Mail fails in fight against anonymity at Leveson Inquiry

 

Journalists who fear their testimony could end their careers will be able to remain anonymous if they appear at the Leveson Inquiry.

Three High Court judges yesterday dismissed an application by Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail, to block anonymous evidence. The Mail group claimed that if journalists were allowed to withhold their names, untested evidence which tarnished the reputation of the Daily Mail could be heard.

Lord Justice Toulson, Mr Justice Sweeney and Mrs Justice Sharp ruled that it was not for the court to "micro-manage the conduct" of the inquiry into press ethics and practices, being chaired by Lord Justice Leveson.

Lawyers representing the National Union of Journalists, and counsel for some of the victims, opposed the attempt to block anonymous evidence.

Associated were seeking a judicial review of the decision, given by Lord Justice Leveson early in his review.

At the beginning of the first public phase of his inquiry, he announced that he had been approached by newspaper journalists who indicated the descriptions they intended to paint of their industry were "not entirely consistent with the picture that editors and proprietors have painted".

He said some journalists feared they might lose their jobs if they offered critical evidence.

During the review hearing last week, counsel for the Mail argued that the press were "on trial" at the Leveson Inquiry and that Associated Newspapers were particularly threatened. The inquiry's leading counsel, Robert Jay QC, described the Mail's application as "premature" and said the inquiry had to decide between "hearing evidence from anonymous witnesses and not hearing it all".

Next week, Mazher Mahmood, the former News of the World star reporter also known as the "Fake Sheikh", will return to the witness stand on Wednesday.

Monday's witness list is dominated by leading figures from British television including, Jim Gray, the editor of Channel Four News and Mark Thompson, the BBC's director-general.

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