Leveson to recall Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre

 

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre is to be recalled to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, its chairman said today.

Mr Dacre, editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers which publishes the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, will answer more questions about accusations made by actor Hugh Grant.

Yesterday the editor defended accusing Mr Grant of making "mendacious smears" after the actor claimed a Mail on Sunday story about his relationship with socialite Jemima Khan was likely to have come from illicit eavesdropping.

Mr Dacre told the inquiry that he would withdraw the statement if Mr Grant withdrew his claims that the Daily Mail or Mail on Sunday were involved in phone hacking.

He said he had never placed a story in the newspaper that he knew had come from phone hacking and was convinced it did not happen.

Today Lord Justice Leveson said the editor would be recalled to answer more questions on the issue, as well as complaints made by Mr Grant about press intrusion following his relationship with Chinese actress Tinglan Hong, who gave birth to his daughter in late September.

Lord Justice Leveson said: "I am extremely unhappy about the way in which yesterday afternoon did what I perceive to be damage to the appropriate flow of this inquiry.

"I am not willing to allow what is an obvious conflict between one of the core participants and another to divert attention from my concern about the customs, practices and ethics of the press.

"To some extent that conflict may evidence customs, practices and ethics but there is a limit."

He said he would allow some more time for the matter, and Mr Dacre would be asked to return some time this week.

"We will find some short period of time for this to be the subject of further evidence and we shall do that this week," he said.

After Mr Grant's claims during his evidence at the start of the inquiry, Associated Newspapers denied hacking any phones.

In a statement, it said the accusations were "mendacious smears driven by his (Mr Grant's) hatred of the media".

Mr Dacre yesterday told the inquiry he was off the day the claims were made but heard reports of them on BBC Radio.

"It was a terrible smear on a company I love," he said. "We had to do something about it.

"I discussed it with the Mail on Sunday editor, what our response was.

"I was deeply aware and he was deeply aware that you had to rebut such a damaging allegation and we agreed on the form of words, 'it was a mendacious smear'."

He said the comments were an attempt by Mr Grant, the Hacked Off campaign and the Media Standards Trust to "hijack" the inquiry and if Associated had not instantly strongly rebutted the allegations, it would have been "too late".

"My company would have been smeared, my newspapers would have been smeared and I was not prepared to allow that," he said.

"I will withdraw that statement if Mr Grant withdraws his statements that the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday were involved in phone hacking.

"I have never placed a story in the Daily Mail as a result of phone hacking, that I know came from phone hacking. I know of no cases of phone hacking.

"Having conducted a major internal inquiry, I am as convinced as I can be that there is no phone hacking on the Daily Mail.

"I don't make that statement lightly. And no editor, the editor of the Guardian or the Independent, could say otherwise."

Mr Dacre said a newspaper was entitled to ask a celebrity like Mr Grant if he had had a child, especially when he had spoken previously of his desire to be a father.

"Mr Grant has spent his life invading his own privacy," he said.

"It seems a little bit ripe that when he does have a child he and his press representatives won't confirm or deny that."

Asked about photographers going to the house of the mother of his child, who gave birth to his daughter in late September, Mr Dacre said: "When someone has a baby the press through the ages, newspapers, have sent photographers round to ask if they can take a picture. It's as old as time itself.

"Mr Grant is a major, major international celebrity. People are very interested in his life."

In a statement yesterday, the Hacked Off campaign said: "The Hacked Off campaign and the Media Standards Trust categorically refute Paul Dacre's baseless accusations that we have 'attempted to hijack' the Leveson Inquiry by somehow putting pressure on Hugh Grant, a supporter of the Hacked Off campaign, to 'wound' Associated Newspapers at the time Mr Grant gave oral evidence to the Inquiry."

PA

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