that is full of new and valuable information — some of it is sensational.

I can’t ever remember reading anything like it …

PADDY FRENCH

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Published: 8 May 2016
© Rebecca 2016
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IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER?

June 18, 2014

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WHEN RHODRI Talfan Davies takes his leave as Director of BBC Wales in the years ahead, will he once again follow in his father’s footsteps?

It’s become the practice of departing Directors to take up one of the best paid part-time jobs in Wales — a directorship in Glas Cymru.

Glas Cymru owns Welsh Water and claims to be a “not-for-profit” business with customers as its “sole” concern.

But a forthcoming Rebecca Television investigation will claim consumers have been cheated of £100 million.

It’s the board of directors who really benefit.

When Geraint Talfan Davies left BBC Wales in 1999, he helped set up Glas Cymru — and soaked up more than £450,000 in fees in his decade with the company.

He was still there when his friend Menna Richards, who succeeded him as BBC Wales Director, was appointed to the Glas Cymru board in November 2010.

She currently gets £57,000 a year for her part-time role.

Talfan Davies and Richards are part of the tight-knit group which controls Welsh broadcasting.

Rebecca Television continues its investigation of this media clique — and asks if the axing of a controversial series in the late 1990s was part of a strategy to secure the succession at BBC Wales …

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WHEN GERAINT Talfan Davies left the BBC at the end of 1999 he was only 56 years old.

“I have always been clear that I wanted to retire from the BBC while I still have the energy and the appetite to pursue new avenues,” he said at the time.

Within months he’d been recruited to become the Welsh face of a dramatic take-over of the Welsh water industry.

At the time, Welsh Water had swallowed South Wales Electricity and become Hyder plc.

GERAINT TALFAN DAVIES  A MEMBER of the powerful Talfan Davies clan, the former BBC Wales Controller became one of the highest paid non-executives in Welsh corporate history when he joined the board of Glas Cymru, the company that owns Welsh Water. He was later joined by Menna Richards, the friend who succeeded him at BBC Wales. It was his son, Rhodri, who took over BBC Wales after Menna Richards departed — a saga explored in the Rebecca Television article The Son Of The Man From Uncle.                                                                 Photo: Seren Books

THE MAN FROM UNCLE
A MEMBER of the powerful Talfan Davies clan, the former head of BBC Wales became one of the highest paid non-executives in Welsh corporate history when he joined the board of Glas Cymru, the company that owns Welsh Water. He was later joined by Menna Richards, the friend who succeeded him at BBC Wales. It was his son, Rhodri, who took over BBC Wales after Menna Richards departed — a saga explored in the Rebecca Television article The Son Of The Man From Uncle.     Photo: Seren Books

But the two privatised utilities made huge profits and in 1997 the new Labour government hit Hyder with a massive combined £282 million “windfall tax” on its excess electricity and water profits.

The water regulator Ofwat, stung by accusations that it had been too lenient on the sector, also waded in with what looked like draconian new price caps.

This “double whammy” left Hyder sinking under a wave of debt.

Its share price sank and predators closed in.

It came down to a battle between the Japanese investment bank Nomura and the US power conglomerate Western Power Distribution.

The Americans won.

But they only wanted the electricity business — and quickly agreed to sell Welsh Water to a new company called Glas Cymru.

Glas Cymru, a company limited by guarantee, agreed to take over Welsh Water’s massive debt burden.

It did so by borrowing the money from the bond market.

The idea was the brainchild of two senior executives who worked for Welsh Water — former merchant banker Nigel Annett and ex-Treasury official Chris Jones.

They brought in former Treasury Permanent Secretary Terry Burns to chair the outfit.

And Geraint Talfan Davies was recruited to become the Welsh face of the enterprise.

Glas Cymru has always presented itself as a people’s company — with no shareholders, it claims, “our only purpose is to deliver the best outcomes for our customers.”

It points to £150 million worth of “customer dividends” — £139 for every customer — paid out since 2001.

(However, a forthcoming Rebecca Television investigation will reveal that consumers should have done far better.

An article entitled The Great Welsh Water Robbery argues that consumers have been cheated of £100 million in the last four years alone.

The final tally could run into hundreds of millions of pounds.

See the note at the end of this article.)

While Welsh Water’s more than one million domestic customers have been short-changed, the directors have done exceedingly well.

By the time he resigned as a part-time non-executive director in March 2011, Geraint Talfan Davies was earning £54,000 a year.

In the ten years he was on the board, his total haul from the company was £452,500.

Unlike Geraint Talfan Davies, Menna Richards was appointed a non-executive director at Glas Cymru while she was still Director of BBC Wales.

She took up the Glas Cymru role in November 2010 — two weeks after she announced her intention to leave BBC Wales.

She didn’t leave the Corporation until February 2011.

Her appointment is understood to have caused concern at the BBC.

MISS PRINCIPALITY  Menna Richards has taken the two-step routine (BBC Wales to Glas Cymru) pioneered by her friend and mentor Geraint Talfan Davies and given it another twist. She's turned it into a conga by also becoming a non-executive director of the Principality Building Society — following in the footsteps of current Glas Cymru chief executive Chris Jones. The post adds another £45,000 a year to her annual bank balance and increases her clout as one the "great and the good" of Welsh public life.  Photo: PA

MISS PRINCIPALITY
MENNA RICHARDS has taken the two-step — BBC Wales to Glas Cymru — routine pioneered by her friend and mentor Geraint Talfan Davies and given it another twist. She’s turned it into a conga by also becoming a non-executive director of the Principality Building Society — following in the footsteps of Glas Cymru chief executive Chris Jones. The post adds another £45,000 a year to her annual bank balance and increases her clout as one the “great and the good” of Welsh public life.
Photo: PA

In its accounts, Glas Cymru states that Menna Richards did not receive any fees until 1 March 2011.

This was after she had finally left BBC Wales.

She’s already one of the most trusted non-executive directors on the Glas Cymru board — for six months in 2013 she was the acting senior non-executive director at an annual rate of £67,500.

By March 2014 she had received total fees of £177,750.

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WE ASKED Glas Cymru to explain the high levels of fees it awards non-executive directors.

Compared to a company like Cardiff-based Admiral Insurance, a successful business operating in one of the most competitive markets in British capitalism, Glas Cymru’s fees appear excessive.

With a turnover of £2.2 billion, Admiral has to fight for every customer‚ unlike Welsh Water whose £717 million income in 2013 came almost entirely from captive customers paying fixed prices.

Back in 2001, a Glas Cymru press release was clear — Welsh Water “… a monopoly providing an essential public service, is a very low risk business.”

Admiral made a pre-tax profit of nearly £350 million in 2012 — but still managed to pay two of its non-executive directors less than Menna Richards.

It took three rounds of questions before Glas Cymru finally came up with a justification for the pay of non-executive directors:

“Regardless of our ‘not-for-profit’ model, we must attract the highest calibre of directors to ensure that the company continues to perform to the highest levels,” a spokesman said.

“Our business provides essential public services and so is heavily regulated by numerous independent bodies, which means we need a high quality board which can provide a credible commitment to good governance for our regulators and bond investors.”

It said that non-executive fees are “reviewed annually” with independent advice from outside consultants.

And it added that the “members” of Glas Cymru — the 59 people appointed to act as the owners of the company — “vote annually on directors’ remuneration.”

The need to attract the “highest calibre” people to run the board doesn’t seem to apply to the “members” who actually control the company.

They’re paid nothing.

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THERE’S ANOTHER UK business which is directly comparable to Glas Cymru — Scottish Water, owned by the Scottish Government.

Water was never privatised in Scotland.

Scottish Water, the result of the merger of three local authorities in 2002, is much bigger than Welsh Water.

Its revenue of £1.1 billion outstrips Glas Cymru’s £717 million.

So you might expect its non-executive directors to be paid more.

Not a bit of it.

Scottish Water’s non-executive salaries are decided by First Minister Alex Salmond and his cabinet.

The average basic fee for a non-executive director in 2013 was £22,000.

That’s less than half of the £57,000 Menna Richards currently receives at Glas Cymru.

And Scottish Water doesn’t seem to have any trouble finding “high calibre” people to take these jobs.

After Menna Richards took up the Glas Cymru post, the Western Mail newspaper published a letter from a Glynneath reader called Jack Kearns:

“She follows Geraint Talfan Davies who preceded her as controller of BBC Wales,” he wrote, “so could it be whoever replaces Menna Richards will be assured of a long and high-salary future with BBC Wales and then Welsh Water?”

