Leveson Inquiry reaches final day


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The Independent Online

A judge heading an inquiry into the press was today told that the owner of the News of the World had learned lessons too hard to forget.

The Leveson Inquiry was launched in the wake of allegations that journalists at the now-extinct Sunday tabloid hacked phones.

A lawyer representing owner News International, which is headed by tycoon Rupert Murdoch and also publishes The Sun, listed events that had occurred in the wake of hacking allegations.

And he told inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson that bosses did not want to have to learn the lessons again.

"The News of the World, a 168-year-old paper, has been felled," said Rhodri Davies QC, as the eight-month inquiry drew to a close.

"There have been a lot of arrests and a host of civil claims.

"These are lessons that are too severe to be forgotten and News International are determined not to have to learn them again."

Mr Davies was speaking as he cautioned Lord Justice Leveson against over-burdening the press with regulation.

"The excesses of the press have occurred when the search for a story has overcome the boundaries of privacy," he said.

"Whatever the regulatory solution may be, lessons have been learned.

"It is a culture of clean-up that is now in place."

He told the inquiry that most people in the UK read tabloid and "mid-market" newspapers - not broadsheets.

And he said popular newspapers had to be given the "scope to entertain".

"The majority of newspaper readers don't read the Times, Telegraph or the Guardian," said Mr Davies.

"They read the popular and mid-market papers - the Sun, Mirror, Mail and Express.

"Between them they give the UK a uniquely vivid and vibrant popular press."

He added: "The popular press must be allowed the scope to entertain and amuse as well as to educate and inform."

A lawyer representing Associated Newspapers, which owns the Daily Mail, delivered a similar message.

"My clients feel we have heard too few speaking up for the popular press," said Jonathan Caplan QC.

"In order to produce public interest journalism you need to have journalism that interests the public.

"It is important there is no groundswell of elitism whereby the minority dictate what the majority can read."

Lord Justice Leveson was told that the newspaper industry was "fragile".

Mr Caplan said: "Your inquiry could be reading the last rites on an industry which sees circulation falling year after year, provincial newspapers closing every week and very few of the national newspapers making any profit."

He told Lord Justice Leveson there was a "clear" objection to any "statutory under-pinning" of newspaper regulation, adding: "It lets the politicians in."