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July 10, 2011 / hackinginquiry

Victims of phone hacking scandal to meet Deputy Prime Minister

The family of murder victim Milly Dowler whose mobile was hacked, ex-Met police commander Brian Paddick, and phone hacking victim Nicola Phillips and members of the Hacked Off campaign team, are meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to press for stronger, clearer, and faster action for the proposed inquiry into phone hacking.

The meeting was requested by Hacked Off – a Campaign Group of victims of phone hacking and supportive lawyers, journalists and politicians.

The meeting, on Monday, July 11, at 9am, in the Cabinet Office, follows a statement by the Prime Minister Friday announcing two inquiries following the News of the World hacking revelations, in addition to the ongoing criminal investigation by the police.

Sally Dowler, attending with the family’s lawyer Mark Lewis, said: “I am pleased that Mr Clegg has agreed to meet us at such short notice. We just want all the party leaders to listen to what those of us who have experienced this scandal first-hand have to say.”

Brian Paddick said: “We will say to Nick Clegg that these enquiries must be thorough and they must be started without delay, the public will expect nothing less.”

Martin Moore, Director of the Media Standards Trust, which is co-ordinating the Hacked Off campaign, said: “The government needs to take immediate steps to set up a full public inquiry, under the Inquiries Act of 2005, with terms of reference wide enough to include not just the press and police, but politicians as well.”

Mark Lewis, a solicitor who represents several of the victims of hacking, said: “Successive Governments have so far failed on this issue and so politicians need to listen to the victims of the phone-hacking scandal before deciding their course of action among themselves.”

July 8, 2011 / hackinginquiry

Hacked Off response to Prime Minister’s statement on phone hacking scandal

The Hacked Off campaign welcomes the Prime Minister’s statement this morning, promising two inquiries following the News of the World phone hacking revelations, in addition to the ongoing criminal investigation by the police.

But we are concerned about the relationship between the inquiries, the speed with which a full inquiry will be conducted, and the potential gaps between the three investigations. There is still a risk that fundamental questions about the affair – as to whose phones were hacked, who authorized it, how long it went on, which newspapers did it, and the relationship between the press, the police and politicians – may never be answered.

The Prime Minister committed to starting an inquiry into media standards ‘straightaway’. Led by a panel of respected figures, it will focus on the ‘culture, practices, and ethics’ of press. The campaign agrees with the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition when they say the Press Complaints Commission has failed, and that we need to rethink entirely the system of self-regulation from the ground up.

The Prime Minister also committed to a second, judge-led inquiry into the ‘illegal and utterly unacceptable practices taking place at the News of the World – and possibly elsewhere’, with witnesses giving evidence under oath.

The Hacked Off campaign welcomes these commitments but will:

  • Press for the judge-led inquiry into phone hacking and other illegal methods of intrusion to be set up and start work without delay. ‘We see no legal requirement’, said Dr Evan Harris, a member of the advisory committee to the campaign, ‘for this to wait until after police enquiries and that to do so could damage its ability to get to the truth.’
  • Seek to ensure that the composition of the inquiry into the culture, practices, and ethics is properly representative and can therefore make the strongest possible case for a new and effective system of press regulation, without assuming that it will be statutory or non-statutory
  • Push for broad but clear terms of reference for both inquiries, such that the full story of the phone hacking scandal is made public, and that such practices are never allowed to recur. The inquiries must not limit themselves to the behaviour of the press or the police – they must include a careful examination of the relationships between the press and the police and the press and politicians.

The Hacked Off campaign is committed to ensuring that the inquiries have full powers to establish:

  • The extent of the use of illegal information-gathering methods by the press, directly and through intermediaries;
  • The conduct of the Metropolitan Police Service in investigating these matters, and its relations with the press;
  • The communication between press and politicians in relation to these matters;
  • The conduct of the Press Complaints Commission and of the Information Commissioner, and of other relevant parties such as mobile telephone companies;
  • The lessons to be learned from these events and actions to be taken to ensure they are not repeated.

Martin Moore, Director of the Media Standards Trust which is coordinating the Hacked Off campaign, said: ‘The PM’s commitments are a great step forward but still leave plenty of wiggle room, particularly on the extent of the full inquiry. Hacked Off will continue to focus on getting the right inquiries, on the right terms, in the right time frame.’

