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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

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