LONDON (Bywire News) - Did newspapers, politicians, and the police collude to pervert the course of justice and ruin the lives of innocent people? That’s the question being asked by Campaign Group Hacked Off as it pushes for the government to allow the second part of the Leveson Inquiry to get the go-ahead.
Launched in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, by Lord Leveson, it was withering about standards of culture within the media and the press regulators.
However, this was only part one. Part two was intended to go deeper and probe possible connections between the media, politicians and the police. However, almost as soon as the report was delivered the government began distancing itself.
Then-Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the report but claimed to have ‘serious misgivings’ about implementing its recommendations. Before long the possibility of a second inquiry came into question.
First, the government claimed part two would not start until all criminal investigations had been concluded. Pretty soon newspaper reports suggested the inquiry would never see the light of day.
Then, in 2016, the new Prime Minister Theresa May launched a consultation suggesting Leveson 2 should be scrapped together.
Moments like this tell you a lot about a government. Those with nothing to hide welcome the scrutiny and the chance to uncover any wrongdoing. As for those who do? Well, they may look for a stooge, someone so bungling and incompetent that nobody would ever suspect of having an ulterior motive.
This brings us to Matt Hancock. In 2018 he stood up in parliament and said this: “Sir Brian, whom I thank for his service, agrees that the inquiry should not proceed under the current terms of reference but believes that it should continue in an amended form.”
However, this not true. It soon emerged that Leveson ‘fundamentally disagreed’ with the discontinuation of the inquiry. The broken promise and the lies pushed by the government at the time,
“The Government’s own consultation on the question of completing Leveson Part Two found that a majority of respondents backed the completion of the Inquiry – a view shared by Sir Brian Leveson himself, as well as free speech campaigners like the NUJ and Article 19,” says Nathan Sparkes head of Campaigns for Hacked off. “The national press continues to be an immensely powerful industry and has unique levels of access to Government Ministers. This was an Inquiry which threatened to expose wrongdoing among that industry, alongside two of our other most powerful institutions: the police force, and politicians themselves.”
Pressed on why the government broke these promises he adds, “In my view, and in light of these details, it is hard to see the Government’s cancellation of Leveson Part Two as anything other than a corrupt decision to protect themselves – both from the investigations of the Inquiry, and the prospect of negative national press coverage which would follow from a decision to proceed.”
The absence of Leveson 2 leaves a host of questions unanswered such as:
- Was police wrongdoing at Hillsborough covered up by the police?
- Did journalists collude to frustrate investigations into the murder of Daniel Morgan, a private investigator hired to expose police corruption in 1987?
- Why did the police take no action into the hacking of murder victim Milly Dowler’s phone when they were first informed in 2001?
- How did the police fail to uncover widespread hacking at the News of the World despite two investigations?
Justice for victims
Most of all victims of press intrusion will never see justice unless they have the resources to take the press to court. They include a sexual assault survivor who wrote to Hacked Off after the police sold details of her testimony to the press. This is a practice which her lawyer Tamsin Allen told Hacked Off was commonplace.
“It was fairly routine that crime correspondents would have arrangements with police officers and would pay them for stories so the individual police were able to get money for it and a connection for a newspaper which could be useful for them, and of course it was useful for the press as they got information [for publication] they otherwise wouldn’t be entitled to have,” she explained.
Another interesting case is that of former Grange Hill and London’s Burning star John Alford. At the height of his fame, he was induced by Mazer Mahmoud, aka the ‘fake Sheikh’ to purchase Cocaine. Naively, the star did so, prompting the News of the World to immediately out him as a ‘cocaine dealer’.
Alford was sent to prison as a result and a promising career went up in smoke. He is now suing News Group Newspapers and says he will name senior figures for the alleged misuse of his private information and intrusion.
Mahmoud was later convicted of perverting the course of justice and jailed for 14 months. He remains a totem of a corrupt media system that Leveson 2 would have exposed.
“This is an exciting case which could well expose some important details; Mr Alford has been brave in bringing it. But these cases are no substitute for Leveson Part Two, which would have far more freedom to pursue different lines of inquiry,” says Sparkes.
“When the Government cancelled Leveson Part Two, it was implied that police investigations had turned up all the facts. This has already been shown to be nonsense, with the revelations of John Ford and others alleging further illegality. Any revelations of wrongdoing which emerge from cases like Mr. Alford’s further undermine the Government’s claims in this respect.”
Hacked Off are helping Alford with his case and offering support and advice to others who have been victims of press intrusion. Cases such as this shine a light on the corrupt links between the media, police and politicians which threaten the fabric of democracy. With regulators showing little appetite to act, without the transparency and accountability Leveson 2 could bring, getting real change could be impossible.
(Written by Tom Cropper, edited by Klaudia Fior)