Fears over curbs on witnesses at Leveson Inquiry

Evidence may be curtailed as judicial investigation begins into phone-hacking scandal

The Leveson Inquiry into press standards formally starts today amid concern witnesses with incendiary evidence will have their statements curtailed.

The judicial investigation at the Royal Courts of Justice in London will begin with opening addresses by Robert Jay QC, the inquiry's barrister, and counsel representing more than 50 core participants, including media groups and victims of phone-hacking by the News of the World (NOTW).

Among those granted core participant status are the parents of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, former British Army intelligence officer Ian Hurst and the former head of international motor sport, Max Mosley.

Lord Leveson last week rejected a request by police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to vet evidence heard by the inquiry to ensure it does not prejudice future criminal trials.

However, he said the hearings would not be used by witnesses as a public platform to "pillory" others.

One lawyer representing several core participants told The Independent: "There are serious matters which should be in the public domain and we should not have a situation where a witness is perhaps only allowed to partially air their concerns."

The difficulty the inquiry faces is highlighted by the blame game gathering pace away from the inquiry's authority.

Following the second appearance of James Murdoch before the Commons culture committee last week, an account of a alleged meeting between two News International senior executives, which was quoted by the Labour MP Tom Watson, has been challenged as incomplete and inaccurate.

Mr Watson shocked his committee colleagues when he said he had recently spoken to the NOTW's former chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck. An email sent to Mr Thurlbeck, known as "For Neville", has become a key piece of evidence that revealed the extent of hacking inside the paper.

Mr Watson claimed Mr Thurlbeck told him about a conversation he had in 2008 with Tom Crone, former News International legal manager. According to Mr Thurlbeck, he and Mr Crone talked about how much Mr Murdoch needed be told about the key email. Mr Watson said this revealed Mr Murdoch knew more than he admitted.

However, over the weekend, Mr Thurlbeck, who was arrested earlier this year and is on police bail over matters relating to the illegal interception of voicemails, claimed Mr Murdoch had told the truth and that when he was NI's executive chairman "he had been kept in the dark and deprived of vital evidence".

Mr Thurlbeck said he told Mr Watson of another NI executive involved in commissioning hacking. He also alleges he told Mr Watson of a dossier of illegal newsgathering he had pulled together about the "chronic lack of full disclosure" inside NI. He said: "Regrettably, Mr Watson failed to mention all this."

Q&A the task for Leveson

Q: The phone-hacking scandal has meant people have lost trust in the UK's printed media. Will Lord Leveson's inquiry change that?

A: Although tasked with looking at the culture, ethics and practices of British newspapers, it might all come down to how they are regulated. Most expect a tighter regime.

 

Q: What happened inside the News of the World means everyone gets tarred with the same brush, right?

A: Yes and no. Leveson can't look too deeply into criminal wrongdoing at the now defunct tabloid. That's the job of a criminal court, not an inquiry ordered by Downing Street.

 

Q: The inquiry's remit includes media "practices": so he'll have to look at what went on – and that means "illegal" practices in anyone's book?

A: It does. But don't expect too deep a look. There have been 14 arrests, and inquiries are continuing.

 

Q: Look, is there going to be any Fleet Street blood on the carpet?

A: Certainly not. This is a British judicial inquiry.

 

Q: But over 50 victims have been lined up. They expect their day in court: "revenge" and "getting even" spring to mind

A: Revenge might have to wait. Part two of the inquiry will start only after all criminal proceedings have ended – only then will there be a serious probe of News International.

 

Q: So how long will all this take?

A: Lord Leveson himself has hinted it could be years.

James Cusick

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
Sport
SPORT
News
people
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Biggins as Mrs Smee in Peter Pan
theatreHow do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick