Wales

Leveson inquiry: 'Brutal' for Charlotte Church's family

Charlotte Church
Image caption Charlotte Church could give evidence at the inquiry, held at the High Court in London.

The way Charlotte Church's family has been treated by the tabloid press shows the "brutal impact" of some journalism, the phone-hacking inquiry has heard.

Lawyer David Sherborne said the singer's mother Maria tried to commit suicide following revelations in the News of the World about her husband.

He said another story about the Cardiff-born star was fake.

Mr Sherborne was addressing Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into media practices in London.

The inquiry - in its third day - was given details of three cases in which the singer and her family considered themselves to have been badly treated by the tabloid press.

'Faustian pact'

Mr Sherborne, who is representing 51 alleged victims of press intrusion, said the News of the World printed a story with the headline "Church in three in a bed cocaine shock".

Image caption Lawyer David Sherborne is representing 51 alleged victims of press intrusion at the inquiry

He said that readers may have believed the story was about the former child star - but, it was in fact about her father, James.

He said the story about Mr Church's affair was obtained from voicemails and that the singer's mother was admitted to hospital after she attempted suicide following the revelations appearing in the paper.

The lawyer told the inquiry that the Sunday tabloid went on to approach Mrs Church and attempted to persuade her to give an exclusive story to them about her husband's affair.

It was part of a "a Faustian pact", he said, that they would not run another "lurid story" about her husband's affair.

Mr Sherborne cited the case as an example of the "real, brutally real, impact which this kind of journalism has".

Kidnap fears

He also said that another story printed in a newspaper that the singer had drunkenly proposed to her boyfriend was fake.

But he said the "worst case" had been when she was 16 and had "begged" the News of the World not to explain where she lived as she feared she may be kidnapped.

The press refused, Mr Sherborne told the inquiry at the High Court in London.

Mr Sherborne said the experience of his clients was "primarily and largely" at the tabloid or popular end of the press but "it is the whole of the press that stands in the dock".

He insisted that the victims who he represents "don't want to stop proper investigative or public interest journalism".

But he said if the relationship between the public and the press needs to improve "it needs to start now".

He said that the situation has not improved with self-regulation and "it is time for real change".

Regulation

Prime Minister David Cameron set up the inquiry after the News of the World admitted intercepting voicemail messages of prominent people to find stories.

The inquiry has two parts, the first of which will examine relations between the press, politicians and police, and the conduct of each.

It will consider the extent to which the current regulatory regime has failed, and whether there has been a failure to act upon any previous warnings about media misconduct.

The second part will look at the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within News International - which owned the News of the World - and other media organisations.

Charlotte Church could give evidence at the inquiry after Mr Sherborne asked for her name to be added to a list of inquiry core participants.

The group of core participants already includes actress Sienna Miller, PR man Max Clifford, serving MPs, and Christopher Shipman, son of mass murderer Harold Shipman.

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