The Leveson Enquiry is a two-part investigation of the role of the press and the police in the phone hacking scandal on 13 July 2011. The chairman of the enquiry is Lord Justice Leveson, and he is assisted by a panel of six assessors who have expertise in key issues related to the enquiry. The enquiry will begin by investigating the culture, practices and ethics of the media. Specifically, the enquiry will examine the relationship between the press with the public, politicians and police. The enquiry will use witnesses including newspaper reporters, management, proprietors, policemen and politicians of all parties who are expected to testify under oath.
When the intentions of the inquiry were released to the press in September, it became clear that the structure would consist of 2 parts. Part 1 was defined as dealing with “the culture, practices and ethics of the press, including contacts between the press and politicians and the press and the police; it is to consider the extent to which the current regulatory regime has failed and whether there has been a failure to act upon any previous warnings about media misconduct.”
The second part would move away from this in order to investigate “the extent of unlawful or improper conduct with News International, other media organisations or other organisations. It will also consider the extent to which any relevant police force investigated allegations relating to News International, and whether the police received corrupt payments or were otherwise complicit in misconduct.”
An example of the impact of the enquiry is that evidence has recently has been given relating to one of the most appalling incidents in relation to the phone hacking scandal. It was revealed that The News of the World, by illegally hacking into a missing girls phone, led her parents to believing she was still alive. The Newspaper deleted messages on her phone and when the parents saw this action, naturally assumed that it was her who did it, and therefore that she must be alive. Although perhaps not the most damning piece of evidence, the nature of what occurred in this incident makes it a stunning revelation.
The enquiry continues on the 21st of November 2011. These hearings will include a number of celebrity witnesses who testifying at the enquiry. This includes Charlotte Church, Sheryl Gascoigne, JK Rowling, and Chris Jefferies (the latter of which will appear in prison). David Sherborne says Jeffries had been the subject of “a media feeding frenzy of almost unprecedented proportions” after his arrest.
Other witnesses include Steve Coogan and Ian Hurst, an ex-army intelligence officer who claims the News of the World hacked his e-mails.
There are a number of reasons why the enquiry is extremely important to the future of journalism. One of the intentions is to obtain a degree of justice for the victims of the phone hacking scandal. Another reason is so recommendations can be clarified for the future of journalism. The enquiry will paint a road map for journalists to use in the future to prevent damaging instances occurring in the future in the field of journalism.