RHODRI TALFAN DAVIES There is speculation that the current BBC Wales Director Rhodri Talfan Davies will follow in the footsteps of both his father and Menna Richards and join the board of Glas Cymru in the years to come. We asked him if this was on the cards — he did not reply. Photo: BBC Wales

THE SON OF THE MAM FROM UNCLE
THERE’S ALREADY speculation that the current BBC Wales Director, Rhodri Talfan Davies, will follow in the footsteps of both his father and Menna Richards and join the board of Glas Cymru in the years to come. We asked him if this was on the cards — he did not reply.
Photo: BBC Wales

Kearns’ letter was published before it was announced that Rhodri Talfan Davies would replace Menna Richards as BBC Wales Director.

We asked Rhodri Talfan Davies if he had any plans to follow his father onto the Glas Cymru board.

This was one of a raft of questions we put to the BBC Wales press office on June 2.

No answers were forthcoming.

We emailed Geraint Talfan Davies for a response.

We also asked Menna Richards to comment.

Neither replied by the time this article was posted.

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THE TALFAN Davies clan aren’t the only family to have prospered at the BBC.

Relatives of Menna Richards have also done well.

In the period she was Director of BBC Wales, her sister Ceri Wyn Richards won more than a million pounds worth of commissions from the broadcaster.

Ceri Wyn Richards is a former BBC Wales staffer who once held the post of Editor, Radio Cymru.

In the early 2000s she and her husband, producer Mark Jones, set up an independent company called Torpedo Limited.

For eight years the company waxed prosperous on the back of commissions from BBC Wales.

As a small company, Torpedo did not have to declare the salaries of its two directors in its annual accounts.

But its balance sheet was healthy — and the company, which was paid in advance by BBC Wales, always reported “cash in hand and at the bank” of between £100,000 and £260,000 throughout the decade.

For the first four years of her time as Director, the BBC did not declare Menna Richards’ interest in Torpedo or the amount of work the Corporation was awarding her sister’s company.

In 2005-06, however, the BBC’s annual report and accounts began listing the amount of work the company was being awarded.

The figures were surprisingly high:

— in 2005-06, Torpedo received £324,000 worth of work

— in 2006-07, the figure rose to £360,000

— in 2007-08, contracts dipped to £321,000

— in 2008-09, the amount declined to £147,000.

The reason the figure fell in that year was that there was a crisis at Torpedo at the end of 2008.

The marriage between Ceri Wyn Richards and Mark Jones hit the rocks — and the partnership that created Torpedo foundered.

In the four-year period 2005-9, the company earned £1,153,000 — making it one of the most successful Welsh broadcasting independents.

We asked BBC Wales for the figures for the period 2001 to 2004.

There was no response.

In December 2008 a new company, Parrog Limited, was registered at an address in Whitchurch, Cardiff.

This was the home of Menna Richards and her husband Patrick Hannan.

A widely respected BBC journalist, Hannan signed the documents which set up the company.

For the first six months of 2009, he was the sole director and holder of the company’s only share.

In June 2009, Ceri Wyn Richards also became a director of the company.

The following month, Patrick Hannan resigned.

(Diagnosed with cancer, he was to die in October 2009 at the age of 68).

In the summer of 2009, an anonymous letter was sent to national newspapers in London drawing attention to the links between Menna Richards and her sister’s companies.

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ON THE surface, the Parrog affair caused hardly any ripples at the BBC. Behind the scenes, however, there were reports of considerable unease in London about the Director’s close ties with the company. Some observers believe the issue may have played a part in Menna Richards’ ultimate decision to leave the Corporation in 2010…

It also pointed out that Menna Richards’ husband was a director  of Parrog and that the company’s registered office was their home.

In August 2009 Jenny Rathbone, a Labour Parliamentary candidate for one of the Cardiff constituencies, learnt of the allegations.

Rathbone, a former producer of the BBC 2 Money Programme and a Labour councillor in the London borough of Islington, wrote to BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons.

Four days later, he wrote back to say the matter was an “operational” issue — he’d passed her letter on to deputy Director-General Mark Byford.

The next day Rathbone received a reply from the BBC’s Chief Operating Officer, Caroline Thomson.

She wrote:

“I can reassure you that Menna Richards has declared all business relationships between the BBC and members of her family in line with … stringent conflict of interest policies.”

“I am satisfied that she has had no involvement in the management of either Torpedo Ltd or Parrog Ltd, and has no role in the commissioning of any independent production companies.

Thomson added that the “BBC will be responding to your letter more fully in due course.”

Rathbone — currently a Labour member of the National Assembly in Cardiff — doesn’t remember receiving a second letter.

The BBC’s accounts for the year 2009-2010 carried no declaration from Menna Richards — who served throughout the year — about the value of any commissions obtained by Parrog.

In November 2010 Menna Richards announced that she was stepping down as Director and eventually left in February 2011.

Again, the BBC accounts for 2010-2011 did not include a declaration of her connection with Parrog.

Parrog’s own accounts indicate that, in the four years between 2009 and 2013, the amount of work does not seem to have reached the levels Torpedo achieved.

The company’s cash balances ranged from £67,000 to £100,000.

We asked BBC Wales for details of commissions the company received from the Corporation.

Once again, the press office failed to provide a response.

♦♦♦

THE PROFESSIONAL relationship between Menna Richards and Geraint Talfan Davies began at HTV Wales in the 1980s.

After eight years at BBC Wales, Menna Richards moved to HTV Wales in 1983 to become a journalist and presenter on the Welsh language current affairs programme Y Byd Ar Bedwar.

At the time Geraint Talfan Davies was HTV Wales’ Assistant Controller of Programmes.

His uncle Sir Alun Talfan Davies was coming to the end of his term as chairman of HTV’s Welsh board.

Menna Richards’ managerial career did not begin until Geraint Talfan Davies had left HTV.

In 1987 Talfan Davies moved to Newcastle to take up the post of Director of Programmes at Tyne Tees TV.

By 1990, he was back in Cardiff 1990 as Director — at the time the title was Controller —  of BBC Wales.

A year later Menna Richards began to climb the managerial ladder at HTV Wales.

First she was appointed Controller of Factual and General programmes, then in 1993 she became Director of Programmes.

By the mid 1990s she was emerging as a powerful figure in Welsh broadcasting — and a potential successor to Geraint Talfan Davies as head of BBC Wales.

In 1996 there was a revealing internal argument at HTV Wales which suggests she may have begun positioning herself as a candidate for the top job at BBC Wales.

Bruce Kennedy, a former editor of the channel’s Wales This Week current affairs series, was in charge of commissioning programmes from the independent sector.

He decided to make a series about the scandal-torn Welsh Development Agency (WDA) to coincide with its 21st anniversary in 1997.

From 1988 to 1993, the Agency’s chairman had been the charismatic but controversial self-made businessman, Dr Gwyn Jones.

In the late 1980s Jones outflanked the traditional Welsh establishment by persuading Welsh Secretary Peter Walker to appoint him to head the Agency.

Within months, he increased the number of days he was working from two and a half to four days a week.

He became a favourite of Margaret Thatcher — when she made one of her few visits to Wales in 1989, she extolled Jones’ virtues:

“I just want to say what a marvellous chap they’ve got at the Welsh Development Agency.”

DR GWYN JONES WHEN THE self-proclaimed millionaire was appointed chairman of the Welsh Development Agency in 1989, he was in need of some hard cash. He persuaded the Agency to buy his Jaguar for £26,000 and later lied to Parliament about the reasons why it was a good deal for the quango. In the 2000s his career declined — he is now Director of Essex University Business School. Photo: Essex University

DR GWYN JONES
WHEN THE self-proclaimed millionaire was appointed chairman of the Welsh Development Agency in 1988, he was in need of some hard cash. He persuaded the Agency to buy his Jaguar for £26,000 and later lied to Parliament about the reasons why it was a good deal for the quango. In the 2000s his career declined — he’s now Director of Essex University’s Business School.
Photo: Essex University

By 1992, he had been appointed the BBC’s National Governor for Wales.

He also used the patronage of senior Tories as a springboard to more powerful posts.

One of his contacts was the merchant banker and freemason Sir Michael Richardson, a personal friend of Margaret Thatcher.

Vice-chairman of the powerful N M Rothschild merchant bank, Richardson secured Jones a series of profitable directorships.

In 1992 Jones also became a director of Tesco — and stayed until 1998.

But as he was beginning his rise through the ranks of corporate Britain, turmoil erupted at the WDA.

Jones’ abrasive style provoked conflict with senior staff — one was paid off with a controversial payoff.

He also made jaw-dropping appointments — one of them a conman who Jones hired as the agency’s marketing director without checking his CV.

The crook was later gaoled.

There were also scandals about unauthorised perks and Jones was accused of obtaining an Agency grant for one scheme and then using it for another.

In December 1992 the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) called in Jones and other officials.

Days before the hearing, Jones announced he would leave the Agency in 1993.

