The Leveson Inquiry is a judicial public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press following the News International phone hacking scandal, chaired by Lord Justice Leveson, who was appointed in July 2011. A series of public hearings were held throughout 2011 and 2012. The Inquiry published the Leveson Report in November 2012, which reviewed the general culture and ethics of the British media, and made recommendations for a new, independent, body to replace the existing Press Complaints Commission, which would be recognised by the state through new laws. Part 2 of the inquiry has been deferred until after criminal prosecutions regarding events at the News of the World.
In 2007, News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were convicted of illegal interception of phone messages. According to the News of the World, this was an isolated incident, but The Guardian claimed that evidence existed that this practice extended beyond Goodman and Mulcaire. In 2011, after a civil settlement with Sienna Miller, the Metropolitan Police Service set up a new investigation, Operation Weeting. In July 2011, it was revealed that News of the World reporters had hacked the voicemail of murder victim Milly Dowler. Prime Minister David Cameron announced that a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 would be chaired by Lord Justice Leveson on 13 July 2011.
The 14 September 2011 press release stated Part 1 of the Leveson Inquiry would be addressing:
|“||"the culture, practices and ethics of the press, including contacts between the press and politicians and the press and the police; it is to consider the extent to which the current regulatory regime has failed and whether there has been a failure to act upon any previous warnings about media misconduct."||”|
and Part 2:
|“||"the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within News International, other media organisations or other organisations. It will also consider the extent to which any relevant police force investigated allegations relating to News International, and whether the police received corrupt payments or were otherwise complicit in misconduct."||”|
On 20 July 2011, Cameron announced in a speech to Parliament the final terms of reference of Leveson's inquiry, stating that it will extend beyond newspapers to include broadcasters and social media. He also announced a panel of six people who have been working with the judge on the inquiry:
- Sir David Bell, former chairman of the Financial Times
- Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty
- Lord Currie, former Ofcom director
- Elinor Goodman, former political editor of Channel 4 News
- George Jones, former political editor of the Daily Telegraph
- Sir Paul Scott-Lee QPM, former Chief Constable of West Midlands Police
Core participants were designated by Leveson as being: News International, the Metropolitan Police, victims, Northern and Shell Network Ltd, Guardian News and Media Ltd, Associated Newspapers Ltd, Trinity Mirror, Telegraph Media Group, and the National Union of Journalists. In January 2012 Surrey Police were added to the list of Core Participants.
The 14 September 2011 press release also named 46 politicians, sportsmen, other public figures, and members of the public who may have been victims of media intrusion and who have been granted "core participant" status in the inquiry. As of November 2011 this number had increased to 51.
It was reported in the media that Leveson had attended two parties in the prior 12 months at the London home of Matthew Freud, son-in-law of Rupert Murdoch and head of Freud Communications PR firm. According to The Independent, Freud had "agreed to do some free consultancy work for the Sentencing Council." The revelations led to a number of Labour MPs calling for Leveson to be removed from the Inquiry. These were two large evening events attended in Leveson's capacity as Chairman of the Sentencing Council, and with the knowledge of the Lord Chief Justice.
Oral evidence was taken at the Royal Courts of Justice, and was streamed live over the Internet. Over three modules, 337 witnesses were called and about 300 other statements made. Hearings for the first of the modules took place from November 2011 to February 2012 and considered the relationship between the press and the public. This module included testimony from such figures as Sally Dowler (the mother of Milly Dowler), the actors Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan, Gerry McCann (the father of the missing Madeleine McCann), Chris Jefferies (who had been wrongly arrested for murder in 2011); along with figures from journalism and broadcasting including Nick Davies, Paul McMullan, Alastair Campbell, Piers Morgan, Kelvin MacKenzie, Richard Desmond, Ian Hislop, James Harding, Alan Rusbridger, Mark Thompson, Lord Patten, Michael Grade, Lord Hunt and Paul Dacre.
