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Lord Justice Leveson, who was called upon to set up the inquiry in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal and the closure of The News of The World, has launched a wide-ranging inquiry to investigate “the culture, practices and ethics of the press in the context of the latter’s relationship with the public, police and politicians.”
The inquiry is likely to question senior police officers, senior politicians including the Prime Minister and a range of current and former News International staff and executives including former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and former News of The World editor Andy Coulson.
It will be broadcast on television and the judge has the freedom to call which ever witnesses he deems necessary.
The News Corp. chairman and CEO and James Murdoch, News Corp.’s deputy COO, have already said they will “co-operate fully” with the investigation process.
However, the inquiry – which hopes to report within 12 months – will not seek to establish whether witnesses are guilty of law-breaking – that is the function of an ongoing criminal inquiry which has not yet sought to arrest James or Rupert Murdoch and may never do.
However, James Murdoch may yet be recalled to the Parliamentary Select Committee into phone-hacking, a further separate investigation, which will resume next month after the summer recess.
Murdoch is expected to face questions on what he knew when he sanctioned payments to a number of phone-hacking victims.
He will also be asked by the inquiry about evidence that has emerged in a letter that only recently came to light from former Royal Editor Clive Goodman, who was jailed for phone message hacking in 2006. In an explosive letter to his then boss Les Hinton, Goodman said that the practice had been sanctioned by his bosses and was widespread and that he was entitled to keep his job after covering up the newspaper’s role in phone-hacking when he went to court.
The police inquiry has arrested 13 former News of The World staff including Coulson, Brooks and Goodman and may result in criminal prosecutions.
Although it does not summon the same legal powers, the Leveson led judicial inquiry will cast a long shadow over the operations of Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper operations, and its effect will be felt by some of Rupert Murdoch’s most senior News Corp. executives and allies, including Brooks and former Wall Street Journal boss Les Hinton, who are expected to be summoned to give evidence.
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