Ian Burrell: No theatrics, just some careful stage management


We may have expected theatre, but Dominic Mohan had no intention of providing any. At the Leveson Inquiry, the editor of The Sun cut an understated figure in a funereal dark suit and tie, as if in respect for the News of the World, the sister paper killed off in a press scandal that still threatens to infect his own title.

Mohan prefers to operate in the shadows. This was a rare appearance on camera, and he showed deference to Lord Justice Leveson while demonstrating that he prefers the newsroom to the political stage.

For rivals who see Britain's biggest, brashest daily paper as having shaped Britain's bullying tabloid culture, this was an important day in the inquiry into media standards and Mohan's spell in the witness box must have been a frustrating sight.

Though News International has been resisting attempts to link its precious Sun brand to hacking, two of the paper's journalists have been arrested in Scotland Yard's investigation into related matters.

Reporter Jamie Pyatt was questioned over alleged illicit payments to police. Last week, Cheryl Carter, a beauty editor for The Sun and long-standing PA to Mohan's predecessor, Rebekah Brooks, was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. Yet Mohan was rarely put on the spot – even to answer questions about The Sun's monstering of Chris Jefferies, which resulted in the paper being found in contempt of court. In reality, the editor is no grey figure but a former showbiz writer.

Having denied using private detectives to help on stories, he then added: "I've used search agents in the past, but I wouldn't describe them as private detectives."

He was remorseful over stories about Charlotte Church's pregnancy and a front page article on a 12-year-old having a sex change (which led to a page six apology) and claimed a rebuke from the Press Complaints Commission was the source of "great shame". In between, he was able to stress the campaigning role of The Sun and plead for websites to be subject to the same regulations as newspapers. Wapping would have been pleased. No theatre then, just careful stage management.