The next module (held in February and March), regarding the relationship between the press and police, saw testimony from political and police figures, including Brian Paddick, Lord Prescott, Simon Hughes, John Yates, Andy Hayman, Sir Paul Stephenson, Elizabeth Filkin, Lord Condon, Lord Stevens, Lord Blair and Cressida Dick.
The final module, held from April to June, considering the relationship between press and politicians, saw testimony from a variety of senior politicians, including four Prime Ministers, along with press figures such as Aidan Barclay, Evgeny Lebedev, James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch, Viscount Rothermere, Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks.
The 2,000 page final report was published on 29 November 2012, along with a 48-page executive summary. Leveson found that the existing Press Complaints Commission is not sufficient, and recommends a new independent body, which would have a range of sanctions available to it, including fines and direction of the prominence of apologies and corrections. Membership of the body would be voluntary, but incentivised by schemes such as a kitemark and an inquisitorial arbitration service for handling tort claims such as libel and breach of privacy, and by allowing exemplary damages to be awarded in cases brought against non-participants in the scheme, something not usually part of English law. Leveson rejected the characterisation of his proposal as "statutory regulation of the press".
Leveson also made recommendations regarding the Data Protection Act, and powers and duties of the Information Commissioner, and about conduct of relations between the press, the police, and politicians. He praised the satirical magazine Private Eye for previously having refused to join the Press Complaints Commission, saying it was an 'understandable consequence' of the perceived closeness between the Commission and 'those so often held to account by that publication'.
Shortly after the publication of the report David Cameron made a statement to the House of Commons. Cameron welcomed many of Leveson's findings, but expressed "serious concerns and misgivings" regarding the prospect of implementing the changes with legislation. Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, called for full implementation of the report. Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, and leader of the Liberal Democrats was unable to agree on a position with his coalition partner Cameron, so made his own statement, agreeing that changes in the law were necessary. In leaders the following day the Financial Times, the Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Times, The Sun, the Daily Express, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail broadly agreed with Cameron's position, while The Guardian declared that Miliband has taken a "principled position", but that "great care" would be required for the legislation. It said Cameron "who commissioned it and who has had very little time in which to study it, should think carefully before dismissing significant parts of it." It added "The press should treat it with respect – and not a little humility." Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, which never signed up to the PCC, said he was in concurrence with a lot of Leveson's findings and the handling of the inquiry. However he disagreed with suggestions that those publications which did not voluntarily join up to the proposed self-regulatory body should be penalised by paying heavy costs and exemplary damages on potential libel actions, even if they won the case. The leader of the National Union of Journalists, Michelle Stanistreet, hailed Leveson's backing of a contractual "conscience clause".
Victims group Hacked Off called for full implementation of Leveson's recommendations, and started a petition, which was signed by over 145,000 people as of 10 December 2012. Gerry McCann noted that Cameron had earlier made a pledge that he would implement the report if it was not "bonkers". J.K. Rowling, who gave evidence to the inquiry, wrote that she did this in good faith and felt "duped and angry" by the Prime Minister's response, and victims refused to meet the Culture Secretary, speaking of a sense of "betrayal".
Talks regarding implementation between politicians and the press were scheduled to start in December 2012, and Lord Hunt, the current chair of the PCC, said the new regulator should be set up by summer 2013. Addressing a conference in Sydney on privacy and the internet, Lord Justice Leveson stated he was watching developments in the UK "with interest", but declined to comment further. He said: "It is because I treat the report as a judgment and judges simply do not enter into discussion about judgments they have given. They do not respond to comment, however misconceived; neither do they seek to correct error."
A small issue which received some minor press attention, was an incident where the Leveson report incorrectly listed a "Brett Straub" as one of the founders of The Independent newspaper. The name originated from one of several erroneous malicious edits by an anonymous contributor to Wikipedia attempting to create Straub his own Wikipedia page by falsely including his name in several articles across the site.
