Leveson Inquiry: Summary of week one
- 18 November 2011
- From the section UK
The judge-led inquiry into the "culture, practices and ethics of the media" opened at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Monday.
Inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson said in his opening remarks that he regarded the freedom of the press as fundamental in a democracy. He said the inquiry would be about "who guards the guardians".
During its first three days, the inquiry heard from representatives of the "core participants" in the inquiry. The group includes news organisations, alleged victims of press intrusion, the Metropolitan Police and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).
David Sherborne outlined to the inquiry how alleged media intrusion had impacted on some of the 51 victims he represented. Mr Sherborne told of the "euphoria" felt by Milly Dowler's mother when she discovered her missing daughter's voicemail had been accessed. He said the phone of Sara Payne - whose daughter Sarah was murdered - had also probably been hacked and that the private diary of Kate McCann - mother of missing girl Madeleine - was published when her husband had not even seen it.
Mr Sherborne said that a Nazi-themed News of the World (NoW) story about ex-Formula One boss Max Mosley attending an orgy was "a preconceived story for which they needed the facts to fit" and that a NoW story of singer Charlotte Church's father having an affair came from phone hacking and almost led to her mother's suicide.
The media's current system of self-regulation was discussed by many of those appearing. Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and representatives of News International and Associated Newspapers were among those backing the retention and strengthening of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC). But a lawyer for Northern and Shell, which owns the Daily Express and Star newspapers and has opted out of the PCC scheme, said the inquiry should consider examples of voluntary regulation of the press elsewhere in the world.
Meanwhile, Mr Sherborne likened self-regulation to handing police stations to the mafia while NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said the PCC was akin to a gentlemen's club controlled by media proprietors.
Counsel to the inquiry Robert Jay QC said that notebooks belonging to private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed in 2007 for phone hacking for the NoW, and seized by police suggested that 28 journalists at the newspaper could have made requests to him.
News International's lawyer Rhodri Davies QC disputed this, saying that Mulcaire's notes potentially pointed to just five journalists and Neil Garnham QC, representing the Metropolitan Police, later said police could not confirm that all 28 people referred to in the notebooks had worked for NoW.
On Monday, Milly Dowler's parents Sally and Bob Dowler will be the first to give evidence.
Other witnesses next week will include celebrities Hugh Grant, Sienna Miller and JK Rowling as well as crime victim family members, journalists and lawyers.
Transcripts of the hearings are available on the Leveson Inquiry website.