Leveson Inquiry: Mark Lewis says hacking wider than NoW
- 23 November 2011
- From the section UK
Phone hacking was more widespread than just the News of the World, lawyer Mark Lewis has told a media ethics inquiry.
The hacking victims' lawyer, who represents the family of murdered Milly Dowler, spoke at the Leveson Inquiry.
He said preserving the media's current system of self-regulation was "the preservation of no regulation at all".
Sheryl Gascoigne - former wife of ex-footballer Paul - told the inquiry she felt the onus was on victims of media intrusion to prove their innocence.
Journalist Tom Rowland also told the inquiry he suspected his phone had been hacked.
Mr Lewis took out injunctions on behalf of former footballer Garry Flitcroft, who gave evidence to the inquiry on Tuesday, and later Jo Armstrong, a legal adviser at the Professional Footballers Association (PFA).
He said he took out an injunction over a photo taken of Ms Armstrong and PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor by the News of the World. Mr Lewis said it was only after he managed to block the publication of the photo that he had a "eureka moment", realising that the only way the paper could have got the accompanying story - which was untrue - was through phone hacking.
"It just wasn't a proper legitimate investigation... A phone had been hacked in order to get this story."
Mr Lewis said Ms Armstrong had left a message on Mr Taylor's phone thanking him for speaking at her father's funeral.
"The tabloid journalist who listened, knew of that message, added two and two and made 84. If it hadn't been so sad it would have been funny."
Mr Lewis represented Mr Taylor in a civil case against News Group News - a subsidiary of News International, which owned the News of the World. He said News Group News eventually paid Mr Taylor's legal costs plus £425,000 in damages.
Mr Lewis said the News of the World had been the focus of the phone-hacking row because private investigator Glenn Mulcaire had written things down but that evidence from his clients inferred other news organisations also illegally accessed phones.
"It was a much more widespread practice than just one newspaper," Mr Lewis said.
He said voicemail interception had been easy to do and that journalists would use it to "pry on things". "I don't think they necessarily thought of it as any worse - certainly at the beginning - than driving at 35mph in a 30mph zone."
Mr Lewis told the inquiry that he was warned that Daily Mail editor-in-chief Paul Dacre would sue him if he suggested the paper was involved in phone hacking.
'Inaccurate and untrue'
Sheryl Gascoigne said she had been "very much in love" with her husband but that the media had portrayed her as a gold-digger.
She said the "inaccurate and untrue" allegations had been hurtful to her and her children but that her ex-husband's advisers had told her not to take action against the press.
Ms Gascoigne confirmed that she had sold photos of her 1996 wedding to Hello magazine and that this could have invited media attention but said "our life was already in the public eye".
She said the media scrutiny was tough on her children at school. "Unfortunately for them, how our life was being portrayed was obviously very different from how it was."
Ms Gascoigne said she published a book, Stronger, in 2009 partly in response to three books written by her ex-husband. "The children and I thought enough was enough and it was time to - I want to say put 'our side' - but it was the truth."
Ms Gascoigne won libel damages from News of the World in 2010 over claims she lied about violence her ex-husband had inflicted on her during their marriage and also sued the Sunday Mirror.
She told the inquiry that when taking legal action against media "the onus is on you as the victim to prove your innocence".
Ms Gascoigne said she was "scared" about pursuing libel proceedings because it meant appearing before jurors after being "labelled this money-grabbing awful person" by the media.
She said victims of media intrusion were deterred from taking action against the press by factors such as cost and that there needed to be a deterrent to stop the publishing of inaccurate stories.
Even after winning a libel battle, she said she would be lucky if the resulting payout covered 70% of the cost of bringing the case.
'Looking for leads'
Mr Rowland told the inquiry he had worked for the Daily Telegraph and later worked as a freelancer.
He said he had been shown redacted versions of News International's phone logs in August which showed calls made to his voicemail between mid-2005 and 2006. Mr Rowland said on Tuesday he had been provided with unredacted versions.
Mr Rowland said it appeared that all of the around 100 calls to his voicemail had come from the same mobile number.
But he told the inquiry he had been doing some work for the News International-owned Times newspaper at the time and believed some of the calls could have been legitimate.
"It is my strong strong suspicion that this evidence has been tampered with. I do not think the log is at all credible," he said. "It is my contention that quite a lot of those hundred calls actually were perfectly innocent calls."
Mr Rowland said he believed his phone could have been hacked into because his work "involved talking to a lot of prominent and famous people".
"So it's possible that people were fishing and looking for leads relating to that."
Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry is looking at the "culture, practices and ethics of the media" and whether the self-regulation of the press works.
A second phase of the inquiry will commence after the conclusion of a police investigation into NoW phone hacking and any resultant prosecutions. It will examine the extent of unlawful conduct by the press and look at the police's initial hacking investigation.