Maria Miller expenses row
On 12 December 2012, it was reported that during a telephone call to The Daily Telegraph Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman, Craig Oliver, had warned the newspaper against running a critical story on MP's expenses claimed by Culture Secretary Maria Miller because of her role in enacting proposals in the Leveson report. Downing Street denied that any threats were made. The Telegraph had reported that Miller had claimed £90,000 of expenses between 2005 and 2009 for a house in which her parents were living. Miller herself claimed they were dependents. The Parliamentary Commission for Standards subsequently launched an investigation into Miller's expenses. Writing in The Guardian on 15 December, the journalist Tanya Gold argued the episode demonstrated the need for a free press.
Cost of the Levenson Inquiry
According to page 388 of the Government Response to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Inquiries Act 2005 published in 2013, the total cost of the Levenson Inquiry was £5.4 million. Some have suggested that this has been massively underestimated, in order to obscure the true cost to the taxpayer, at a time when HMG are attempting to limit the public's right to full Public Inquiries under the guise of 'cost savings'.
- Phone hacking scandal reference lists
- Media regulation
- Metropolitan police role in phone hacking scandal
- News International phone hacking scandal
- News media phone hacking scandal
- Police corruption
- Politico-media complex
- Public inquiry
- Royal Charter on self-regulation of the press
- Brian Leveson (November 2012). An Inquiry Into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press (Volume 1) (PDF).
- "Phone hacking: David Cameron announces terms of phone-hacking inquiry". The Daily Telegraph (London). 13 July 2011. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
- "Missing Milly Dowler's voicemail was hacked by News of the World". The Guardian. 5 July 2011.
- "Ruling on Core Participants" (Press release). The Leveson Inquiry. 14 September 2011. Retrieved 15 September 2011.
- Lisa O'Carroll (20 July 2011). "Phone-hacking inquiry extended to include broadcasters and social media". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 20 July 2011.
- "20 July 2011". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) (Commons). col. 918-921.
- "The Leveson Inquiry:FAQs". The Leveson INquiry. The Leveson Inquiry. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
- "Core Participants". Levesoninquiry.org.uk. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
- O'Carroll, Lisa (14 September 2011). "Leveson phone-hacking inquiry: JK Rowling among 'core participants'". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 15 September 2011.
- "List of victims". Core participants. Leveson Inquiry. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
- "Hacking inquiry: Core participant status for dozens". BBC. 14 September 2011. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
- Hope, Christopher (22 July 2011). "Phone hacking inquiry judge attended parties at home of Rupert Murdoch's son-in-law". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 23 July 2011.
- "MP calls for police to investigate Murdoch son over crucial email". Evening Standard (London). 22 July 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
- "Lord Justice Leveson: Grand inquisitor of the press". Independent. 30 July 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
- Merrick, Jane; Owen, Jonathan; Brady, Brian; Hickman, Martin (24 July 2011). "Miliband mulls MPs' demands to remove hacking-inquiry judge". The Independent (London). Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "Inquiry judge has links to Murdochs". Press TV. 23 July 2011. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "Private Eye comment". Private Eye (1329 p. 5). 14 December 2012.
- "29 November 2012". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) (Commons). col. 446-472.
- "Leveson's lessons for Fleet Street". Financial Times. 30 November 2012.
- "Let us implement Leveson, without a press law". The Daily Telegraph (48,991). 30 November 2012. p. 29. "Lord Justice Leveson states: “By far the best option would be for all publishers to choose to sign up to a satisfactory self-regulatory regime and, in order to persuade them to do so, certain incentives are required.” This is indeed the best option. The industry must act quickly to set up an independent regulatory body that fulfils the principles put forward by Leveson."
- "There is only one flaw in this epic verdict - but it's a crucial flaw". The Independent. 30 November 2012. p. 26. "Legislation was favoured by a broad swathe of senior MPs and, with caveats, by Mr Cameron's Coalition partner, Nick Clegg. This places the onus on the press to devise a system of independent regulation that commands the confidence both of MPs and of the public"
- "The Leveson Report". The Times (70,704). 30 November 2012. p. 2.
