UK

Phone-hacking scandal: Police urge care during inquiry

Lord Leveson
Image caption Senior judge Lord Leveson will lead a seven-strong panel, which is expected to report within 12 months

The Metropolitan Police has urged the judge leading the phone-hacking inquiry to make sure it does not prejudice a separate criminal investigation.

The Leveson Inquiry will start its hearings on 14 November.

It will begin with submissions from inquiry QC Robert Jay and victims including actress Sienna Miller and the family of murder victim Milly Dowler.

A hearing will take place next week to decide how to handle links between the inquiry and the police investigation.

In submissions, the Met Police and Crown Prosecution Service said it was inevitable the inquiry would touch on areas which had a close connection with the criminal investigation.

But they added: "We are understandably anxious that nothing should be said or done which might jeopardise either the investigation or trial."

Senior judge Lord Leveson will lead the seven-strong panel examining media ethics and press relations with police and politicians.

Sitting at the High Court in London on Wednesday, Lord Leveson ruled there should be a hearing on Monday to discuss how the "interface" between the inquiry and the police investigation should be handled. The hearing will also consider requests by a number of people to give evidence anonymously.

The Met and CPS said in their submissions that the criminal investigation into hacking had not been completed, and there were still decisions to be made on whether to bring charges against some suspects.

They urged the inquiry not to release anything that could prove central to any criminal proceedings, including key documents which had not already been widely reported.

They also urged the inquiry not to take evidence during from anyone who was a suspect in the police investigation.

Balancing act

Lord Leveson told the court: "The problem that I have got is balancing the absolute requirement that anybody who is ultimately charged should be able to receive a fair trial, against a competing dynamic that I have to resolve the issues that I have to resolve, probably well before any trial would ever take place."

He went on: "I don't want to interfere with their (the police's) investigation and any possible prosecution, and I certainly don't want to prejudice it."

The judge also said he had received invitations to visit newspapers and was prepared, "on a low-key basis, to accede to them".

He said he also wanted to visit at least one regional newspaper.

"The whole problem is an industry-wide problem, which has to be solved in a way that works not only for the industry, or profession, whatever you want to call it, but which works for everybody else," he said.

He continued: "My ultimate aim is to produce a system, whatever it be, that works and has the support of everybody."

The first evidence from those who believe they were victims of phone hacking at the hands of the News of the World will be heard on 21 November.

This evidence is expected to take the panel until February, while the inquiry will have powers to call other witnesses under oath.

Core participant status has been granted to 46 alleged victims, meaning they can be represented by a barrister, seek to cross-examine witnesses and make opening and closing statements.

They include author JK Rowling, actors Hugh Grant and Sienna Miller, and the family of murder victim Milly Dowler.

High-profile victims

Prime Minister David Cameron set up the inquiry after the News of the World admitted intercepting voicemail messages of prominent people to find stories.

One of its journalists, royal editor Clive Goodman, had been jailed along with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire in 2007 after admitting the practice.

However, police say the names of up to 4,000 celebrities, sport stars, politicians and crime victims appear in documents suggesting they were potential targets of phone-hacking.

Questions have also been raised about the conduct of journalists at the Trinity Mirror group of newspapers.

However, the group, which publishes titles including the Daily and Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and People, says all its journalists work within the law.

The inquiry's terms will also include media relations with the police after the Metropolitan force came under fire over its initial investigation into phone hacking and its links to former NoW executives.

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