London: The public inquiry into Britain`s
phone-hacking controversy opened on Thursday, with Judge Brian
Leveson saying that the remit of the investigation was wider
than just the recent scandal and he plans to use his powers to
demand evidence from witnesses "as soon as possible".
Leveson today met his inquiry team for the time today.
British Prime Minister David Cameron had ordered the
inquiry in the wake of allegations of wrongdoing at the
now-shuttered `News of the World` tabloid owned by media titan
Rupert Murdoch. The probe committee has 12 months to report
back to government.
The six-member team includes Indian-origin Shami
Chakrabarti, director of campaign group Liberty, George Jones,
former Daily Telegraph political editor, David Bell, former
chairman of the Financial Times, Elinor Goodman, former
Channel 4 political editor, Lord David Currie, former chairman
of regulator Ofcom and Sir Paul Scott-Lee, former West
Midlands chief constable.
In a statement, Lord Leveson said: "It may be tempting
for a number of people to close ranks and suggest the problem
is or was local to a small group of journalists then operating
at the News of the World.
I would encourage all to take a wider picture of the
public good, and help me grapple with the length, width and
depth of the problem as it exists."
Leveson said he has the legal power to demand evidence
from witnesses and plans to use it "as soon as possible."
He said he would invite all editors, journalists and
media owners to highlight what they saw as "inappropriate"
The inquiry will examine press ethics and practices in
relation to the public, politicians and police.
Murdoch has been questioned by MPs over allegations of
widespread phone-hacking at his group`s Sunday tabloid, the
168-year-old `News of the World`.
Lord Leveson said it was critical that the inquiry
concentrated on "the central and most important issue", adding
the "focus of the inquiry is the culture practices and ethics
of the press in the context of the latter`s relationship with
the public, the police and politicians."
He said in September he would hold "a series of
seminars on the ethics of journalism and the practices and
pressures of investigative journalism", and added: "At some
stage there needs to be a discussion of what amounts to the
public good, to what extent the public interest should be
taken into account and by whom".
There have been concerns that Lord Leveson had some
links with the Rupert Murdoch family, due to the fact that he
attended two parties at the home of Matthew Freud, the
publicist and husband of Elisabeth Murdoch, the daughter of
News Corps chairman, Rupert Murdoch.
He said he had met Freud by chance at a dinner in
February 2010 when Freud had offered to do some work free of
charge on the issue of public confidence in sentencing.
Leveson is chair of the Sentencing Council.
Lord Leveson added that with the knowledge of the Lord
Chief Justice, he attended two large evening events at Freud`s
London home in London in July 2010 and January 2011 to discuss