PCC chair: 'Serious questions for News of the World'

Under-fire Press Complaints Commission chair Baroness Buscombe yesterday hit back at criticism from one of the lawyers representing victims of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

On Monday, Mark Lewis, who acts for several clients in the case including former Elle McPherson PA Mary Ellen Field, wrote to Buscombe claiming ‘the PCC‘s role as an independent regulator of the press is meaningless”.

He also said a PCC report into phone-hacking at the News International title – published in November 2009 – was ‘not worth the paper it was written on”.

In a response sent to Lewis yesterday, Buscombe said: “Let me be clear about my position on phone hacking, which has been consistent throughout. It is a deplorable practice, and an unjustifiable intrusion into an individual’s privacy. The commission has always said that it is a breach of the Editors’ Code.”

Buscombe added: ‘It is evident that News International’s latest statement is relevant: they have now publicly acknowledged that their own internal inquiries were not robust. That raises serious questions which need answers.”

Buscombe also defended the PCC phone-hacking committee that was set up earlier this year, which includes London’s Queen Mary University’s Professor Ian Walden, former Cambridgeshire chief constable Julie Spence, and The Scotsman editor John McLellan. .

Her letter concludes: ‘As I said to the Independent in February this year, it brings shame upon the whole journalistic profession. I condemn all those at the News of the World who have been involved in it.

‘I see it as one function of the PCC (as it sought to do in 2007 and 2009) to ensure that phone hacking is, and remains, stamped out across the whole industry.

‘I hope you now understand my unequivocal stance on the subject. As you will recognise, the PCC will not be offering further comment at this stage, while the Committee (and indeed the police) are actively considering this matter.’

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