The PAC report was damning of the Agency and its political masters at the Welsh Office — it was:

“.. unacceptable that the Welsh Office took no action against anyone in the top echelons of the Agency who presided over a catalogue of serious and inexcusable breaches of expected standards …”

It was this back story which persuaded Bruce Kennedy that a series about the history of the Agency would be a worthwhile project.

He asked Paddy French, then an independent TV producer and currently the editor of Rebecca Television, to carry out the research.

At the time, French did not realise the series would itself become a pawn in a political intrigue …

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THE RESEARCH for the series began at the end of 1995.

French spent several weeks going through the history of the WDA.

Concerned that the series would be stale and academic, he felt it needed a dramatic revelation to bring it alive.

He decided that the most promising line of attack lay in the curious affair of Dr Jones’ Jaguar.

The WDA had authorised a dealer to buy the Jaguar off Jones in March 1989 for £26,000 — the market rate.

The Agency then signed a new lease with the dealer for the Jaguar to become the chairman’s car.

All costs were paid by the Agency.

Jones insisted the deal was a good one for the WDA.

When the Public Affairs Committee grilled him about it, in 1996, he made a remarkable claim.

He insisted that it was cheaper for the Agency to buy the car than to continue paying him mileage.

He told the Committee:

” … when it became clear how many days and how much travel I was doing — and that was working out something like 60,000 miles a year, which I have maintained for the period of my chairmanship — in a discussion it was put to me that it would be financially beneficial to the Agency if I went on to a different car scheme.”

Committee member Alan Williams, MP for Swansea West, was not persuaded:

“Really, it was an act of generosity on your part to the WDA rather than the other way around. Is that it?”

ALAN WILLIAMS THE MP didn't believe  Dr Gwyn Jones was telling the truth when the WDA chairman appeared before the Publis Accounts Committee in 1992. Photo: PA

ALAN WILLIAMS
THE LABOUR MP for Swansea West didn’t believe Dr Gwyn Jones was telling the truth when the WDA chairman appeared before the Public Accounts Committee in 1992.  Photo: PA

Jones replied:

“The arithmetic was such that it would be a lesser cost to the Agency than paying me for 60,000 miles per year at 34.4 pence a mile.”

French was also sceptical.

“Actually, Jones’ arithmetic completely undermined his own argument,” he said.

“He was claiming he travelled 60,000 miles a year on Agency business.”

“Given the quality of the road system in Wales, the average speed can’t have been more than 50 miles an hour.”

“Divide 60,000 by 50 miles an hour and you get 1,200 hours behind the wheel.”

“Assume a 7 hour day and Jones would have been on the road  for 171 days a year — at a time when he was only paid for two and a half days a week.”

“It was a commonly held view in Wales at the time,” noted French, “that this level of mileage was physically impossible.”

“I felt that Jones’ claim was a serious hostage to fortune.”

“If the Jaguar could be located, its records were likely to show that he had lied to Parliament — a very serious offence.”

♦♦♦

IT TOOK several months to track down the Jaguar.

It had been bought by a relative of BBC presenter Vincent Kane.

The service log showed that in June 1989 — three months after Jones sold it — the Jaguar had only 14,267 miles on the clock.

“The evidence was overwhelming — Jones had lied to Parliament,” said French.

“This was the dramatic revelation the HTV series needed to bring it bang up to date.”

In July 1996 filming started — until a dramatic call from Cardiff intervened.

“The film crew, Bruce Kennedy and I were having lunch in a pub in London when Menna Richards rang,” French remembers.

“Menna asked Bruce Kennedy what was going on and he told her that shooting had started on the series.”

“She told him that filming was to stop — he was to return to Cardiff immediately.”

Shortly afterwards, the new chairman of the WDA, David Rowe-Beddoe, asked to meet the team responsible for the series.

It took place in Rowe-Beddoe’s office at the WDA’s HQ in Cardiff and was attended by Kennedy, French and HTV’s head of news and current affairs, Elis Owen.

DAVID ROWE-BEDDOE ANOTHER BUSINESSMAN who supported the Tories, David Rowe-Bedoe — seen here at the official opening of the Wales Millennium Centre in 19xx — was opposed to HTV Wales broadcasting a series about the Welsh Development Agency

DAVID ROWE-BEDDOE
ANOTHER BUSINESSMAN who supported the Tories, David Rowe-Beddoe — seen here at the official opening of the Wales Millennium Centre — took over from Dr Gwyn Jones as WDA chairman. He was opposed to HTV Wales broadcasting a series about the troubled history of the Agency.                                                                                                         Photo: PA

Rowe-Beddoe tried to persuade them the series should not be made.

The three journalists insisted the programmes were in the public interest.

The next day Bruce Kennedy met with Menna Richards.

Richards said she wasn’t persuaded the series was editorially sound.

There was, she said, nothing new in it, it was boring and she even had her doubts about the Jaguar story.

In a memo written a week later, Kennedy said he was “surprised” and “unprepared” at her tone.

He added:

“I am concerned at the growing suggestion that in some way we (notably me) are trying to keep you ignorant of the true nature of the WDA programme.”

“There seems to be a suggestion that the research is not up to the standard required to substantiate some of the points we are making.”

“All I can say is that the research I’ve seen Paddy French conduct is second to none.”

“I think the research Elis and I have conducted must stand for you to judge.”

Five days after this memo was sent, Menna Richards axed the series.

No attempt was made to use the new material about the Jaguar in any other programme.

Bruce Kennedy has never believed that censorship was the reason for Menna Richards’ decision.

For him, it was simply a difference of editorial opinions.

He left HTV Wales shortly afterwards.

French, though, was not convinced that it was just a matter of editorial judgement.

“There are two reasons why I felt outside factors may have played a part,” he said.

“The first is that I believe that Menna Richards was building up a formidable CV as a candidate to take over as Controller of BBC Wales from Geraint Talfan Davies.”

“The only glaring gap in her CV was that senior BBC executives are expected to have had wider experience than just broadcasting.”

“Up to that point, Menna Richards’ career was entirely in broadcasting.”

“She needed a stint as a director of another, unrelated public body.”

“And to land such an appointment, she needed the support of the business establishment, including people like David Rowe-Beddoe.”

“A programme critical of the WDA was likely to antagonise that community.”

(The gap in her CV was later plugged when she was appointed a director of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, serving until the quango was wound up in 2000.)

“The second reason was that Gwyn Jones was still the BBC’s National Governor for Wales.”

“It would have been obvious to Menna Richards that the Corporation would prefer to avoid the embarrassment of a programme that exposed its National Governor for Wales as a man who had lied to Parliament.”

We asked Menna Richards to comment.

She didn’t reply.

But that was far from the end of the story.

Within months of the decision to axe the WDA series, Menna Richards abruptly reversed her decision — and cleared the decks for an HTV broadside against Dr Jones.

♦♦♦

IN THE autumn of 1996 it was widely assumed Dr Gwyn Jones would not seek another term as National Governor for Wales. 

His reputation had been damaged by the Public Accounts Committee and it was assumed he would move on to pastures new when his term ended in December.

However, Jones began to indicate that he thought differently.

The position of National Governor for Wales gave him a seat on the BBC’s UK Board of Governors and was an immensely influential platform.

Word began to circulate in Cardiff that he was canvassing for a second term.

“This really put the cat among the pigeons,” recalls French.

“A second term for Jones would have been a serious blow to Menna Richards’ chances of becoming BBC Wales Controller.”

“HTV had made several highly critical programmes about his chairmanship of the WDA and there was a danger he would not support Menna Richards.”

Inside BBC Wales Jones was not popular among many senior executives and journalists.

In one Broadcasting Council for Wales meeting he had openly attacked the Corporation’s own Week In Week Out series over a programme critical of a WDA land deal.

Many felt this was an attempt to intimidate programme-makers.

Behind the scenes, a secret campaign began to de-rail his campaign.

Part of this campaign was the resurrection of the Jaguar story.

“Out of the blue, HTV Wales suddenly decided that it was time to prepare a profile of the man now seeking a second term at BBC Wales,” said Paddy French.

“It was decided the channel’s current affairs strand, Wales This Week, would rush out a programme — the core of which was the allegation that Jones lied to Parliament over the Jaguar affair.”

“An issue which Menna Richards decided wasn’t newsworthy back in July, was now a matter of vital public interest,” added French.

MENNA RICHARDS WITHIN MONTHS of deciding that a series about the WDA should be axed, Menna Richards authorised an emergency Wales This Week programme about the controversial career of Dr Gwyn Jones' time at the Agency. At its heart, his lies to Parliament about the Jaguar ...  Photo: PA

MENNA RICHARDS, OBE
WITHIN MONTHS of deciding that a series about the WDA should be axed, Menna Richards authorised an emergency Wales This Week programme about the controversial career of Dr Gwyn Jones’ time at the Agency. At its heart, his lies to Parliament about the controversial sale of his Jaguar …
Photo: PA

Menna Richards kept a close eye on the programme — she asked to see a rough version several days before screening.

