Leveson Inquiry: Summary of week ten

Sir Christopher Meyer told the Leveson Inquiry that the PCC had "made particular efforts" to make itself available to Kate and Gerry McCann

It was the turn of the press watchdog to face a grilling at the Leveson Inquiry this week, with the leaders of the Press Complaints Commission offering a vision of the future and a defence of the past.

Any parliamentary move to regulate newspapers would "open a Pandora's box" which could stifle freedom of speech as he had seen state regulation "go very badly wrong," current chairman Lord Hunt said.

But he said he had consulted on proposals, and felt "there is a willingness to accept a fresh start and a new body".

During sometimes testy tussles, Sir Christopher Meyer - chairman when the phone hacking scandal broke in 2006 - tried his best to defend the status quo while acknowledging it could be strengthened. It was, he argued, "as good as you're going to get".

He was also wary of state intervention: "Once you allow the state into this area, whatever the best intentions may have been, you are by definition standing on the top of a slippery slope."

But Lord Black, an ex-PCC director who chairs the Board of Finance which collects levies from newspapers to fund the PCC, said urgent reform was needed.

He said he had believed the PCC had "real bite" within the industry but the hacking scandal had forced him to rethink those views.

Intrusion trauma

Meanwhile, a former director admitted that not questioning former News of the World editor Andy Coulson when phone hacking emerged at the paper was "a mistake".

Tim Toulmin, director when NoW royal editor Clive Goodman was jailed for intercepting voicemails in 2007, conceded that the PCC had taken a "restrictive and timorous" approach over the matter.

On Thursday, it was announced that another News International title, the Times, was being investigated by the Metropolitan Police over allegations of computer hacking. It came after the inquiry was told that a Times journalist hacked the emails of a police blogger, NightJack.

It was also confirmed that the paper's editor, James Harding, was to be recalled to the Leveson Inquiry to discuss the matter further.

The week ended with the mother of stabbing victim Abigail Witchalls describing how press intrusion was almost more traumatic than the attack itself.

Baroness Hollins said media coverage after her daughter was attacked in 2005 was "just everywhere, every day".

"The police actually mounted a guard on each door of the hospital ward to protect her privacy," she said.

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