On Sunday May 5th, Radio 4 aired the documentary “The Press, the Police, the Politicians and Their Public”, which challenged the Government’s claim that completing the Leveson Inquiry was no longer in the public interest.
Hearing from press whistle-blowers, investigators and victims, some of the top revelations included:
- Lord Paddick, former Deputy Assistant Commissioner in the Met, revealed that the details of individuals on the Witness Protection Scheme – including their new identities and addresses – were found in the records of former hacker Glenn Mulcaire.
- On the lack of further investigation from the police, Lord Paddick suggested, “You could also argue that this is yet another example of the police not wanting to antagonise the press”
- Alastair Campbell recounted a private conversation with Sir Brian Leveson, in which Campbell understood the judge was questioning whether his work would get a fair hearing given press power in the Government.
- Campbell labelled the Government’s failure to complete the Leveson Inquiry, under the pressure of press lobbying, as “corruption”, saying: “This is the first time ever that the media has not wanted a public inquiry into something. I wonder why that is… This is the first time ever that a Government has cancelled a public inquiry against the wishes of the chairman of the public inquiry. That is corrupt.”
- Jacqui Hames, Hacked Off Board Director & victim of intrusion, spoke about the intrusion and harassment her family suffered, which was so intense she suspected it was organised criminals – it was in fact the News of the World.
- Whistle-blowers Graham Johnson and Dan Evans described their work exposing press criminality and alleged that comments made to Leveson Part One were untrue.
- Dan Evans described his previous work hacking at the Sunday Mirror: “Everybody was at it… your sense of right and wrong gets diluted”.
- Mirror publishers Reach have now spent over £75m on costs associated with phone hacking cases.
- Whistle-blower John Ford alleged that he committed illegal acts for the Sunday Times.
Lobbyist Guto Hari sought to defend News UK by trotting out the same lines press executives always do.
As ever, they came up short:
- Hari argued that Rebekah Brooks had been cleared in a court of law so that should be the end of the matter, but the allegations go far deeper than her conduct – and go beyond the publications she worked at (and beyond the specific charges she faced). Her defence also rested on her own incompetence – yet she was restored to an executive position at News UK only a few years after her trial.
- That only a few people were convicted of phone hacking, so it really wasn’t such a major scandal – but this misses the point. Civil cases have exposed that criminality occurred on an industrial scale, which clearly indicates that individuals with knowledge or involvement in the practice have escaped justice. Further, prosecutions have focused on junior reporters, while more senior staff have got off scot free.
- Hari posits “most” illegal activity “has been addressed” but provides no evidence for his position. One of the purposes of Leveson Part Two is to establish that question – yet he campaigns against it.
- That hacking was illegal, and the police just needed to do their job. But this again misses the point: the allegations include police corruption and failure of the police to dispense their duties appropriately when it came to the press.
- That wronged members of the public can just get an apology and compensation – but the press association and complaints-handler IPSO has no power to award apologies, and the expense and risk of legal action means it is not an option for most people.
On the cancellation of Leveson Part Two, and the growing number of claims the Mirror Group and other publishers are facing, Hacked Off Policy Manager Nathan Sparkes said,
“Trinity Mirror Group’s bill for settling phone hacking cases is ballooning from year to year, with the company repeatedly raising the amount it needs to set aside. It is conceivable that they will have paid over £100 million by the time all the legal claims are over.
“The apparent willingness of the Mirror Group Newspapers and Sun owners News UK to settle cases at seemingly any price indicates a desperation to avoid having these claims heard in open court – which would expose multiple allegations of corporate wrongdoing and criminality to the public gaze.
“With the expenditure of all publishers taken into account, the total cost of the scandal could exceed £1 billion pounds – with virtually no accountability for the executives who have presided over it.
“While it is unclear how many claims remain in the pipeline, we are seeing more and more victims contact us each year – suggesting there could be many hundreds or thousands more still to come.
“The way these actions rumble on to this day are an ongoing embarrassment for a Government which rejected the views of the National Union of Journalists, press abuse victims, and the general public, who all called for the Leveson Inquiry to be allowed to finish its work investigating these matters. Instead, the government sided with the newspaper publishers and executives and suppressed the second half of that inquiry. These claims expose how much of a stitch up that was, and underline the need for the Inquiry to be re-established and to complete its work.”
Hacked Off are committed to pursuing every avenue to obtain the justice victims were promised, and to see the completion of the Leveson Inquiry. Donate now to help us keep up the fight!