Jones heard about the programme and wrote to HTV Group chairman, Louis Sherwood, in early December.

Jones pointed out that the last time Wales This Week examined his stewardship of the Agency, he’d had to instruct the libel lawyer Peter Carter Ruck.

The programme went ahead.

The schedule was so tight that the commentary wasn’t laid down until minutes before transmission.

“It was a fraught session,” recalls French, who’d been brought in to help with the production.

“Elis Owen, head of news and current affairs, was in charge — and HTV had a libel barrister on hand to make sure the script was safe.”

The programme was broadcast two weeks before Christmas 1996.

“By then the Welsh establishment had made sure the corridors of power in London were informed about what was coming,” said Paddy French.

“Dr Gwyn Jones — who could also see which way the wind was blowing — decided not to seek a second term as Governor.”

♦♦♦

THE REST is history.

Geraint Talfan Davies left BBC Wales at the end of 1999.

With a Labour government in power, and the Tory grip on the Welsh establishment broken, Menna Richards slipped effortlessly into his shoes…

♦♦♦

NOTE

1 The Rebecca Television investigation into Glas Cymru, the company that owns Welsh Water, was published as  The Great Welsh Water Robbery. It argues customers have seen few benefits while some of the executives who actually control the business have become millionaires …

♦♦♦

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SILENT TO THE GRAVE

December 16, 2013

rebecca_logo_04JUST AFTER the report of the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal was published in 2000, chairman Sir Ronald Waterhouse was told it was seriously flawed.

The retired High Court judge was informed by television journalist Paddy French of allegations that a key witness had been prevented from giving evidence before the Tribunal.

Sir Ronald insisted that the meeting with the journalist — and the correspondence that followed — remain a secret.

It was only with his death in May 2011 that the story of an extraordinary encounter can finally be told.

(This article was originally published in December 2012.)

SIR RONALD WATERHOUSE The retired High Court judge chaired the £14 million North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal. In 2000 he was told of serious allegations that the Tribunal had failed to do its job properly. Whatever he felt about those allegations, he took them to his grave ...

SIR RONALD WATERHOUSE
The retired High Court judge chaired the £14 million North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal. In 2000 he was told of serious allegations that the Tribunal had failed to do its job properly. Whatever he felt about those allegations, he took to his grave …

IN OCTOBER 2000 Sir Ronald Waterhouse agreed to meet Paddy French, then a journalist with the Wales This Week current affairs programme at HTV in Cardiff.

French had asked for an off-the-record briefing from the retired judge but did not specify the issues he wanted to talk about.

The meeting took place at Sir Ronald’s home in the village of Walford near Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire.

Sir Ronald agreed to the discussion, as he put it later, because he wanted “to ease your labours as far as possible in a friendly fashion by providing answers to any queries that you had that could be dealt with quickly.”

But French had not come for a friendly chat — instead over the course of the three-hour meeting he delivered a detailed critique of the work of the Tribunal.

The following year French sent Sir Ronald a long letter summarising the conversation.

Sir Ronald replied the next day.

This article is based on this correspondence.

"Dear Mr French, Thank you for your letter and for sending me the video, which I have watched with great interest ..."  The video was a copy of the 1997 Wales This Week programme that was censored by Tribunal staff. Illustration: Rebecca Television

“Dear Mr French, Thank you for your letter and for sending me the video, which I have watched with great interest …”
The video was a copy of the 1997 Wales This Week programme which was censored by Tribunal staff.
Illustration: Rebecca Television

French had attended the launch of the Tribunal’s report — “Lost in Care” — in February 2000 to report on the event for a Wales This Week special that was broadcast the same evening.

When he had time to read the 937 pages of the report in the days that followed, the television journalist realised a key witness had not been heard.

Three years earlier, when he was an independent television producer, French had been asked by Wales This Week to carry out a financial investigation into the affairs of the privately-owned Bryn Alyn Community in Wrexham.

Its owner John Allen had been gaoled in 1995 for six years for indecently assaulting six boys in his care.

In the course of the investigation, the team tracked down Des Frost, John Allen’s accountant and joint number two.

The story of Des Frost will be familiar to readers — it has already been told in greater detail in the article Silent Witness.

As well as information about the Community’s shambolic financial affairs, Frost also dropped a bombshell.

He told reporters he had reported allegations that John Allen had abused six boys at the home in 1980 — more than ten years before Allen was arrested.

“What he was saying was significant,” says French.

“If it was true and he had reported his suspicions, then Allen could have been brought to justice a full decade before he was gaoled.”

“And a high-profile trial in the early 1980s might have triggered a wider police inquiry.”

Frost had not been interviewed by the Tribunal, which had already begun hearing witnesses in public.

When the Tribunal learnt Wales This Week had interviewed Frost, lawyers threatened programme-makers with contempt proceedings if they broadcast any allegations.

The section of Des Frost’s interview dealing with these allegations was removed from the programme when it was broadcast in 1997.

But when Lost in Care was published in 2000, there was no mention of Des Frost and his allegations.

“I found the disappearance of Frost from the Tribunal  hard to believe,” says French.

Wales This Week had been prevented from telling viewers about the 1980 allegations because it would interfere with the Tribunal’s hearings.”

“We thought that the Tribunal warned us off telling viewers about the allegations because they intended to hear Frost’s evidence.”

“Yet Frost was never called.”

“One of the key conclusions of “Lost in Care” was that the North Wales Police could not be criticised for the way it had handled allegations of abuse.”

“But if Frost was telling the truth and he did report his suspicions, then that conclusion has to be suspect.”

“After the publication of Lost in Care in 2000, I suggested to the Wales This Week team that we should make a programme about Frost but there was little enthusiasm.”

“It was never openly stated, but the Waterhouse report had been a vindication of many of the programmes Wales This Week had made and there was little appetite in making a programme that undermined it.”

DES FROST The former children's home executive claimed he reported allegations of abuse against his boss more than a decade before detectives began to investigate.

DES FROST
The former children’s home executive claimed he reported allegations of abuse against his boss more than a decade before detectives began to investigate.

French began to investigate on his own account.

He spent many hours trawling through the transcripts of the Tribunal at the Cardiff offices of the Wales Office.

By the time he asked Sir Ronald for a meeting, his analysis of shortcomings had widened well beyond Frost and formed the basis of the series of articles that later became The Case of the Flawed Tribunal.

But Frost remained one of the major subjects of the meeting which took place between Sir Ronald and French in October 2000.

After French had laid out his account of Frost, Sir Ronald went out to make a pot of tea.

As the kettle was boiling, he came back and said he wanted to go on the record.

This is the account that French included in the five-page letter he later sent to Sir Ronald on 8 August 2001:

“Obviously our conversation was off the record — although you did go on the record to comment on the allegations made by Des Frost, accountant to the Bryn Alyn Community, that he had gone to the police in 1980.”

“Your position was that the inquiry had the local policeman’s statement: there was no indication Frost knew any more and that there was nothing he could add to the knowledge already gathered by the Tribunal team”.

Sir Ronald received this letter the next morning and his reply was posted that same day.

He was emphatic:

“I am afraid I must insist that the whole of this letter and our previous discussion shall remain confidential.”

"I am afraid

“I am afraid I must insist that the whole of this letter and our previous discussion shall remain confidential.”   Illustration: Rebecca Television

In his reply, Sir Ronald made no comment about going on the record.

“What is significant,” says French, “is that he didn’t deny making the remarks”.

“And it’s not surprising he didn’t want them published,” adds French.

“It was an inadequate response: Wales This Week had broadcast the fact that Des Frost had gone to the police and I am certain that Tribunal staff were well aware of it.”

♦♦♦

THE OTHER major topics of the conversation in October 2000 were Gordon Anglesea and freemasonry.

The background to the discussion is detailed in the articles The Trials of Gordon Anglesea and A Mason-Free Zone?.

Gordon Anglesea is the retired North Wales Police superintendent who was falsely accused of abusing children at the Bryn Estyn home near Wrexham by two newspapers, the magazine Private Eye and HTV in the early 1990s.

In 1994 he won a major libel action with the quartet — he agreed £375,000 in damages and the legal costs took the bill to over £3 million.

Gordon Anglesea had been questioned about suspected child abuse in the major police investigation which took place between 1991 and 1993.

When the Tribunal began its hearings in 1997, one of the most dramatic moments came when the barrister for the North Wales Police revealed that the file sent to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) included a recommendation that the former police officer should be prosecuted.

The CPS decided against prosecution.

GORDON ANGLESEA The retired police superintendent won a major libel case.

