The Leveson Inquiry was "compromised" by having to avoid questions that went to the heart of criminal practices at News International and other papers, the barrister representing 50 phone-hacking victims said yesterday.
David Sherborne said that the sheer scale of evidence still emerging should compel the inquiry to continue rather than retire. His comments came as Lord Justice Leveson ended 102 days of formal evidence sessions at the Royal Courts of Justice.
Though the inquiry's findings will be published in a report expected at the end of this year, Mr Sherborne said that the examination into press practices and ethics, which began in November last year, would only be comprehensive if further evidence sessions were held after the criminal trials announced by the Crown Prosecution Service yesterday.
Although Lord Justice Leveson said that his "task is now done" and the work of writing his report will now start, Mr Sherborne claimed the inquiry had heard "only the tip of an iceberg". Fully learning what had happened inside News International, he said, could only happen if the "stables were cleaned out". NI's counsel, Rhodri Davies, QC, used the closing session to offer a qualified apology. He told the inquiry the phone-hacking practice at the News of the World was "profoundly wrong and is deeply regretted by News International".
However, despite days of embarrassing evidence that centred on the relationship between Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and his adviser Adam Smith and James Murdoch's chief lobbyist Fréd Michel, Mr Davies said there was "no evidence" of a deal in News Corp's attempt to take over BSkyB. He said the answer to a key question (did politicians ever do deals with Rupert Murdoch?) was "a unanimous and vehement, 'No'."