Martin Hickman: Private grief, celebrity and a network of corruption

 

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After six months and millions of words, the Leveson Inquiry has shone an unflattering light on journalism and the connections and corruption that entwined the Metropolitan Police and News International. The next module, into newspapers and politicians, begins next month.

First, journalism. Many of the allegations dated as far back as the 1980s, but they were often devastating. From the News of the World's intrusive photographing of the Dowlers as they retraced their daughter's last steps, to the Daily Express's smears on Kate and Gerry McCann, to the chronicling of the mental distress of Charlotte Church's mother (News of the World again), the inquiry's first weeks were a parade of invasions of privacy and breaches of normal standards.

After the departure of the stars and the grieving, the journalists, news editors and editors were called to account. Their evidence suggested ethics were often lost in the hurly-burly, deadlines and hierarchies of the news business: the reporters who spun their stories, but then watched as news editors and headline-writers added top-spin; the editors who didn't know their reporters were hacking phones, or bribing, or blackmailing. There was always someone else to blame.

Module two was less glamorous, but shone a light on the cosiness between Scotland Yard and News International. Some of the small details stood out: the eight lunches, dinners and drinks sessions between the now-resigned Assistant Commissioner John Yates and the News of the World's former deputy editor Neil Wallis in 2009 and 2010; the filing of a story by Lucy Panton, the News of the World's crime editor, from the computer of the Yard's now-resigned director of public affairs, Dick Fedorcio; the loan of the police horse Raisa to Rebekah Brooks, then editor of The Sun, after a lunch with the Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair. All circumstantial, all potentially signifying nothing more than mere friendliness.

But then came the hard evidence of Wapping's power: Sue Akers' extraordinary testimony about The Sun running a "network of corrupted officials" across public life.

Why did the Met's original investigation go so badly wrong in 2006? Clues come in the information about the inquiry "the cops" gave to Brooks in September 2006 and the evidence of David Perry, QC, yesterday that Scotland Yard officers, when asked whether any more journalists were involved in phone hacking, said: "No."

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