GORDON ANGLESEA
The retired police superintendent won a major libel case in the 1990s against media organisations who wrongly accused him of abusing young boys at the Bryn Estyn children’s home near Wrexham.
Photo: Rebecca Television

In his letter, Sir Ronald comments on this:

“It is correct that in relation to most individuals investigated the police did not make a recommendation to the CPS either way: the file of evidence was submitted without a recommendation in those cases.”

The defence in the libel action was unaware that North Wales Police had recommended prosecution.

Sir Ronald continues:

“I am not surprised that the police recommendation in respect of Anglesea did not emerge at the civil trial [i.e. the libel proceedings] and it seems to have been assumed that they had not recommended a prosecution.”

He then adds:

“If a sub-poena had been issued in respect of the relevant documents, Crown privilege would have been claimed (i.e. immunity from production) and it is highly doubtful whether the trial judge would have ordered that they should be produced because the issue before the jury was whether the defendants had proved that Anglesea was guilty of child abuse: to that issue the police recommendation was irrelevant in law and might well have prejudiced the jury against him.”

Gordon Anglesea is a freemason and there was a long discussion between French and Sir Ronald about the brotherhood, in particular the relationship between the police officer and the Grand Master of the North Wales Province, Lord Kenyon.

Sir Ronald’s attitude was summed up in his comment:

“I am rather sad now that you are pursuing tedious freemasons and the unhappy deceased Lord Kenyon.”

Sir Ronald said that he himself asked most of the questions about freemasonry — the barristers did not seem to be interested.

(Rebecca Television wrote to most of the leading barristers to ask if they were, or ever had been, freemasons.

None answered.)

One of the things that surprised French was that Sir Ronald was unaware that Lord Kenyon had his own masonic lodge, called Kenyon, based at his home in Gredington near Whitchurch.

Sir Ronald was also blissfully unaware that there was a police lodge in North Wales — Custodes Pacis, based in Llandudno.

French also told him the story of journalist Mark Brittain’s dealings in 1995 with Michael Argent, then chief constable of North Wales Police, over this lodge.

When Brittain met Argent, Argent denied the existence of a police lodge.

So Brittain sent him a photocopy of the lodge’s entry in the masonic yearbook.

Argent replies that, yes, Custodes Pacis does exist — but that the members are all long-retired officers.

Not so, counters Brittain, insisting there are serving members as well.

Argent now comes clean: there are four serving officers in the lodge.

In 1997 Brittain wrote to the clerk of the police authority, Leon Gibson, who was also chief executive of Anglesey County Council.

Gibson, who would not tell Rebecca Television if he is a freemason, replied to Brttain saying that the chief constable had been told by “colleagues” that the lodge did not exist.

In his letter to Sir Ronald, French said:

“You speculated that Argent’s denial may have been based on a desire to keep the existence of the lodge a secret from the Tribunal.’

French asks:

“Will you allow me to say so?”

On this, Sir Ronald was silent.

In his letter French also raises an anecdote that features in Lost In Care.

It was alleged that Kenyon had said he was determined that Gordon Anglesea would be promoted to Superintendent before his retirement.

LORD KENYON  Lloyd Tyrell-Kenyon, the fifth Baron Kenyon, was Grand Master of the Masonic Province of North Wales in the 1980s. The North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal was unaware that a masonic lodge met at his home or that he officiated over the opening of a police lodge in 1984.

LORD KENYON
Lloyd Tyrell-Kenyon, the fifth Baron Kenyon, was Grand Master of the Masonic Province of North Wales in the 1980s. The North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal was unaware that a masonic lodge met at his home or that he officiated over the opening of a police lodge in 1984.

This, the allegation went, was in return for Gordon Anglesea’s alleged light treatment of Kenyon’s son when he was in trouble with the police.

Police could find no evidence to support the allegation of preferential treatment of Kenyon’s son.

The Tribunal concluded that the story was a “malicious rumour.”

But there is evidence that Lord Kenyon did attend a police function and expressed surprise that Gordon Anglesea had not been promoted.

The Tribunal should have known about it because its own witness interviewing team had been to see the source of it — retired Police Federation official Harry Templeton.

But Templeton’s evidence was never heard by the Tribunal.

Once again, Sir Ronald was silent on this point when he replied, insisting that  he was “ … fully satisfied on the evidence available to me that neither freemasonry nor Lord Kenyon had any influence on the fate of Anglesea or anyone else in relation to child abuse.”

During the meeting with French, there was also a discussion about the role of Gerard Elias, QC as lead counsel for the Inquiry.

Elias is a member of one of the most powerful lodges in South Wales, Dinas Llandaf.

Sir Ronald did not accept that Elias was a prominent freemason:

“He is, of course, prominent in other respects but not as a freemason. He gave the Tribunal full details of his desultory membership and of his non-relationship with Gwilym Jones.”

Tory MP Gwilym Jones, also a member of Dinas Llandaf, was a Welsh Office minister when the Tribunal was established in 1996.

When Rebecca Television published The Case of the Flawed Tribunal in 2011 and 2012, the only comment carried from Sir Ronald was the one he insisted on in a later letter he wrote in April 2002:

“As far as I am concerned, I am content that you should say that you had put to me the substance of your research but that I had stated that the Tribunal had said all that it could properly say on the evidence before it in its report and that it would be both unwise and inappropriate for me to comment further.”

The Welsh Assembly Member met Sir Ronald Waterhouse at a function in 2006.

MARK ISHERWOOD
Welsh Assembly member Mark Isherwood met Sir Ronald Waterhouse at a function at the Welsh Senedd building in 2006: “He told me quite clearly that he now accepted that documentation had been withheld from the Tribunal which he chaired.” Photo: Mark Isherwood

French accepted the retired judge’s conditions.

“I agreed because I suspected he was the only person who could really help with this inquiry,” said French.

“I hoped that he would have made an entry in his diary or have left a detailed note for me after he died.”

“Sadly, when I contacted his widow after a decent interval had elapsed, she told me there was no such entry or note.”

Whatever he knew and whatever he felt, Sir Ronald Waterhouse took to the grave.

ragout_01

♦♦♦ 

© Rebecca Television 2012 & 2013

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ITV BID TO GAG REBECCA TELEVISION

September 1, 2013

rebecca_logo_04

A  MAJOR battle is taking place between the broadcasting giant ITV and Rebecca Television.

Lawyers acting for ITV have given Rebecca Television until today to remove from the website a controversial interview which the company suppressed ten years ago.

The interview was given by Ron Jones, chairman of the independent television production company Tinopolis.

Jones revealed the extraordinary background to the abrupt sacking of the company’s co-founder Rhodri Williams back in 2001.

Jones accused his former partner — now Wales Director of the broadcasting regulator Ofcom — of acting dishonestly.

The interview was first made public in our programme Hidden Agenda and the article A Man Of Conviction? published last year.

Lawyers are also insisting that even the information contained in the interview belongs to ITV and that none of it can be used.

This is censorship — and Rebecca Television will not accept it.

HIDDEN ONCE, HIDDEN TWICE, HIDDEN THREE TIMES The dramatic story behind Rhodri Williams' sudden departure from  the company he helped to found was suppressed in 2001, again in 2003 and now ITV want to hide it again.  Photo: Ofcom

HIDDEN ONCE, HIDDEN TWICE, HIDDEN THREE TIMES
The dramatic story behind Rhodri Williams’ sudden departure from the company he helped to found was kept secret in 2001, suppressed in 2003 and now ITV wants to bury it all over again…   Photo: Ofcom


ON JUNE 17 this year ITV wrote to Rebecca Television (RTV) giving the website seven days to remove all trace of a celebrated interview.

The company want the interview — with the independent producer Ron Jones — removed from the programme Hidden Agenda.

The interview took place in 2003.

It dramatically revealed how Rhodri Wiliams, the current Wales Director of the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom, came to be sacked from the production company Tinopolis in 2001.

Williams was dismissed for dishonesty after allegedly diverting business from Tinopolis — then called Agenda — to a competitor.

Williams denied acting dishonestly — he said at the time the allegation was “defamatory and libellous”.

The interview with Ron Jones was carried out by the ITV Wales current affairs programme Wales This Week in 2003.

At the time Rebecca Television editor Paddy French worked for ITV Wales and was the producer in charge of the proposed programme.

It was never broadcast.

Later in 2003 Rhodri Williams was appointed Wales Director of the broadcasting regulator Ofcom.

(The story of the suppression of the interview in 2003 is told in the article A Licence To Censor.)

In April 2012 Rebecca Television finally used the Ron Jones interview in the preparation of the programme Hidden Agenda and the article A Man Of Conviction?

More than a year later ITV lawyer John Berry said that ITV’s “attention had been drawn” to the use of the material.

“The video Hidden Agenda in particular includes and relies heavily upon previously unbroadcast footage filmed for Wales This Week and owned by ITV.”

