Hacking judge tells press: I need your help to weed out corruption

The Lord Justice said the expansion of the terms of reference meant the first part might not be completed in a year

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The Independent Online

The man appointed to lead the judicial inquiry into phone hacking and press standards last night warned newspapers not to "close ranks" but help him expose the "depth" of journalistic malpractice.

In his first public comments since being appointed, Lord Justice Leveson said he intended to call "waves" of witnesses including journalists, politicians and policemen starting in autumn. He also warned that the expansion of the terms of reference of his inquiry had been so broadened that he might not be able to complete the first part of the inquiry within the planned timescale of a year.

The terms were expanded by David Cameron earlier this month after pressure from MPs to look at the role of the BBC and social media as part of the investigation.

Lord Justice Leveson met for the first time formally with the other members of his inquiry panel yesterday and read a statement outlining the procedures and time-scale for the first section of the inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. The second section of the inquiry will look at the specific phone-hacking allegations that arose in the wake of the scandal at the News of the World but will only begin once police investigations have been completed. A series of seminars will be held in October looking at law, media ethics and the practice and pressures of investigative journalism for broadsheet and tabloid newspapers.

Lord Justice Leveson said: "At some stage, there needs to be a discussion of what amounts to the public good, to what extent the public interest should be taken into account and by whom. I hope that an appropriate cross-section of the entire profession, including those from the broadcast media, will be involved in the discussion."

He added: "It may be tempting for a number of people to close ranks and suggest that the problem is or was local to a group of journalists then operating at the News of the World, but I would encourage all to take a wider view of the public good and help me grapple with the width and depth of the problem."

All witnesses, who are expected to include Mr Cameron, will be examined under oath, a spokesman for the inquiry said. The inquiry judge will consult the Director of Public Prosecutions to ensure he does not jeopardise ongoing legal investigations.

But he added: "I believe it should be possible to focus on the extent of the problem which would not prejudice an investigation, without examining who did what to whom."

Lord Justice Leveson continued, "The focus of the inquiry is 'the culture, practices and ethics of the press' in the context of the latter's relationship with the public, the police and politicians. All of these matters overlap, and my goal must be to consider what lessons, if any, may be learned from past events and what recommendations, if any, should be made for the future, in particular as regards press regulation, governance and other systems of oversight."