Leveson says no to tabloid presence on inquiry panel

Lord Justice Leveson has rejected calls for some tabloid or regional newspaper representation on the panel of his inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal.

The fact that the panel comprises two former broadsheet journalists, a former policeman, a broadcaster, the former chairman of Ofcom and the director of Liberty has prompted fears that it will side against the tabloids.

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre told the inquiry last week that its assessors “don’t have the faintest clue how mass-selling newspapers operate”. He also said: “Any future reforms must take into consideration the needs and commercial realities of all newspapers, the provincial press, mass-selling red tops, as well as loss-making broadsheets.”

Responding to a submission made by several newspaper groups asking Leveson to appoint more assessors with wider press experience, he said: “I do not presently understand why the ethical approach that a journalist brings to his or her work should vary depending upon whether that journalist is employed by a broadsheet, mid-market or tabloid newspaper.

“Neither do I immediately see why there should be a different approach to the concept of public interest – the public embraces readers of each type of newspaper to which I have referred.

“I accept that the time and commercial pressures may well be different across the market-place and I bear in mind that the focus for stories in, say, a tabloid, is likely to be different to the focus in a broadsheet, but that is something that can be addressed in the evidence and which I can evaluate in due course.”

The inquiry’s assessors are Sir David Bell, former chairman of the Financial Times; Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights watchdog Liberty; Lord (David) Currie, the former chairman of Ofcom, Elinor Goodman, one-time political editor of Channel 4 News; George Jones, former political editor of the Daily Telegraph; and Sir Paul Scott-Lee, former chief constable of West Midlands police.

The application, made last month by Associated Newspapers, was supported by Trinity Mirror, the Newspaper Publishers’ Association and Guardian News and Media.

Lord Justice Leveson said in a written judgmenbt: “The tabloid press, the mid-market press, the regional press, those involved in news-gathering, politicians, victims and many other interested parties and individuals will be afforded every opportunity to provide me with that evidence, which will doubtless not be limited to fact and will include opinion, comment, advice and assistance.

“I have said on many occasions now that I will expect all parties to assist me as fully as possible in order to ensure that I am as fully informed as I can be.

“In those circumstances, and weighing up all these considerations, I do not consider it desirable at this stage to appoint any further assessors.

“At present, I am satisfied that I can, and will, obtain a very full range of evidence which will assist me in addressing the Terms of Reference and making my recommendations.”

Oral evidence is expected to start in the inquiry next month.

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