McCanns seek role in hacking investigation

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A judge is deciding what part the parents of missing child Madeleine McCann, Labour politician Lord Prescott and other people who have featured in high-profile cases should play in a judicial inquiry into media ethics and phone hacking.

Lord Justice Leveson - who will head the inquiry, due to start in London later this year - heard applications today from people and organisations who want to take part, including Kate and Gerry McCann, former Formula 1 boss Max Mosley, Chris Jefferies, the former landlord of alleged murder victim Jo Yeates, former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott, former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, plus various newspaper groups.

Lawyers representing actress Sienna Miller, actors Jude Law and Hugh Grant, ex-footballer Paul Gascoigne and comedian Steve Coogan also addressed the judge at a preliminary hearing in London.

The judge said he would make decisions on who would be "core participants" in the near future.

He must also decide how much of the inquiry legal bill will be footed by the taxpayer - and said he would listen to funding applications from participants at a later date.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced the inquiry in July, following revelations about phone hacking by the News of the World newspaper.

Lord Justice Leveson outlined today the format planned for the inquiry, saying he would look into the "culture, practice and ethics" of the press and then, in a second stage, into the extent of any improper conduct.

The judge said he would hold a series of preliminary, fact-finding meetings before the main hearing began.

He said the inquiry would examine the relationship between the press and the public, the press and the police, and the press and politicians.

The judge said he wanted evidence from experts and members of the public.

He said he expected the inquiry to last for several months and aimed to produce a report within a year.

Inquiry officials said "core participants" would have the right to be legally represented but not necessarily the right to cross-examine witnesses.

Lord Justice Leveson said he was wary of the need to avoid any interference with police inquiries into phone hacking.

"I won't be looking at who did what to whom," the judge told lawyers. "I am not conducting a trial and this will not run along the lines of a trial."

The judge heard that police investigating alleged criminal offences in the wake of complaints about phone hacking had made a number of arrests.

He was also told that a number of celebrities had launched civil damages actions in the High Court against News International. A High Court judge is due to be updated on the progress of claims at a hearing in London in October.