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July 28, 2011 / hackinginquiry

Hacked Off statement on Guardian’s Sara Payne story

The Hacked Off Campaign is shocked and saddened to learn that Operation Weeting has found evidence to suggest Sara Payne was targeted by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who held her personal details.

Sara Payne, alongside her charity Phoenix Chief Advocates, is a supporter of our campaign for a good public inquiry into phone hacking and our thoughts are with her at this time.

Martin Moore, Director of the Media Standards Trust and founder of Hacked Off, said: “This new revelation, which indicates breathtaking hypocrisy and a complete lack of moral sense, underlines the importance of full exposure of what was happening at the News of the World and a need for the judicial inquiry to start work on this aspect of their investigation as soon as possible.”

July 28, 2011 / hackinginquiry

Lord Justice Leveson announces details of public inquiry

Lord Justice Leveson has announced details of the first part of a public inquiry to be held into the relationship between the press and public, the press and politicians and the press and police.

His statement in full:

“Good morning.  My name is Brian Leveson.  Although flattered that various politicians and members of the press have elevated me to the rank of peerage, I am not Lord Leveson: my judicial rank is that of a Lord Justice of Appeal.  On 13 July, the Prime Minister announced that I would be appointed to chair an Inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 and promulgated draft Terms of Reference.  When I made a statement following that announcement, I said that when the panel of experts has been appointed, I would provide more information on how I intended that the Inquiry should proceed and in relation to the calling for evidence and that I would seek to do so before the end of the month.  On 20 July, the Prime Minister announced both the final Terms of Reference and the names of the panel of assessors to assist me in the task and we met informally, for the first time, on 21 July.

“The announcement from the Prime Minister was to the effect that the Inquiry would report to the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport and the Home Secretary.  Formal instruments of appointment to each of us have been issued by or on behalf of the Secretaries of State dated yesterday and I am now in a position not only to introduce the six panel members  but also to provide some further detail as I promised.

“I deal first with my position and that of the panel.   From the time that I was asked to Chair this Inquiry, I have been clear that the first formal public statement would commence with a declaration of any link or contact that I or any of the panellists have had with any of those who or whose organisations might play a part in the subject matter of the Inquiry, however remote such contact may be.  I have no doubt that we have all been chosen for our experience of the law, the press, regulation and governance, policing or politics and the expertise which has come with that experience.  It is inevitable, therefore, that there are such contacts or links and there should be no apology for this.   Had I had the slightest doubt about my own position, I would not have accepted the appointment and I also make it clear that I am satisfied that what the panellists have said creates no conflict of interest for them or for me.

“Because of the span of years, it is, of course, possible that our recall may not be completely comprehensive but the information is the best of our recollection and provided in the spirit of complete transparency which I intend should be one of the principal objectives of all of our work.  The details are set out in writing, copies of which are available.  They will be placed on our website when it is running.  Each was put before the Department of Culture Media and Sport and the Home Office prior to the signing of the instruments of appointment under sections 4 and 11 of the 2005 Act and if there is to be any challenge to the constitution of the Inquiry, I draw attention to the time-limits set out in s.38 of the Act.

“Let me now say something about the way in which I intend to work.  I am delighted to have the assistance of such an extremely distinguished panel.   I intend that each should have a central role in the work and that the final report will be a collaborative effort.  I will strive for unanimity; if any particular recommendation is not unanimous, I shall make the contrary view clear.

“I turn now to the Terms of Reference which, in the week following the initial statement by the Prime Minister on 13 July grew very substantially although the time within which the initial report is to be delivered remained at 12 months.  I recognise the vital importance of reaching a number of conclusions within that broad time frame and I will strive to do so, but not at all cost. Given the scope of the Inquiry and the likely quantity of evidence, the Inquiry team itself and all of those who participate in the process will have to exercise very considerable discipline and, where appropriate, restraint.  It is critical that we concentrate on the central and most important issues.

“The focus of the Inquiry is ‘the culture, practices and ethics of the press’ in the context of the latter’s relationship with the public, the police and politicians. All of these matters overlap, and my goal must be to consider what lessons, if any, may be learned from past events and what recommendations, if any, should be made for the future, in particular as regards press regulation, governance and other systems of oversight.

“In the first instance, the Inquiry will focus primarily on what I am calling the relationship between the press and the public, and the related issue of press regulation although I emphasise that we do not intend to lose sight of the other aspects of the terms of reference.  In order to start from the right place, therefore, I intend to hold a series of seminars in October so that we can focus on the perspective of all those involved: these seminars will include, among other topics, the law, the ethics of journalism, the practice and pressures of investigative journalism both from the broadsheet and tabloid perspective and issues of regulation all in the context of supporting the integrity, freedom and independence of the press, while ensuring the highest ethical and professional standards.  At some stage, there needs to be a discussion of what amounts to the public good, to what extent the public interest should be taken into account and by whom.  I hope that an appropriate cross section of the entire profession (including those from the broadcast media) will be involved in each discussion, their purpose being to ensure that the Inquiry can begin to concentrate on the principal concerns.  As soon as possible thereafter, the Inquiry will hear evidence from those best placed to assist it on each these matters.

