UK phone-hacking: Theresa May govt shelves second probe
The Leveson Inquiry shone a light on unethical practices of news organisations, such as hacking into phones of celebrities and others for information and “chequebook journalism”.Updated: Mar 03, 2018 23:33 IST
The second part of the Leveson Inquiry set up to probe the phone-hacking scandal has been shelved on the ground that the British press had cleaned up its act and that the media landscape had changed, sparking criticism from Labour and others.
The inquiry shone a light on unethical practices of news organisations, such as hacking into phones of celebrities and others for information and “chequebook journalism”. The inquiry questioned former prime minister David Cameron and others in 2011 and 2012.
The second part of the inquiry was scheduled to consider the extent of improper conduct and governance failings by individual newspaper groups, how these were investigated by police and whether police officers received corrupt payments or inducements.
However, culture secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons on Thursday that the terms of reference for the second part had largely been met by the first part of the inquiry, which was concluded by Justice Brian Leveson in November 2012 in a report.
“There have also been extensive reforms to policing practices and significant changes to press self-regulation. IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation) has been established and now regulates 95% of national newspapers by circulation. It has taken significant steps to demonstrate its independence as a regulator,” he said.
“So it is clear that we have seen significant progress, from publications, from the police and also from the newly formed regulator.”
Leveson recently urged the government to initiate the second part of the inquiry which, he believed, would have broadened out to include data protection and fake news on social media.
He wrote to Hancock: “I have no doubt that there is still a legitimate expectation on behalf of the public and, in particular, the alleged victims of phone hacking and other unlawful conduct, that there will be a full public examination of the circumstances that allowed that behaviour to develop and clear reassurances that nothing of the same scale could occur again: that is what they were promised.”
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson, who was at the forefront in criticising news-gathering practices, particularly by titles owned by Rupert Murdoch, accused Hancock of being “brazenly misleading” about public support for going ahead with the inquiry.
Evan Harris, director of campaign group Hacked Off, said: “If this was any other industry, the press would be demanding that inquiry must happen immediately, but when it is about them they applaud the cover-up of a cover-up. The government will find it very difficult to maintain this cover-up for long.”
The Murdoch-owned News of the World was closed in July 2011 following revelations of phone-hacking in The Guardian, which triggered a series of inquiries, arrests and changes in the relationship between the British press, public and police.