IT WAS encouraging to see Lucy Panton at the Leveson Inquiry yesterday smartly refuting claims that her hospitality could be corrupting.
For the record, I signed off Lucy Panton’s expenses for two years.
They were far from profligate. Unlike lawyers, policemen tend to prefer beer to champagne.
And she never requested, hinted or implied that she needed to pay a policeman.
A first rate crime reporter. She will be back and the sooner the better. And when she is, I’ll be among the first to buy her a drink.
The inquiry seems bizarrely obsessed with journalists drinking with policemen.
This is the way it works gentlemen.
Drinking is what policemen do when they aren’t catching criminals.
Drinking is what journalists do when they aren’t writing stories.
Drinking is what crime journalists do when they aren’t drinking with policemen.
So don't be surprised to learn that crime reporters and police officers drink together. They've been doing it for 150 years.
I’m astonished that anyone can be astonished.
Least of all anyone from the Leveson Inquiry.
If anyone from that inquiry bothered to stroll 100 yards from the High Court in the Strand to El Vino's in Fleet Street, they will see policemen and journalists engaging in lively badinage over a drink every weekday afternoon and evening.
But they will also notice that both professions are vastly outnumbered by members of the legal profession who flock there en masse to imbibe with reporters and impress upon them the “importance” of their latest case.
And that’s when the champagne really flows. All paid for and expensed by the Inns of Court.
So let’s not get too sanctimonious gentlemen. That’s the way crime reporting works.
And that’s the way your lot works too. I've witnessed you in action for 25 years.
And providing brown envelopes don’t change hands, I’m not convinced anyone cares.
Although I have to say, I’ve had far more requests for a 'bung' from the legal profession than from the police.
I couldn't begin to count the number of times I've left that establishment with some cash hungry barrister reminding me to pay him, "My usual fee of course old boy", for promoting his latest case.
Nothing like brown envelopes marked, "Double Bubble" for our bewigged friends.
The relationship between the Press and the Inns of Court is one characterised by barristers' greed and self-aggrandisement, Lord Justice Leveson.
Would you care to make this Module 5?
Somehow, I doubt it.
* PS - My lawyer Henri Brandman of Henri Brandman and Co is teetotal and can only be bribed with Licorice Allsorts.