“So that it is clear, I also intend, in due course, that similar seminars should be held in relation to press relationships with the police, politicians and the political process: that will include how future concerns about media policy regulation, the plurality of the media and cross media ownership should be addressed by all.  It may also shed light on the reason for the fact that no action was taken following the 2006 report of the Information Commissioner.   Evidence will be sought on all these topics as well.  These investigations may well proceed concurrently rather than consecutively but much depends on how extensive is the evidence that we obtain on each topic and our capacity to deal with these very different issues at the same time.

“Looking forward, I presently expect that towards the end of the process we will hold a further series of seminars to obtain feedback on preliminary conclusions so that we can ensure that all the evidence and all views upon that evidence have been taken into account.

“I turn now to the process of gathering evidence.  As you will be aware, the 2005 Act gives me the power to require potential witnesses and those with relevant documents in their custody to provide me with witnesses statements and those documents as the case may be.  Although I have no doubt that many would be happy voluntarily to provide me with this information, in order to maintain an ordered approach to the collection of evidence, I intend to exercise those powers as soon as possible, matching the broad sequencing of my Inquiry as already explained.  No discourtesy is intended to those in receipt of a notice and no conclusions should be drawn from the identity of those who are required to assist me and those who are not.  I make it clear that my powers will undoubtedly be exercised on more than one occasion in order to meet all the Inquiry’s objectives.

“Formal evidence obtained by exercising statutory power should not be the only way of obtaining evidence.  I am fully aware that many journalists, papers and magazines have devoted many years of attention to the criminal, unethical and utterly inappropriate behaviour of small sections of the press and I recognise that the present inquiry is in no small part the result of such journalism.  I could, of course, require journalists to provide me with their files of examples for they are indeed essential to provide a factual background to the important issues that we must discuss but, at this stage, I would rather invite editors, proprietors of magazines and journalists to assist me by providing a wide range of examples of what is contended to be inappropriate for one reason or another across the fullest range of titles.  It may be tempting for a number of people to close ranks and suggest that the problem is or was local to a group of journalists then operating at the News of the World but I would encourage all to take a wider picture of the public good and help me grapple with the width and depth of the problem.  In that regard, whereas I am determined not to prejudice any criminal investigation or potential prosecution, I believe that it should be possible to focus on the extent of the problem which would not prejudice an investigation without examining who did what to whom which might.  I have, however, invited the Director of Public Prosecutions to make submissions to me about the extent to which he considers it would be appropriate for me to delve into these matters and, if necessary, I shall rule on the issue.

“The same point can be made about other aspects of the Inquiry.  At one level, contact between the press and politicians and press and the police could be analysed on a case by case basis.  The thrust of this investigation, however, is to get into the real impact that the relationships between each have upon the way in which both do their work.  Using the same call for co-operation, I do invite those who have a positive contribution to make to these issues to provide information without necessarily formally being required to do so under the Act.

“Finally, it is, of course, possible for anyone to provide information to the Inquiry.  It will all be carefully considered but I make no commitment that anyone who does so, whether in response to a formal request for a statement or otherwise, will necessarily be called to give oral evidence.

“I conclude with a reference to procedural issues.  I intend to hold a preliminary hearing in September which will address key aspects of the way in which this Inquiry will be undertaken.   Anyone who wishes to be identified as a core participant within the meaning of Rule 5 of the Inquiries Rules 2006 should do so before 31 August 2011 to the Secretary to the Inquiry c/o the Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London WC2A 2LL or by e mail to solicitor.levesoninquiry@tsol.gsi.gov.uk.  Contact details will change when the Inquiry team have established a web site and e-mail links.”

July 24, 2011 / hackinginquiry

Reaction to Sunday Telegraph story

The Hacked Off campaign is disappointed to see that the Sunday Telegraph has published an article by Andrew Gilligan which misrepresents the relationship between the campaign and the lobby group Sovereign Strategy.

The article implies that Sovereign influenced the campaign’s content and strategy. It did not. Its contributions were practical ones, notably arranging taxis and a meeting room for the Dowler family when they were in London seeing party leaders and other politicians.

