Victims of press abuse vow to pursue all avenues to secure completion of the Leveson Inquiry following outcome of Judicial Review, which found in favour of the Government:
“The Government may have met its narrow legal obligations in how it cancelled the inquiry, but it cannot hide behind today’s ruling to justify its decision as reasonable, proportionate or in the public interest… it has discarded personal commitments to complete the Inquiry”
The Judicial Review brought by victims of illegal press misconduct into the Government’s U-turn on finishing the Leveson Inquiry into press criminality and police corruption has found in favour of the Government. The applicants were Jacqui Hames, Christopher Jefferies, and Dr Gerry and Kate McCann.
Despite finding that the Government had met its narrow legal obligations in cancelling the Inquiry, the judgment was nonetheless clear that former Prime Minister David Cameron had repeatedly stated his intention to finish it.
Sir Brian Leveson himself “fundamentally disagreed” with the Government’s decision to cancel the second part of the Inquiry, and the balance of responses to the Government’s own consultation on the matter were in favour of completion.
The second part of the Inquiry would seek to uncover the extent of the illegal activity which is known to have occurred at Trinity Mirror Group and News International (now News UK), and which is alleged to have occurred at other newspaper groups. It would also explore allegations of corrupt relationships between the police and the press, and the role of senior newspaper executives in authorising and condoning press abuse.
The decision to cancel came after promises to victims and the British public that it would be completed.
Victim of intrusion Jacqui Hames said,
“The Government’s capitulation once again to newspaper owners and executives, over the cancellation of the Inquiry before it had been allowed to finish its work, was an act of extraordinary cowardice. Extensive criminal activity occurred at some of the country’s most powerful newspapers, yet not a single executive has been held accountable – and now the Government will not even allow the agreed and promised public inquiry to finish.
“The Government may have met its narrow legal obligations in how it cancelled the inquiry, but it cannot hide behind today’s ruling to justify its decision to do so as reasonable, proportionate or in the public interest. It has discarded the personal commitments to complete the Inquiry and obtain justice which were made to the families affected by the Hillsborough disaster, the family of murder victim Daniel Morgan, and ordinary people like myself who have been caught up in press and police corruption. How can the public trust the promises made by a Prime Minister again?
“I and other victims of press illegality will continue to campaign and pursue every avenue to obtain the justice we were promised, and to see the completion of the Leveson Inquiry.”
Conservative Peer and former Party Chair Baroness Warsi said,
“The daily torrent of religious bigotry in the press urgently needs to be addressed, and the completion of the Leveson Inquiry with extended Terms of Reference to investigate rising press Islamophobia would have been the best way to achieve that.
“In failing to go ahead with Part Two of the Inquiry, the Government has signalled that it is prepared to stand by as some of our fellow citizens are regularly subjected to demonising and dehumanizing false smears in the pages of some newspapers that leads to hostility on our streets.
“The Government should proceed with Part Two immediately, because the press have proven either unable or unwilling to reform themselves.”
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Jacqui Hames’ story: https://hackinginquiry.org/former-police-officer-crimewatch-presenter-jacqui-hames-calls-for-the-completion-of-the-leveson-inquiry-after-appearing-at-court-to-hear-hacking-claim-settled/
Extracts from the judgement
On the abuse suffered by the claimants
The claimants in these judicial review proceedings have in the past variously been the victims of outrageous and unlawful treatment on the part of certain elements of the press. The distress to them has been immeasurable. It is felt by them to this day.
The first claimant [Christopher Jefferies] had been the subject of what he described, without exaggeration, in his witness statement as a “campaign of vilification” on the part of elements of the press. He was variously described in articles – with accompanying photographs – as “strange” and “creepy”; “effeminate”; a “loner” and “odd”; a “nutty professor with blue rinse hair”; and so on. He was said to have links to a nearby unsolved murder and to be a close friend of a convicted paedophile. He states in his witness statement: “I was, in effect, ‘monstered’ by the press”. He was in consequence forced to leave his home at that time and change his appearance.