July 8, 2011 / hackinginquiry

Phone Hacking and the Closure of the “News of the World”

This post is cross-posted from the INFORRM blog

The phone hacking scandal has claimed its latest and greatest victim to date: the “News of the World” itself.   It was announced this afternoon that the last edition edition of the newspaper would be next Sunday, 10 July 2011.  The newspaper was founded in 1843 and was acquired by Rupert Murdoch in 1969.  Forty two years later it will close.

The closure announcement comes after the extraordinary acceleration of the phone hacking scandal over the past few days.   The public outrage was brought to new heights by the story that the voice mail of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler had been hacked.  This was closely followed by stories of hacking the families of the Soham murder victims, 7/7 victims and the families of deceased soldiers.  Today there were claims that the newspaper had paid bribes worth up to £100,000 to five police officers.  The Operation Weeting officers disclosed that there were 4,000 names in the Mulcaire papers.

As advertisers withdrew their support for the newspaper, the Prime Minister announced that there would be a public inquiry into phone hacking. The situation appeared to be out of control and the News International’s inconsistent and apparently confused crisis management strategy was failing to cope.  Amid rumbles of journalistic insurrection in the “News of the World” offices and ever more vocal “off the record” criticism of Rebekah Brooks, the Murdochs took decisive action: Ms Brooks would stay but the “News of the World” would go.

The chairman of News International, James Murdoch, circulated a statement to staff containing further admissions of past errors:

the News of the World and News International failed to get to the bottom of repeated wrongdoing that occurred without conscience or legitimate purpose.  … the News of the World and News International wrongly maintained that these issues were confined to one reporter. We now have voluntarily given evidence to the police that I believe will prove that this was untrue and those who acted wrongly will have to face the consequences.

This was not the only fault.  The paper made statements to Parliament without being in the full possession of the facts. The Company paid out-of-court settlements approved by me. I now know that I did not have a complete picture when I did so. This was wrong and is a matter of serious regret.

It remains to be seen whether this move will finally “draw a line” under the crisis.  Unfortunately for News International its past conduct has led to a high degree of public cynicism about its actions.  It is already being suggested that the closure is a cosmetic exercise – with the paper rising from the ashes in the near future as the “Sun on Sunday”.

Many will argue that if public confidence in News International is ever to be restored there has to be full public disclosure of the nature and extent of the admitted wrongdoing in the course of a judicial inquiry.

July 7, 2011 / hackinginquiry

Hacked Off statement on the closure of the News of the World

The announcement by News International that this Sunday’s News of the World will be the last does not alter the need for a full public inquiry into phone hacking and related matters.

Indeed James Murdoch’s statement raises further questions about the conduct of senior figures at the company. We feel that the closure of a 168-year-old title, with the consequent loss of jobs, is a destructive act which actually underlines the need to get to the truth.

Hacked Off will continue to press for a judge-led public inquiry, with full powers to establish:

  • The extent of the use of illegal information-gathering methods by the press, directly and through intermediaries;
  • The conduct of the Metropolitan Police Service in investigating these matters, and its relations with the press;
  • The communication between press and politicians in relation to these matters;
  • The conduct of the Press Complaints Commission and of the Information Commissioner, and of other relevant parties such as mobile telephone companies;
  • The lessons to be learned from these events and actions to be taken to ensure they are not repeated.

We are currently preparing proposals on what should be the remit, the timing and the composition of a public inquiry.

The Hacked Off campaign is committed to ensuring that the public find out the details and scale of illegal intrusion employed over a sustained period and that those responsible are exposed.

For further information, please contact martin.moore@mediastandardstrust.org.

July 7, 2011 / hackinginquiry

News of the World: the paper that died of shame?

By Brian Cathcart

Actually, no. The News of the World, now closed after 168 years, didn’t die of shame. It has folded because its owners, News International, are desperate to protect themselves and the rest of their business. Months of efforts to kill off this scandal have failed and the tide of outrage was rising dangerously close to the Murdochs themselves. So they killed off the paper instead.

