Is the Leveson Inquiry about to re-open?

by Atul Hatwal

On Monday night a big news story broke. Yet it received scant coverage in the print media.

The first claims were filed at the High Court against  Mirror Group for hacking. While this story was running number two on the BBC website through Monday night into Tuesday morning, it was accorded considerably less prominence on the websites of the newspapers and received extremely modest coverage in their later print editions.

Quelle surprise.

The last thing most of the print media want are the gruesome details of new hacking revelations thrust before the public, just as the newspapers prepare to decry the Leveson report as the greatest assault on freedom since the doodlebug.

But this is important.

This is the first time a news organisation other than News International has been in the legal firing line. The “one rogue organisation” defence has never looked so shaky.

This post-Leveson update of the “one rogue reporter” line will be mounted by the non-News International newspapers in the days and weeks following the publication of the judge’s recommendations.

After the initial shock and awe of wall to wall headlines proclaiming the death of liberty, the majority of the non-Murdoch press will fall back to their second, and ultimately more robust, line of defence.

They will say that the evidence presented before the Inquiry proves only one thing: that News International was rotten. Not the press as a whole, just Murdoch.

Yes there might be lessons to be learned for all of the print media, but on the basis of the facts as presented, the case for statutory action only applies to New International. One rogue organisation. To sacrifice the freedom of the press for the actions of Rupert Murdoch would be disproportionate, illogical and excessive.

And they would have a point.

No matter what peoples’ opinion of the likes of the Mail, Telegraph or Mirror, there has been nothing to demonstrate comparable malpractice and illegality to News International.

But this could all be about to change.

With reports that Scotland Yard have proof that a Mirror Group executive paid private detectives up to £125 a time for mobile phone numbers and private pin access codes, the new evidence could fundamentally transform the basis for Leveson’s recommendations.

If Mirror Group executives were also guilty, the genie would be out of the bottle. It would look much more like a systemic problem; a malaise that afflicted the whole industry.

The issue for Leveson is time. The cases have only just been filed. The wheels of justice will likely turn slowly.

But he has an option. The relevant sentences within Leveson’s terms of reference are explicit:

“To inquire into the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within News International, other newspaper organisations and, as appropriate, other organisations within the media, and by those responsible for holding personal data.”

If the reports about the new information are correct, Leveson would have a clear mandate to reopen his Inquiry, particularly with a view to revisiting some of the previous testimony from Mirror Group executives where it seemed butter wouldn’t have melted in their mouths.

Given a political context where there is a deep desire in government for the turbulent judge and his inquiry to be a thing of the past, this would be an extraordinary step.

But, if Lord Leveson wanted to clearly demonstrate that his recommendations were prompted by more than the actions of “one rogue organisation”, it is a possibility if not a probability.

Atul Hatwal is editor at Uncut

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2 Responses to “Is the Leveson Inquiry about to re-open?”

  1. Nick says:

    Notice the hipocrasy from the left.

    Murdoch must be broken up because of the hacking.

    The BBC cover up Saville, which is far far worse by orders of magitude. They enabled Saville to go on and molest lots of children. Not a peep about breaking the BBC up.

    At a minimum the BBC should lose all children’s programs, plus the funding, plus a punative cut in funding.

  2. swatantra says:

    Hope not. Its already become interminable, rather like Jarndyce and Jarndyce.
    We need closure and a recommendation that a new Independent Press Complaints Committee with teeth, will be set up. NI was the prime culprit. It may be true or may not be that other Newspapers were involved in hacking phones. No doubt if a complaint is made it will go through the usual due proces of Law, and those culprits will face Justice too. Leveson has to establish the basic principles, for others to follow.
    The Savile revelations need a thorough Enquiry of their own, but a more wide ranging Enquiry and not just focused on the BBC. Other Agencies and Bodies were heavily involved, and we have to ask the question why.

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