[About Kate and Gerry McCann] There was also constant press intrusion and photography. One newspaper even published extracts of the third claimant’s private diary which had been taken by the Portuguese police. And so on.
There had been a serious and total failure to apply anything approaching the standards to which they claimed to aspire; and that some of the reporting involved was “outrageous”. It was said that a rigorous search for the truth was the first principle to be sacrificed: as was any respect for the dignity, privacy and well-being of these claimants. Their treatment was described as “frankly appalling.”
How claimants withheld evidence for Part two
It is stated by all four claimants (and is not disputed) that all accordingly gave evidence at the first stage of the Inquiry in somewhat restricted terms: it being anticipated that much fuller evidence would be given in Part 2 of the Inquiry.
On what commitments Mr Cameron gave
Part 1 of the Inquiry was concluded by a report published on 29 November 2012. In the House of Commons on that date Mr Cameron stated that it was the Government’s intention to go ahead with Part 2 of the Inquiry.
On that same date, 29 November 2012, Mr Cameron made a statement to the House of Commons. Amongst other things, he said this: “When I set up the inquiry, I also said that there would be a second part to investigate wrongdoing in the press and the police, including the conduct of the first police investigation. That second stage cannot go ahead until the current criminal proceedings have concluded, but we remain committed to the inquiry as it was first established.”
In answer to a question from Mr Keith Vaz MP, who had indicated welcome for the Prime Minister’s commitment to Part 2 of the Inquiry and who stressed the need to provide resources for that purpose, the Prime Minister said this:
“The right hon. Gentleman is entirely right. One of the things that the victims have been most concerned about is that Part 2 of the investigation should go ahead – because of the concerns about that first police investigation and about improper relationships between journalists and police officers. It is right that it should go ahead, and that is fully our intention.”
If one is to look for a clear statement from Mr Cameron as to the intended implementation of Part 2 then one can, on one view, find it.
It is true that, as recorded, Mr Cameron stated at the outset that he remained committed to the report as established: “so Part 1 and Part 2.”
On the views of Sir Brian Leveson
There was in due course a meeting with Sir Brian Leveson (now President of the Queen’s Bench Division). His firm view was that, while it was a political decision for Ministers, Part 2 of the Inquiry should be proceeded with in some form, as some of the original terms of reference had not been dealt with. He also, among other things, said that he saw no advantages in a non-statutory review. He also estimated that Part 2 would be likely to cost less that Part 1 (which had cost in the region of £5 million).
He replied on 23 January 2018. He stated in that letter his opinion that he “fundamentally disagreed” with the view that Part 2 was not necessary. He referred to the way in which the terms of the Inquiry had been announced in 2011 when it was established.
“These statements highlight the legitimate expectation on behalf of the public, all parties in Parliament and the alleged victims of media intrusion that Part Two would follow at the appropriate time.”
He made further detailed observations. He recognised that there had been developments in the intervening six years and recognised the need to take stock of the progress made, while identifying gaps that might still remain. Among other things, in this regard, he pointed out that Term of Reference 6 had not been met; and he also said that “self-certification of compliance is hardly sufficient to generate public confidence when so much has been revealed about wrongdoing…”
He acknowledged, of course, that whether the Inquiry was to be brought to an end was a matter for the Secretaries of State under the Inquiries Act 2005 and that he could only give his own view.
The letter concluded in this way:
“For the reasons I have explained, however, I have no doubt that there is still a legitimate expectation on behalf of the public and, in particular, the alleged victims of phone hacking and other unlawful conduct, that there will be a full public examination of the circumstances that allowed that behaviour to develop and clear reassurances that nothing of the same scale could occur again: that is what they were promised. For the reasons given above, I do not believe that we are yet even near that position and would urge you to give further consideration to the need for at least the bulk of Part Two to be commenced as soon as possible.”