“As you are no doubt aware, the making of a copy of a copyright work and the communication of such a work to the public without the permission of the copyright owner is contrary to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act of 1988.”

Berry demanded that ITV’s material be removed within seven days and noted “we reserve all rights, in particular our right to bring legal proceedings against you including but not limited to those relating to breach of confidence and infringement of copyright.”

The deadline was eventually extended to September 1.

On June 24 RTV editor Paddy French emailed a reply.

He pointed out that ITV Wales had never shown any interest in the Ron Jones interview.

(The tapes sat on his desk until he left the company in 2008 and took them with him.)

RON JONES ITV are goig to extraordinary efforts to remove Gave  an extraordinary interview to ITV Wales  in 2003

RON JONES
One of the founders of Tinopolis, the Llanelli-based television production company. He gave the interview in 2003 but it was nearly a decade before it entered the public domain.  Photo: Tinopolis

He stated: “there is as powerful a public interest in this material seeing the light of day today as there was when it was filmed.”

“There is an argument that this material was censored back in 2003 and that … this present attempt to remove this material leaves the company vulnerable to the accusation that it is acting as censor.”

♦♦♦ 

ITV did not respond to this email. 

On July 2 French emailed ITV again.

This time he pointed out that, although ITV was concentrating on removing the material relating to Rhodri Williams, there was other ITV copyright material on the Rebecca Television website.

This included part of another interview which had never seen the light of day until RTV included it in the programme A Touch of Frost.

This video, which was first published  in April 2011, includes part of an ITV interview with a man called Des Frost.

“A key part of his testimony was not included in a 1997 Wales This Week programme because the Waterhouse child abuse Tribunal threatened contempt proceedings if it was broadcast.”

But the Tribunal did not call Frost as a witness and never heard his claims that he reported child abuse to the police ten years before they began investigating.

Paddy French had worked on this 1997 programme as a freelance investigator.

“There was no objection to the use of this footage by ITV Wales … in 2011.”

A Touch of Frost took on a dramatic significance last November when the BBC programme Newsnight allowed Stephen Messham to falsely imply that Lord McAlpine was a paedophile.

This led to the government ordering a new police investigation and a review, headed by Mrs Justice Macur, into the way the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal chaired by Sir Ronald Waterhouse had carried out its task.

French added: “I immediately alerted ITV Wales to the fact that the company held what was now highly significant archive material. This resulted in a new Wales This Week programme which went out last November.”

“As part of this process I was able to reveal that I had met Sir Ronald Waterhouse back in 2000 to discuss the Frost material. This gave ITV Wales several exclusive stories.”

“I say all this,” French went on, “to emphasise the mutuality of the relationship between ITV and RTV.”

“Without my knowledge, ITV Wales would have missed the fact that they held valuable archive while my long-term interest in the issue proved invaluable to the station.”

“In conclusion, I would say that this is a highly unusual position.”

“For ten years I was a conscientious employee of ITV Wales and since I have left my expertise has come in useful on several occasions …”

“I believe that an agreement whereby I am allowed to use the ITV Wales material for a nominal £1 payment would satisfy the company’s interests.”

♦♦♦ 

Again, ITV did not reply.

Instead, the company instructed the London solicitors Olswang to take up the issue.

On July 30 the firm wrote to RTV, dismissing the suggestion that ITV allow the use of the material for a nominal £1.

“ITV has not and will not in the future provide you with permission to use the ITV property …”

Olswang also dismissed the public interest argument: “there is clearly no public interest in broadcasting material which you have obtained without consent from our client and which raises no current issue of public importance.”

“In fact, it is apparent from an article featuring on the website entitled A Licence To Censor, which states that you and Rhodri Williams fell out in the 1980s, that rather than you being motivated by public interest concerns, you in fact have personal motivations for wanting the ITV property relating to Rhodri Williams to be published.”

(French denies this — see the discussion of the issue in the article A Licence To Censor.)

MYSTERY Rhodri Williams started his public career in 1996 when he was appointed a member of the Welsh Language Board. In the period 1996-2004 he would take home a total of more than £180,000 in fees and pension contributions. Photo: Rebecca

Mr REGULATOR
Rhodri Williams leads the Welsh arm of the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom. He’s a well-connected man: his wife Siân’s best friend is former Labour AM Delyth Evans who is the partner of Ofcom boss Ed Richards. Both Evans and Richards once worked for Gordon Brown.  Photo: Rebecca Television

Olwang added: “Your claims that ITV is acting as a censor are also without foundation, as ITV is simply trying to protect its rights in the unbroadcast ITV property.”

The firm has now demanded that all other ITV material be removed from the RTV site.

♦♦♦ 

THE UPSHOT of this legal wrangling is that Rebecca Television has no choice but to remove the physical ITV material from the website.

“There is, and never was, any doubt that ITV owned the copyright to the material,” says Paddy French.

“I had hoped the company would turn a blind eye because it was embarrassed that it had never broadcast some of the material.”

“For several years, this is what seems to have happened.”

“Now, for reasons that are unclear, it has decided to act.”

“It is interesting that ITV’s main interest is in the Ron Jones interview that damages the reputation of the Ofcom Wales Director Rhodri Williams.”

This means that the programmes Hidden Agenda and A Touch Of Frost have been temporarily withdrawn for re-editing.

Other material has also been removed, including the well-known doorstep where former Anglesey County Councillor John Arthur Jones called Paddy French a paedophile.

Originally, this appeared in the article The Gospel According to “Jesus” Arthur Jones.

♦♦♦ 

But that’s not the end of the matter.

Olswang also insist that “ITV is also the owner of the confidential information in the unbroadcast ITV property…”

The use of this information “is clearly a breach of confidence.”

“The article entitled A Man Of Conviction? which is based on and quotes from the Ron Jones interview should therefore also be removed from the website.”

“This is unacceptable to Rebecca Television,” said French.

“It’s a clear attempt to censor information already in the public domain — and which belongs in the public domain.”

Rebecca Television will not be complying with this condition.”

“The fact that the company is making such a determined effort to remove all trace of the Ron Jones interview suggests that other, deeper forces may be at work here,” added French.

This is not the first time RTV has faced legal demands for the withdrawal of articles.

In July three senior Welsh Rugby Union figures — chairman David Pickering, chief executive Roger Lewis and communications chief John Williams — instructed solicitors to threaten legal action if the article A Licence To Censor was not taken down.

The article told the story of the censorship of a damaging business profile of Pickering back in 2006 by ITV Wales director of programmes Elis Owen.

In the article WRU Big Guns v Rebecca Television, RTV refused to axe the article.

So far, we have heard nothing from Pickering, Lewis, Williams or their solicitors.

♦♦♦ 

© Rebecca Television 2013

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

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COMING UP

With two television programmes temporarily withdrawn for re-editing, Rebecca Television will shortly publish the next video — Brothers in the Shadows. It’s a dark tale of a vicious murderer in North Wales who groomed a vulnerable young girl and formed a paedophile ring to sexually exploit her. One ring member was a retired police detective who claims he was persuaded to join the gang by a fellow freemason…  


WRU BIG GUNS v REBECCA TELEVISION

July 22, 2013

rebecca_6aTWO OF Welsh rugby’s most senior figures have accused Rebecca Television of defamation.

Lawyers acting for WRU chairman David Pickering and chief executive Roger Lewis claim an investigation into censorship at ITV Wales libelled them.

They say the article accuses them of acting to prevent a documentary about Pickering’s financial affairs from being broadcast back in 2006.

They demand a retraction and an unreserved apology.

Rebecca Television rejects these allegations. There will be no apology.

DAVID PICKERING The WRU chairman instructed solicitors to take action against Rebecca television.as chairman of the WRU

DAVID PICKERING
The WRU chairman has instructed solicitors to take action against Rebecca Television. Photo: PA

MORE THAN a year after it was first published, WRU officials David Pickering and Roger Lewis have finally responded to the Rebecca Television article A Licence To Censor.

Along with the WRU’s communications chief John Williams, they have instructed solicitors to take action against the website.

In a four page letter, the Cardiff law-firm Hugh James say the three men consider the entire article to be defamatory.

The article revealed that an ITV Wales This Week programme into the personal financial affairs of WRU chairman David Pickering was axed in May 2006 on the orders of then programme controller Elis Owen.

At the time Roger Lewis was ITV Wales’ managing director and John Williams was head of news.

Lewis was appointed chief executive of the WRU in September 2006.

Williams became head of communications at the Union in December 2006.

Hugh James now claim that A Licence To Censor also means “there were strong grounds to suspect that Mr Pickering caused ITV Wales to censor the channel’s planned coverage of his financial affairs …”.

Their letter also states that the investigation also means that “there were strong grounds to suspect that Mr Lewis and Mr Williams together helped to suppress the Pickering programme on a corrupt basis” partly because “each man either had obtained or hoped to obtain senior and lucrative employment with the WRU.”

