PCC forms new phone-hack working group

The Press Complaints Commission is to establish a working group to consider new evidence and review previous decisions taken by the industry watchdog over phone-hacking, it said today.

The working group of three commissioners, to be called the Phone Hacking Review Committee, will feature the commission’s two newest lay members to ensure a lay (non-journalist) majority.

Ian Walden, professor of information and communications law at Queen Mary University, and Julie Spence, former chief constable of Cambridgeshire Police, will sit on the working group along with John McLellan, editor of the Scotsman.

The PCC said it took the decision to form the new sub-committee after discussing the issue of phone-hacking at length during its meeting on 19 January.

The commission said the working group would: ‘consider the new information that becomes available, and make recommendations to the commission”.

‘The purpose of this will be to draw together lessons learned as a result of the outcomes of the relevant police inquiries and ongoing legal actions,’it added.

‘It will also consider the outcome of the current internal inquiry of the News of the World.”

The PCC said the new committee, which would make all its recommendations public, would review the PCC’s own previous actions in regard to phone-hacking.

‘It is important to make clear that phone hacking is a criminal offence, and the commission has been consistent in its condemnation of it,’the PCC said in a statement.

‘It has also been consistently clear that it is not the role of the PCC – or within its powers – to duplicate the investigations of the police, or to establish criminality.

‘However, its role is to work to raise standards in the industry, and it is committed to take this opportunity – at the conclusion of the relevant processes – to do so in this area.”

The announcement today of a review of its previous decisions over phone-hacking comes after the PCC announced in September that it intended to look again at phone-hacking at the News of the World in the wake of a series of fresh allegations.

That announcement came just ten months after the PCC concluded a second review of the News of the World hacking affair in November, 2009, by saying that there was no new fresh evidence.

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