Leading article: Leveson must beware the risk of overkill


Related Topics

The Leveson Inquiry into the press came to life yesterday as Sally Dowler re-lived the moment, eight years ago, when she was given false hope that her missing daughter, Milly, might be alive. She told her husband: "She's picked up her voicemails, Bob. She's alive!" That moment will stand for a long time as a shocking low point in the sometimes murky history of the British press.

After the Dowlers came the actor Hugh Grant, who has also conducted a very effective campaign to expose the abusive behaviour of parts of our profession. Other witnesses will include the comic actor Steve Coogan, and the former head of Formula One Max Mosley – two other vocal critics of the press. They all have stories to tell that show the tabloid papers, particularly the now defunct News of the World, in an appalling light. But there is a danger that the inquiry will impute too much from these extreme examples.

The Dowler case is in a class of its own. There are no circumstances under which people who have been dragged under the spotlight as victims of a sensational crime should have their privacy deliberately invaded. Anyone who does what was done to the Dowler family deserves to end up in prison.

But the complaints of celebrities such as Hugh Grant have to be treated with more caution. Mr Grant chose to enter a profession which would make him a public figure. He chose to be an object of interest, but complained when press interest in him took an unpleasant turn. It is not a straightforward question how much celebrities like Mr Grant should be able to control what is written about them. There is a danger that in seeking to protect individual privacy, the Leveson Inquiry will restrict the public's right to know whether their celebrities are what they appear to be.

Among the famous and the powerful there will always be a minority who are unpleasant, hypocritical or actually corrupt, who would love to be able to command the kind of protection from media scrutiny that Mr Grant demands, and to which the innocent Dowlers were obviously entitled. The Leveson Inquiry should not lose sight of that.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station  

General Election 2015: Despite all the seeming cynicism, our political system works

Ian Birrell
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living