“Our clients require you to withdraw these allegations and to apologise for them unreservedly …”

In his reply, sent to Hugh James today, Rebecca Television editor Paddy French rejected the claims — and declined to offer an apology.

“The article A Licence To Censor was a forceful indictment of censorship at ITV Wales in 2006,” wrote French, “but it criticised only one individual — Elis Owen.”

“And, while it condemned him for censoring a Wales This Week programme — for which I was the producer — it was quite specific about what he’d done wrong.”

“At the time I directly accused Owen of ‘noble cause corruption’ — censoring the programme for what he thought was the morally justifiable reason of protecting the commercial interests of ITV Wales.”

“There was no question that he acted to advance his own personal interests. And there was no suggestion that he acted as a result of pressure from anyone else.”

“The article also makes it clear that Roger Lewis rang Bruce Kennedy, the executive in charge of Wales This Week, to make it clear he was not interfering in the editorial process.”

ROGER LEWIS Was the Managing Director of ITV Wales when the Pickering programme was axed. There's no evidence he was involved in the decision. Photo: PA.

ROGER LEWIS
The WRU’s chief executive has also instructed solicitors to take action against Rebecca Television. Photo: PA

“It follows that, if Elis Owen acted alone and Roger Lewis took no part in the proceedings, that David Pickering can have had no say in the fate of the programme.”

“Consequently, the article cannot carry the meaning that Pickering, Lewis and Williams suggest.”

“As a result, Rebecca Television has no need to apologise to the three men.”

♦♦♦

DAVID PICKERING also claimed that the article defamed him by saying he was in “financial disarray”.

Rebecca Television accepts the article makes this claim but believes it is factually accurate.

Pickering had two county court judgments against him and many of the companies he was involved with had gone bust owing millions of pounds in unpaid VAT and tax.

Pickering’s lawyers also dispute that Pickering misled the media over the true state of his business activities.

They seize on one passage in A Licence To Censor.

The article contains these three paragraphs:

“Thirteen months later, in July 2005, another five companies went under with debts of nearly £5 million.”  

“This time Pickering told the Western Mail that “the great majority of the money was owed to associated companies and not third parties.”   

“This was untrue. The five companies owed £2.8 million in unpaid tax and VAT.”

This summary is misleading — and conceals a more complicated picture.

Pickering’s comment was made in May 2006 in an article about the failure of a surviving company called R & R Group to submit accounts on time.

Pickering said that although the company “had a substantial deficit, the great majority of the money owed was to associated companies, and not third parties.”

However, Pickering did not acknowledge that part of R & R Group’s problems were caused by difficulties at its subsidiaries.

Two of these R & R Group subsidiaries had gone bust in June 2004 with massive losses.

They had chalked up combined debts of nearly £3 million of which close to £1.4 million was accounted for in unpaid VAT and tax.

In July 2004, in a Western Mail article about the failure of other companies to file accounts on time, Pickering  stated: “I’m involved in eight or nine companies and all of them are up and running.”

“They are all in different cycles, but there are no problems.”

A year later five of these companies went under with debts of nearly £5 million of which unpaid tax and VAT accounted for £2.8 million.

Rebecca Television will revise this passage of A Licence To Censor to make it clearer” French wrote to Pickering’s solicitors, “but we stand by the claim that he did not give an accurate picture of his financial affairs to the media.”

♦♦♦

ANOTHER extraordinary claim made by lawyers acting for the three men is that the proposed 2006 Wales This Week programme was not editorially sound.

They insist “there was a consensus that it lacked interest and importance”.

The “information about Mr Pickering’s financial affairs was largely old news …” and “there was no evidence of any wrongdoing by him”.

A Licence To Censor does not accuse Pickering of any wrongdoing,” French told the lawyers, “but the claim that the information about his financial affairs was largely old news is nonsense.

“ITV’s chief news reporter Andy Collinson and the man in charge of Wales This Week, Bruce Kennedy — as well as myself — were all convinced it was a valid programme.”

“The crashes of 2004 and 2005 were not reported by national media in Wales and Andy Collinson’s discovery of the substantial county judgments was totally unknown.”

“The poor state of the remaining companies was not generally appreciated.”

The lawyers also say that John Williams now denies that he ever changed his mind about the programme.

A Licence To Censor stated that Williams, who was head of news at the time, had been persuaded by the Wales This Week analysis of Pickering’s plight:

“At the end of the presentation, John Williams — who had not been sure there was a story up to that point — said he was convinced.”
 

“He was shocked at the amount of money Pickering’s companies had lost and he was happy to run a news item on the Friday.”

In April 2012 Rebecca Television sent John Williams an outline of the article.

It included these words: “JW [John Williams] said he was convinced now: he had no idea the debts were so great …”

He did not respond to this email.

When the article was published later that month, he did not take advantage of the Rebecca Television “right of reply” and “corrections” facilities.

Again, the original article will be amended to include his denial.

The article will also be amended to take account of other points made by the three men.

They do not affect the overall thrust of the article.

Rebecca Television stands by it.

♦♦♦ 

© Rebecca Television 2013

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — we’ll correct as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the investigative work of this website, you can make a donation to our bank account: Rebecca Television — sort code: 40-16-15,  account number 22819236.


A LICENCE TO CENSOR

June 24, 2013

rebecca_6aTHE CURRENT line-up of the top brass at the Welsh Rugby Union was decided seven years ago.

Former Welsh international David Pickering succeeded in winning a vote of no confidence in his chairmanship in 2006. He’s still chairman today.

But was his survival due to the censorship of a potentially damaging television programme?

A Rebecca Television investigation — much of it based on the personal experience of editor Paddy French — shows that censorship is alive and well in Welsh broadcasting.

DAVID PICKERING The former Welsh international survived as chairman of the WRU

DAVID PICKERING
Chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union. He took the chair in 2003 but by 2006 was facing a serious challenge from critics. Photo: PA

IN APRIL 2006 ITV Wales’ chief news reporter Andy Collinson was tipped off that a senior figure in Welsh rugby was in trouble.

Collinson was told former international player and Welsh Rugby Union chairman David Pickering was in financial difficulty — judgments had been obtained against him for the recovery of debts.

It was a sensitive time for Pickering and the Union. The latest accounts painted a rosy picture of the Union’s finances but critics were claiming the books had been fixed.

A special general meeting of the Union had been scheduled.

Collinson went to see a colleague working for Wales This Week, the station’s current affairs programme. He asked producer Paddy French if there was a way to confirm that these judgments existed.

French — now Editor of Rebecca Television — told him that if the debts were personal, judgements would be kept by the Registry of County Court Judgments in London. For a small fee, it was possible to search for decisions against any person in England and Wales.

French also suggested that, while he was doing these searches, he should include the companies in which Pickering had an interest.

At the same time, Wales This Week would carry out a financial analysis of Pickering’s companies. Most of these were engineering companies involved in the Welsh steel industry.

By early May, the results of both searches were in.

Pickering had two judgments against him. At Northampton County Court he had been ordered to pay a debt of £1,992 in September 2004. In March 2006 Southampton County Court ordered him to repay credit card debts of £17,699 — to Lloyds Bank.

French’s analysis of the clutch of engineering businesses in which Pickering was involved found they were also in trouble.

In June 2004 two of these companies had gone bust to the tune of £3 million — with £1 million owed to the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise.

At the time Pickering told the Western Mail that the rest of his activities were sound: “I’m involved with eight or nine companies … there are no problems.”

Thirteen months later, in July 2005, another five companies went under with debts of nearly £5 million.

This time Pickering told the Western Mail that “the great majority of the money was owed to associated companies and not third parties.”

This was untrue. The five companies owed £2.8 million in unpaid tax and VAT.

Port Talbot haulier Ian Gorvett lost £50,000. He had also lost money in the crash the year before but had agreed to help the resurrected business.

Another major creditor was Barclays Bank which lost half a million pounds. Ironically, Barclays were the bankers to the WRU.

The 2005 crash left Pickering with stakes in six companies. But they were struggling — between them they had chalked up losses of £750,000.

Two of these firms had been warned by Companies House for failing to file accounts. Another two companies had been taken to court and ordered to pay debts of more than £15,000.

The position was that a group of companies in which the  chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union was involved, were teetering on the brink of insolvency.

Collinson and the Wales This Week team discussed how to handle what was fast becoming an explosive story.

The obvious “peg” for the coverage was the special general meeting of the WRU on May 14 to discuss its financial position and to vote on the motion of no-confidence in David Pickering.

It was agreed that the best plan of action was for Collinson to report on the general position on the Friday night before the meeting — with Wales This Week exploring Pickering’s finances in detail in its programme on Monday, May 16.