The article suggests that Horatio Mortimer of Sovereign was seconded to work for the campaign as a strategic consultant. He was not. He provided administrative assistance. We welcome this opportunity to say that we are grateful to him and to Sovereign, as we are to all those who have helped and supported our campaign.

The article suggests that Hacked Off is left wing or is an instrument of the Labour Party. This is also untrue. It has enjoyed the support of, and made common cause with, MPs and peers of all parties and none. 

Hacked Off has been open, clear and consistent about its strategy, which was set out in a manifesto written before we had any dealings with Sovereign. You can read it on our website. We are proud of our contribution to shaping the terms of reference of Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry and we look forward to a rigorous process that puts the truth before the public. We are dedicated to press freedom and have enjoyed the support of leading journalists such as Henry Porter, John Pilger, Isabel Hilton, Andreas Whittam Smith and Roy Greenslade.

We have also been open about the assistance we received from Sovereign, indeed Mr Gilligan appears to have learned about it from a blog published by one of our founders. 

Members of the Hacked Off team have a track record in fighting for free speech and a free press.

Professor Brian Cathcart has been a journalist for 30 years working for Reuters, the Independent papers and the New statesman, and currently blogging for Index on Censorship, and is also a professor of journalism. Martin Moore runs the Media Standards Trust which has, over the 5 years since it was founded, consistently opposed State regulation of the press. Dr Evan Harris is founder of the Libel Reform campaign and Trustee of Article 19, he is a leading freedom of speech campaigner. Thais Portilho-Shrimpton is a journalist with 6 years of experience and active member of the NUJ.

July 20, 2011 / hackinginquiry

Hacked Off Campaign’s response to PM’s statement on terms of judicial inquiry

The Hacked Off Campaign welcomes the Terms of Reference of the Judicial Inquiry announced today, in particular the extensive changes that the campaign secured, set out below (note 1).

Prof Brian Cathcart of the Campaign said: “The Hacked Off Campaign is however disappointed that the Government has refused to specify in the Terms of Reference that the contacts and relationships between national newspapers and government officials and other public servants, and the conduct of each should be included in the Part 1 of the inquiry.”

“This means that there will be no direct or immediate scrutiny by the inquiry of any contacts proper – improper or otherwise – between editors, newspaper executives or press proprietors and government officials, special advisors and other public servants, such as Andy Coulson and Alastair Campbell.”

“This omission of civil servants also means that the extent of the hospitality provided by newspaper organisations to public officials is not covered nor directly exposed.

“Furthermore, the extent of any “hold” over the public officials by the press interfering with the proper performance of public duties is not directly covered.”

Mark Lewis, solicitor to the Dowler family, of the Hacked Off Campaign said: “We are at a loss to understand why the clear wishes of the victims of these criminal activities that these matters be covered properly in the inquiry have been rejected by the Government.”

Martin Moore, of the Hacked Off Campaign, said: “The speed at which the work on part 2 of the inquiry starts is of vital importance to all those we seek to represent and we are worried that even preparatory work will not start soon enough.”

“We are yet to be reassured about the openness of this inquiry, or whether it will seek to put documents in the public domain soon, and on a regular basis”

“We have a number of other concerns about the timing and process of the inquiry and we are hoping to raise these with Lord Justice Leveson”

1. This is the list of changes secured by the Hacked Off Campaign:

The inclusion in Part 1 of the inquiry of
– the conduct of politicians and the press (para 1a)
– the conduct of the press and the police (para 1b)
– failures of data protection (para 1c)
– the importance of press independence not only from government but from other bodies (para 2a)
– the inclusion of the Crown Prosecution Service for some of the inquiry (para 2b)

The inclusion in part 2 of the Inquiry of

- newspaper groups, other than News International (para 3)
– mobile companies and others responsible for holding personal data (para 3)
– police forces other than the Metropolitan Police, and the prosecution authorities, including the overlooking of evidence (para 4)
– inducements to police officers rather than simply corrupt payments (para 5)
– the role of civil servants and others (including lawyers) in failures to investigate wrongdoings at News International (para 6)
– corporate governance of media organisations in the draft and final terms of reference (para 6)

2. Process issues Hacked off is seeking to raise with the judge include:

- that, subject to the agreement of the law officers, the judge will have the option of offering immunity from prosecution, so that journalists who may have been involved in illegal practices but were not the instigators of those practices might give evidence without fear of prosecution
– that the inquiry panel, when it makes its final report, will be free to revise or refine the findings of its initial report in the light of what it finds during the second part of the inquiry, thus ensuring that the lessons of these events are fully learned

- that the interests of victims of illegal journalistic practices need to be represented at the inquiry by counsel instructed by solicitors, and whether he will recommend that public funding should be made available to make this possible

