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News: Leveson Inquiry – Evidence, Weeks 1 and 2 – a crash course on the ways of the tabloids

Over the past two weeks the Leveson Inquiry has heard seven days of evidence from a remarkable range of witnesses.  Twenty were “victims” – of phone hacking, media intrusion or both.  Of these nine were “celebrities” – such as Hugh Grant, Sienna Miller and JK Rowling. Eleven were “ordinary” victims – individuals who were not in the public eye before press intrusion or hacking began – these included the Dowlers, the McCanns, the Watsons and Chris Jeffries. 

There were also three lawyers – two of them (Graham Shear and Mark Lewis) phone hacking and press misconduct victims themselves.  There were  journalists and investigators – Nick Davies, Richard Peppiatt and the remarkable Paul McMullan.  And then there was Alastair Campbell.

Lord Justice Leveson – who does not appear to spend his very limited leisure reading newspapers – has been provided with a crash course on the ways of the tabloids.  There has, so far, been little about the failings of the broadsheets – why, for example, they gave the City of London such an easy ride before 2008.  It is be hoped that this topic will not get entirely lost in the land of hacked telephones and paparazzi scrums.  Nevertheless, at the “tabloid end”, there has been a clear picture presented of an unregulated industry out of control.  Many opinions have been offered about what should be done – with a wide consensus favouring tougher regulation but without any clear view as to how it might done.

The evidence was widely covered in the press.  For the first week, Journalisted noted 339 articles (including evidence given by Hugh Grant, 120 articles and Bob and Sally Dowler, 106 articles).   In this post we will provide only a brief summary of what has taken place.  We have already posted on the opening of the victims’ evidence – Day 1, the Dowlers, Smith, Shear and Grant and Days 2 and 3, from Mary Ellen-Field to the McCanns.

On the last day of the first week, Day 4, the Inquiry heard from five witnesses.  The first witness was a victim of phone hacking – an anonymous individual known as HJK, whose evidence was heard in private.  His witness statement is on the Inquiry website.  His evidence was followed by that of Sienna Miller and Max Mosley.  Their evidence can be seen on the Inquiry website.  In addition, evidence was given by solicitor, Mark Thomson.

On Monday 28 November 2011, Day 5, evidence was heard from Christopher Jeffries, Ian Hurst, Jane Winter, Charlotte Church and Anne Diamond.  Their evidence can be seen on the Inquiry Website for the morning and the afternoon of that day.

The evidence on Tuesday 29 November 2011, Day 6, began with former “Daily Star” reporter, Richard Peppiatt.  He gave his views on the PCC, spoke of his experience as a tabloid reporter and apologised for not having left his position on the Daily Star earlier.  Some highlights of his evidence can be found on the “Hacked Off” website.

He was followed by “Guardian” journalist Nick Davies. He told the Inquiry about his book, Flat Earth News, refused to reveal his sources on his claim that the Daily Mail, as other newspapers did, paid police officers and civil servants for information, and said self-regulation hasn’t worked for the industry.  Highlights of his evidence can be found on the “Hacked Off” website.

The afternoon was largely devoted to the extraordinary evidence of former “News of the World” journalist Paul McMullan.  He provided a handy summary of a certain kind of tabloid journalists view of life, coining the quote of the Inquiry so far – “privacy is for paedos“.

In 21 years of invading people’s privacy I’ve never actually come across anyone who’s been doing any good. The only people I think need privacy are people who do bad things. Privacy is the space bad people need to do bad things in. Privacy is particularly good for paedophiles, and if you keep that in mind, privacy is for paedos, fundamental, no one else needs it, privacy is evil“.

He also had a clear view of the “public interest”

“I mean, circulation defines what is the public interest. I see no distinction between what the public is interested in the public interest. Surely they’re clever enough to make a decision whether or not they want to put their hand in their pocket and bring out a pound and buy it. I don’t see it’s the job — our job or anybody else to force the public to be able to choose that you must read this, you can’t read that.

Some more “highlights” of his evidence can be found on the “Hacked Off” website.

The morning of Wednesday 30 November 2011, Day 7, was devoted to the evidence of former “spin doctor” (and journalist), Alastair Campbell.  He talked about his experiences of the British press – professionally and personally, Carole Caplin’s suspicion of phone hacking and the PCC.  He said that the PCC

operated sort of like a gentlemen’s club. “Let’s see how we can fix this and keep that quiet and calm this down” and the editors, who are on the Editors’ Code Committee, they may not be sitting in judgment on individual cases, but they have huge power within the organisation, and in my view, in the body that replaces the PCC, there should be no live current media representatives involved in it at all.”

Highlights of his evidence can be found on the Hacked Off website.

That afternoon the Inquiry heard evidence from former ICO investigator Alec Owens – who produced a statement and a supplementary statement.  He talked about obtaining his own personal working copy of the Operation Motorman database and the ICO’s refusal to pursue newspapers over the illegal purchase of confidential information.  Some “highlights” of his evidence can be found on the “Hacked Off” website.

Finally, supplemental evidence was provided by lawyer Mark Lewis – concerning the activities of the “News of the World” lawyers in commissioning investigators to follow and video his family.

On Friday 2 December 2011 there was be a private hearing at which core participants made submissions on the directions to be given as to the future conduct of the Inquiry.

The witnesses giving evidence on Monday 5 December are: Francis Aldhouse (ex-Information Commissioner’s Office), Peter Burden (author of a book about the “News of the World”) and further evidence from Alex Owens (ex-Information Commissioner’s Office).  A witness list for the forthcoming week can be found here.

1 Comment

  1. Elaine Decoulos

    Why did the Core Participants have a PRIVATE hearing on Friday, the 2nd December? Is this allowed under The Inquiries Act 2005 when no state secrets are discussed?

    Seems to contradict Lord Justice Leveson’s promises of transparency and claims of there being no bright line between Core Participants and those who are not.

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