Certain people seem to be forgetting that the Leveson Inquiry into the Culture, Practice and Ethics of the Press was partly prompted by a newspaper’s interference in criminal investigations after a schoolgirl was murdered.
It is understood that reporters from the News of the World (I don’t know how many of them did it) hacked into Millie Dowler’s mobile phone, listened to voice messages left on it, and then deleted them, allowing new messages to be left and illicitly monitored, and leading her parents to believe that the teenager, who had been killed by Levi Bellfield, was still alive. This act also hindered the police investigation into what had happened.
Rebekah Brooks, a close friend of Conservative MP David Cameron – who later became leader of the Tories, and Prime Minister in 2010 – was editor of that newspaper at the time. The New York Times alleged that, if the allegations were true, then it was possible Mrs Brooks knew about the hacking and allowed it.
I am a newspaper reporter – and was editor of The Brecon and Radnor Express for a while before running my own online news business for a few years. I know the scale of our respective operations was vastly different, but I can promise that I always knew how my reporters were getting their stories. If I didn’t know, I asked.
Mrs Brooks was followed as editor of the News of the World by one Andy Coulson, who went on to become Conservative Party Communications Director and then Director of Communications for the Prime Minister (when David Cameron assumed that role in 2010). He had taken up the Conservative Party position after resigning from the newspaper over the phone hacking affair. He had been subjected to allegations that he was aware his reporters were hacking into the telephones of private individuals, including celebrities.
The Andy Coulson/David Cameron (or AC/DC, as I propose to call it from now on) relationship is the important issue here.
The main question behind the Leveson Inquiry has always been this: Did David Cameron allow a criminal, who used illegal methods to monitor the activities of others, into the heart of the British government?
This would have been a colossal error of judgement – possibly an unforgivable one.
The editor of The Independent seems to have forgotten that this is what it’s all about. Responding to a letter from the Inquiry, Chris Blackhurst claimed that Lord Justice Leveson was “loading a gun” that he was preparing to fire at the newspaper industry.
He told the BBC it was “a point by point demolition of the industry”, describing it as a “diatribe” raising criticisms that did not bear any relation to practices at his “end of the market”.
This is a man who badly needs to get over himself. Serious questions have been raised about the behaviour of our national newspapers, and if the Inquiry has found that they are justified, then they need to be addressed.
He does not know the full extent of the Inquiry’s findings. The letter he received is a standard part of inquiry procedures and gives notice of possible criticism, offering those concerned a chance to respond before a conclusion is reached. They are one-sided because positive findings do not necessitate a warning.
And we should not gloss over the fact that Mr Blackhurst has broken the rules by making the complaint. The letter he received was confidential and those who receive such correspondence are obliged to keep them that way and not discuss them openly.
By whining about it, Mr Blackhurst has made Leveson’s point for him.