Read the rest of this post at Index on Censorship

July 7, 2011 / hackinginquiry

Hacked Off launches at the House of Lords

By Thais Portilho-Shrimpton

Politicians from the three main parties, lawyers, professors of journalism and celebrities met at the House of Lords yesterday (July 6) to discuss the launch of our campaign to push for a public inquiry into phone hacking.

The launch of the Hacked Off campaign, run by the Media Standards Trust (MST) and Professor Brian Cathcart, brought together Lord Fowler, Lord Falconer, Adrian Sanders MP, Chris Bryant MP, Zac Goldsmith MP, actor Hugh Grant, and former president of  the FIA Max Mosley, as well as Brian Cathcart and MST director Martin Moore, and many others.

The campaign aims to push for a full public inquiry into the phone hacking scandal – which has cast its shadow widely across British public life – to restore confidence in our press, police and government institutions.

They debated the best way to ensure Prime Minister David Cameron will follow through with his statement made during Prime Minister’s Questions that not only one, but perhaps two inquiries into the phone hacking scandal should be carried out.

A decision was agreed at the conclusion of the meeting to write a letter to the Prime Minister informing him that a cross-party meeting on the subject of phone hacking had taken place, calling for a public inquiry to be held under the terms of the Inquiry Act 2005 as soon as possible, regardless of criminal investigations, and requesting that he sets a date for the inquiry without delay.

MST director Martin Moore said at the meeting: “Things have moved pretty quickly in the last 48 hours and clearly we welcome the Prime Minister’s statement made this afternoon.

“But we are very, very focused on the details of this now. We have a lot of public admiration and support – within 24 hours we had more than 5,000 signatures in the campaign’s petition.

“We will continue to build public support, support from people in this room – politicians, professors, lawyers, high profile figures – and others.”

Lord Fowler said: “We need a free press in this country to keep government and other bodies straight. Nobody is against a free press because it shines a huge searchlight on what private and public bodies do.

He added: “I think it is utterly astounding that so many things pointed to lawlessness and wrongdoing, and the press apart from The Guardian were almost completely silent.

“I need to know how long these criminal prosecutions will take – it will be close to two years rather than a year before these investigations are complete.

“It is obvious that an inquiry that is set up will have to go much, much further than simply investigating a number of incidents in certain newspapers.

“My conclusion is to look for an answer to ‘is the press subject to the law just like the rest of us?’. We should appoint a judge for this inquiry and we should appoint a judge now.”

The group debated details of how the public inquiry should be held and its terms of reference, or which structure it should have, and speakers mentioned the inquiry should, for instance, have powers to subpoena witnesses to attend.

Professor of Journalism Brian Cathcart, from Kingston University, said decisions made by all those involved in the Hacked Off campaign in the next few days would be crucial.

Actor Hugh Grant said: “I was nervous when I read what the Prime Minister said in Parliament today. It makes me nervous that he wants to finish the investigations and further prosecutions before an inquiry can happen.

“We have to find a way to keep the ball in the air and maintain the inquiry in the public eye – there is a limit to how many times I can go on Newsnight.”

He added: “Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire worked 70 per cent of his time for the News of the World and 30 per cent for the Daily Mail, it is alleged.

“I think our campaign must be focused on how many newspapers did it and how to stop these practices in tabloids.

“This is going to be a long campaign and we all need to be involved.”

Helena Kennedy QC, Lord Prescott, and former Lib Dem MP Dr Evan Harris were some of the speakers at the launch.

July 7, 2011 / hackinginquiry

The phone-hacking inquiry must have teeth

By Brian Cathcart – this post was first published on the Guardian’s Comment is Free on Wednesday 6th July

Only a full inquiry with wide-ranging powers can uncover the truth behind the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

It’s progress, but there is a lot unresolved and we can expect plenty of obfuscation and bluster, because – look at the body language and the delays – ministers really do not want a proper, independent public inquiry into phone hacking. Nor, for that matter, do some of their predecessors from the Labour era.

It is a measure of the insidious influence of Rupert Murdoch that his company’s shame has the capacity to embarrass not one but three prime ministers, all of whom, miraculously, have counted Rebekah Brooks as a friend, while cabinet ministers going back a dozen years or more (some of whom were hacked themselves) have as much to fear. None of them fancies a trip into the witness box.

Read the rest of this post…