Bruce Kennedy, Head of Factual Programmes and in charge of Wales This Week, made it clear he would have to consult Director of Programmes Elis Owen.

ITV Wales held the exclusive contract to broadcast the forthcoming Rugby World Cup to be held in Cardiff and the planned coverage of Pickering’s business affairs would strain relations to the limit.

In the week before the special meeting of the WRU, Elis Owen called a meeting to discuss the issue.

Also present were John Williams, editor of the main evening news programme, and his chief reporter Andy Collinson. Wales This Week was represented by Bruce Kennedy and Paddy French.

ELIS OWEN  The Head of Programmes at ITV Wales refused to allow the damaging programme about David Pickering to proceed.

ELIS OWEN
The Director of Programmes at ITV Wales refused to allow the damaging programme about David Pickering to proceed. Photo: BBC Wales

French gave a brief outline of the research that had been done. He had also come up with a device to simplify the financial aspects of the story.

The Wales This Week programme would portray Pickering’s businesses as a team of fifteen players.

Some of these would be given red cards because they had gone bust. Those that were losing money would be shown as injured. Those that had been ordered to pay debts or had been warned by Companies House would be sin-binned.

At the end of the presentation, John Williams — who had not been sure there was a story up to that point — said he was convinced. He was shocked at the amount of money Pickering’s companies had lost and he was happy to run a news item on the Friday.

There was general agreement that the programme was editorially sound.

Even so, Elis Owen made it clear that if the investigation did not lead to the resignation of David Pickering, then ITV Wales’ relationship with the WRU would be severely strained.

ITV Wales, he added, needed the co-operation of the union to fully exploit the channel’s exclusive rights to the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

The Wales This Week team began preparing the programme with the editing process planned to take place over the weekend.

On Friday, 12 May Elis Owen called another meeting, this time with Bruce Kennedy, Andy Collinson and Paddy French.

He said he did not want the programme to go out as planned on May 15. Bruce Kennedy and Paddy French made it clear they did not agree. Owen would not be budged

John Williams also called off the planned item for that evening’s Wales Tonight news programme.

Bruce Kennedy said that he’d been called by ITV Wales’ managing director Roger Lewis to say that he had been contacted by David Pickering. Lewis made it clear to Kennedy that he was not interfering in how the story was to be handled.

On the Sunday David Pickering survived the vote of no confidence at the special general meeting.

Later, Bruce Kennedy tried to get the aborted Wales This Week programme back on the schedules.

On 1 June 2006 another discussion took place in Elis Owen’s office about the future of this programme. Owen said he still had editorial reservations about the story.

Bruce Kennedy pointed out that he had expressed no such reservations at the earlier meeting. Owen insisted that there were no ordinary victims of the collapse of Pickering’s companies.

Bruce Kennedy cited the example of Port Talbot haulier Ian Gorvett who had twice lost money in the collapse of companies owned by Pickering. He had already been interviewed by Wales This Week.

But Owen was adamant — there would be no programme. Paddy French was clear: “What’s happening here is censorship.

French continued: “I think this is noble cause corruption — you are doing the wrong thing for what you believe are the right reasons.”

Elis Owen was furious at this remark. “Are you calling me corrupt?” French did not withdraw the remark. The meeting ended — the Wales This Week programme was never broadcast.

On September 9 the WRU appointed a new group chief executive — Roger Lewis, the MD at ITV Wales.

The post had been vacant since the resignation of David Moffett the previous year. After Moffett’s departure, the WRU said the post was no longer needed.

ROGER LEWIS Was the Managing Director of ITV Wales when the Pickering programme was axed. There's no evidence he was involved in the decision. Photo: PA.

ROGER LEWIS
Managing Director of ITV Wales when the Pickering programme was axed. There’s no evidence he was involved in the decision. Photo: PA

The decision to appoint a new group executive had been taken just before the May 14 special general meeting.

Elis Owen stepped into Lewis’ shoes as managing director of ITV Wales.

On December 20, the WRU also appointed a new head of communications — John Williams, the former Head of News at ITV Wales.

In 2011 Roger Lewis’ remuneration package was worth £320,000 — David Pickering was paid £35,000.

Rebecca Television asked all the participants to comment on the allegations made in this article.

Elis Owen, who had left ITV Wales in 2009 and joined BBC Wales as Head of Commissioning, didn’t reply.

David Pickering, Roger Lewis and John Williams didn’t reply.

ITV Wales said: “The story covers events a number of years ago and refers to individuals who no longer work for ITV. In the circumstances we don’t think it appropriate to comment.”

Bruce Kennedy was in no doubt that the programme should have gone ahead:

“Journalistically the story was sound. The WRU chairman is, at least in part, responsible for the proper running of a huge financial empire, the success of which is fundamental to Welsh life.”

“I felt therefore that an investigation into the commercial /  financial acumen of an individual who was endeavouring to hang on to that post was entirely justifiable; was a matter of considerable public interest and was absolutely in the tradition of the best of Wales This Week. It was also a highly topical programme.”

♦♦♦

THREE YEARS earlier, in 2003, another powerful programme failed to see the light of day.

It concerned Welsh Language Board chairman Rhodri Williams and the reason why he’d abruptly left the TV production company Agenda in 2001. He had been one of its founders back in 1980.

The full story of Williams’ career is told in the television programme Hidden Agenda and the article A Man of Conviction?

In September 2001 Williams was dismissed by Agenda. At the time Ron Jones, the accountant who had set up Agenda with Rhodri Williams, would not comment on the reasons for the departure.

But in May 2003 Williams went to work for the Avanti group owned by Emyr Afan and his wife Mair.

At the time Avanti was flying high. It made its money from programmes on the thriving Welsh music scene.

In September 2000 Tom Jones opened a new studio complex in an old lemonade factory at Porth in the Rhondda — called the Pop Factory. Instead of a fee, he took a one per cent stake in the business.

TOM JONES

TOM JONES
The star took a one per cent stake in Avanti when he agreed to open the group’s headquarters near Pontypridd. Photo: PA

Emyr and Mair Afan were also moving up in the world. In August 2001 they had sold their home in Cardiff’s Rhiwbina district for £215,000.

The same day they bought a new house in the Cyncoed area of the city for £550,000.

The following year Avanti was named Welsh Innovation and Entrepreneurial Company. Afan’s wife, Mair, had earlier been voted top woman in Welsh media.

All was not plain sailing, however. Avanti blamed a series of county court judgments between 1998 and 2002 on administrative problems.

But Avanti hit the headlines in 2003 over a highly controversial £4 million grant from the higher education quango ELWa.

The money was given to fund a novel training scheme called the Pop Café. Young unemployed people who would not consider further education would be enticed into media training via a specially-created café environment.

But the scheme broke rules and was criticised by the Wales Audit Office. Avanti eventually returned about half the money — but the Welsh Assembly Government got nothing for the £2 million that Avanti was allowed to keep.

A month after Williams’ decision to join Avanti, Ron Jones decided to speak out about the reasons he’d been sacked in 2001

The proposed programme was discussed at a Wales This Week editorial meeting in May 2003. Producer Paddy French declared an interest: he and Rhodri Williams had fallen out in the late 1980s.

(In 1988 a critical but inaccurate profile of French had appeared in the magazine Golwg. French believed the source of the information — and misinformation — was Rhodri Williams.

At the time French and Rhodri Williams’ wife Siân Helen worked for the co-operative Gwasg Rydd which produced the TV guide Sbec for S4C. There had been a disagreement over a redesign of the guide: French wanted an outside firm while Siân Helen thought she could do the work herself.

Williams denied he was involved in the article. “I did not write it and have no comment to make on it,” he said.

French was saddened by the Golwg piece: “I could not believe that someone I had taught could be party to a piece of work that went against everything I stood for. I felt that everything Rebecca stood for had been betrayed.”)

The proposed Wales This Week programme stayed on the schedules and in June 2003 French interviewed Ron Jones at Agenda’s headquarters in Llanelli. By that time the company had changed its name to Tinopolis.

During the interview Ron Jones, said of Rhodri  Williams and quangos: “I think we allow them into the hands of people whose honesty can be so easily questioned at our peril.”

French said: “Because of the history between Rhodri Williams and myself I did not feel I could morally press for the programme to be made.”

“I made the situation clear to the people in charge of the programme. I would not have objected if they had decided to give the project to another producer”.

“However, I was in no doubt that the programme was a strong one and was it was in the public interest that it should go ahead.”

“That did not happen. In fact, nothing happened at all. Week after week, month after month the interview with Ron Jones  stayed on the shelf. It never saw the light of day — until it appeared in the Hidden Agenda programme on the Rebecca Television website.

In December 2003 Rhodri Williams was appointed Wales Director of the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom.

NOTES

1  This article was first published in April 2012 on the original Rebecca Television website.

♦♦♦ 

© Rebecca Television 2013

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

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