- "The Sun Says: No to censors". The Sun. 30 November 2012. p. 10. "We understand why phone hacking victims want newspapers muzzled. But anger and the desire for revenge are not a basis on which to destroy 300 years of Press freedom. That is why we applaud David Cameron’s courage in resisting Lord Leveson’s call for a new law, saying he has “serious concerns and misgivings” over legal underpinning for a new regulator. Parliament must now give the Press the chance to respond to Lord Leveson with its own proposals."
- "Freedom of the press must be used for good". The Daily Express. 30 November 2012. p. 18. "the Daily Express has not the slightest hesitation in agreeing with Lord Leveson that the price of press freedom should not be paid “by those who suffer, unfairly and egregiously, at the hands of the press and have no sufficient mechanism for obtaining redress”. But where the judge enters very dangerous territory indeed is in his recommendation that a law should be passed by politicians to control the nature of this self-regulation."
- "No turning back if we cross line". The Daily Mirror. 30 November 2012. p. 8.
- "Cameron leads the fight for liberty". The Daily Mail. 30 November 2012. p. 14. "Though he assures us his regulator will be appointed by an independent panel, he doesn’t answer the burning question: who will appoint the panel? Isn’t there an acute danger that it will end up like so many public bodies, including Ofcom itself — stuffed with Blairites, on massive salaries, with a Left-leaning perception of what constitutes the public interest? Chillingly, Sir Brian also suggests any publication that refuses to accept the new body’s jurisdiction should be made to pay the full costs of an ensuing civil court action even if it wins the case."
- "Lord Justice Leveson throws the ball back". The Guardian. 30 November 2012. p. 48.
- Lord Justice Leveson's report (1329). 14–23 December 2012.
- Ian Hislop (30 November 2012). "Why should I answer to David Cameron? Leveson said much that was sensible - and much that wasn't". The Independent.
- Michelle Stanistreet (30 November 2012). "A victory for journalists of conscience". The Morning Standard.
- "Leveson: 60,000 Sign Hacked Off Petition". Sky News. 1 December 2012.
- "Gerry McCann calls on MPs to redeem themselves by reforming press". The Independent. 1 December 2012.
- "JK Rowling: I feel duped and angry at David Cameron's reaction to Leveson". The Guardian. 30 November 2012.
- "Leveson: Lord Hunt calls for press regulator within months". BBC News. 1 December 2012.
- "Leveson watches UK developments 'with interest' from Australia". The Guardian. 7 December 2012.
- Allen, Nick (5 December 2012). "Wikipedia, the 25–year–old student and the prank that fooled Leveson". The Daily Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved 8 December 2012.
- Andy McSmith (30 November 2012). "Leveson's Wikipedia moment: how internet 'research' on The Independent's history left him red-faced". The Independent.
- "No 10 denies 'threats' made over Daily Telegraph probe". BBC News (BBC). 12 December 2012. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
- Wright, Oliver (12 December 2012). "Senior David Cameron aide accused of threatening newspaper over Maria Miller investigation". The Independent (Independent Print Ltd). Retrieved 13 December 2012.
- Watt, Nicholas (12 December 2012). "Downing Street and Daily Telegraph at war over Maria Miller allegations". The Guardian (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 13 December 2012.
- Watt, Nicholas (13 December 2012). "Maria Miller faces parliamentary investigation into her expenses". The Guardian (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 23 December 2012.
- "Maria Miller expenses inquiry launched". BBC News (BBC). 13 December 2012. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
- Gold, Tanya (15 December 2012). "Maria Miller's woeful tale may have saved journalism". The Guardian (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 15 December 2012.
- Official website
- Leveson Inquiry Executive Summary (PDF)
- Leveson Inquiry Full Report (PDF), part 1
- Leveson Inquiry Full Report (PDF), part 2
- Leveson Inquiry Full Report (PDF), part 3
- Leveson Inquiry Full Report (PDF), part 4