- While recognising the need for the inquiry not to interfere with criminal proceedings that the second part of the inquiry will begin without delay, so that no time is wasted, for example, in gathering up and processing what is likely to be a large and complex volume of documentation

- that one of the most important roles of the inquiry is to put the facts before the public, and that it should take every step to ensure that, so far as possible, the evidence is made publicly available swiftly and accessibly

- that both parts of the inquiry will be supported by barristers, to ensure that witnesses are rigorously examined and cross-examined in the pursuit of the truth about these important matters

July 15, 2011 / hackinginquiry

Statement on Rebekah Brooks’ resignation

“The Hacked Off Campaign’s main focus is on getting an inquiry with the right scope, powers and timescale to get to the truth, but all the victims we have spoken to have told us that they cannot see how Rebekah Brooks could remain in her job given what has so far been revealed.

“The key issue is not however whether Rebekah Brooks is in work, but whether she lied to Parliament, told the full truth to the Police or was engaged in a massive cover up. That is what the victims want to know.”

July 12, 2011 / hackinginquiry

Hacked Off Campaign calls for strong terms of reference for judge-led inquiry

The “Hacked Off” Campaign – on behalf of the victims of phone hacking – is calling for a truly effective and urgent inquiry into the scandal and its causes

A) The terms of reference of the Judge-led statutory inquiry need to be capable of (and not be limited to) covering…

Getting to the bottom of the News of the World Scandal

1 Establishing exactly what happened at the News of the World after 2000 in relation to illegal or improper information gathering, payments to police officers, the exercise of influence over police, prosecutors and politicians and the subsequent cover up.

All newspapers and all illicit activity

2 Establishing the nature and extent of all illegal information gathering methods (including but not limited to interception of voicemails) by national newspapers over the past decade; including, in particular, the use of private
investigators and the obtaining of information by means of payments to police officers; and practices which are legal only when justified by the public interest, such as unauthorised payments for personal information

The press and the police

3 Establishing the nature and extent of the contacts between national newspapers and law enforcement agencies, in particular, the Metropolitan Police, other police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service over the past decade, and whether those contacts were properly and lawfully conducted in the public interest;

The press and Government and other politicians

4 Establishing the nature and extent of the contacts between national newspapers and politicians in relations to press regulation and information gathering, including meetings, correspondence or agreements between Government and News International/News Corp executives in relation to these issues and on matters of
media policy matters (eg cross-media ownership and media regulation); the extent to which such contacts were proper and transparent and whether undisclosed agreements or understandings existed between ministers and newspapers or proprietors relating to policy matters.

The Press and Parliament

5 Investigating and reporting on the relationship between national newspapers and their proprietors, and parliament, including allegations that MPs have been threatened over their work into media standards; and the nature of extent of the hacking of MPs’ and ministers’ phones; and – if parliamentary approval is given to this specific term of reference – the truthfulness of testimony given to parliamentary committees and the refusal of
media executives to appear before parliamentary committees.

Conduct of Regulators

6 Investigating and reporting on the effectiveness and propriety of the conduct in these matters of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), the Office of the Information Commissioner and the mobile phone companies.

Corporate governance of media corporations

7 Investigating and reporting on the failures, in respect of these matters, of corporate governance in powerful media corporations and any implications of such failures for cross-media ownership and the protection of the public interest in having a diverse media.

B) Process issues

i. The judge-led inquiry should include lay panel members, should start without delay and without waiting for the conclusion of the police investigation or any prosecutions. We believe that the judge can navigate any issues as required to avoid prejudicing the criminal process.

ii. The judge-led inquiry should have the power, after consultation with the law officers, to grant, in appropriate and exceptional cases, immunity from prosecution to witnesses to the inquiry.

iii. The judge-led inquiry should be required to report within a period of one year after the completion of existing police enquiries..

iv. All the material held by the police to be made available to the judge-led inquiry.

v. The judge-led inquiry should be held in public (save and insofar as private hearings may be necessary whilst prosecution are pending), and the evidence put before the inquiry should be made publicly available without delay (subject to proper protections for privacy and the criminal process).

July 11, 2011 / hackinginquiry

Sara Payne MBE and Phoenix Chief Advocates support the Hacked Off campaign

By Thais Portilho-Shrimpton

Speakers for victims of paedophile crimes Sara Payne MBE, Fiona Crook and Shy Keenan, The Phoenix Chief Advocates, have signed the Hacked Off petition today and offered the campaign their full support.

The Phoenix Chief Advocates said: “Please sign the Hacked Off petition. We support this petition for truth, justice, for Milly and her family and for all the victims of this intolerable abuse.”

Sara Payne’s daughter, Sarah, was abducted and murdered in 2000, when she was only eight years old.

In 2001, Roy Whiting was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

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