UK

JK Rowling tells Leveson inquiry of press intrusion

  • 24 November 2011
  • From the section UK

JK Rowling has told an inquiry into media ethics of the scale of media intrusion into her private family life.

The Harry Potter author said a reporter had once tried to contact her by slipping a note into her five-year-old daughter's schoolbag.

She said clearly she could not put an "invisibility cloak" around her children to protect them.

Earlier, Lord Justice Leveson heard from actress Sienna Miller and former motorsport boss Max Mosley.

The inquiry, which is being held at the Royal Courts of Justice, heard:

Ms Rowling told the inquiry that children deserved privacy and that she had always tried to protect her private family life from the press, by taking measures which included wrapping them in blankets to hide them from paparazzi.

"They (children) have no choice over who their parents are or how their parents behave.

"A child, no matter who their parents are, deserves privacy. Where children are concerned the issue is fairly black and white."

She said that when her daughter was in her first year at primary school, she unzipped her schoolbag one evening and "among the usual letters from school and the debris that a child generates, I found a letter addressed to me and the letter was from a journalist".

She added: "I felt such a sense of invasion that my daughter's bag.. it's very difficult to say how angry I felt that my five-year-old daughter's school was no longer a place of complete security from journalists."

The author also recalled how the PCC found in her favour after a photograph of her eight-year-old daughter in a swimsuit on a beach in Mauritius was published in OK magazine.

"I feel that given fact that an image has a life that cannot be recalled... I'm sure it is still out there, that's the particular harm of an image."

The writer said shortly after her son was born she was besieged by photographers.

After a week had passed she believed they had disappeared so she decided to leave the house and take her children out, however she soon realised that a photographer with a long lens was there.

"I rather absurdly gave chase. How I thought I was going to outrun a 20-something paparazzo while pushing a buggy. The cumulative effect, it becomes quite draining."

The author also told the inquiry how she had to sit down with her daughter to say an unpleasant character in a Harry Potter book was not based on her ex-husband, which was a "wholly untrue" story the Daily Express had published.

'Paparazzi had found him'

Ms Rowling then went on to discuss how she had been 'blagged', which is when somebody unknowingly reveals personal information.

She said in one instance shortly after she had moved house she received a phone call from somebody purporting to be from the Post Office saying they had a package for her and wanted to confirm her address.

"When I was blagged I realised half-way through giving the person details that I was being blagged," she said.

"This man said to me 'I am from the Post Office, I've got a package for you, what's your address?' Then I said 'Wait! You're from the post office, well what does it say on the package?' and he hung up."

Ms Rowling also said her then boyfriend (now husband) was duped by a journalist who pretended to be from the tax office into giving out personal information.

"He gave them everything - address, pay grade, National Insurance number. The next day flashes went off in his face - the paparazzi had found him."

The author added: "Like a lot of people who have agreed to give evidence at this inquiry, we are not asking for special treatment.

"We are simply asking for normal treatment... and I am simply asking for that on behalf of my children."

Ms Rowling confirmed she had not been a victim of phone hacking as "she hardly used her phone in the 90s".

'Dark street'

Mr Mosley, who had won £60,000 in damages from the News of the World after a judge ruled that its story about his sex life had invaded his right to privacy, earlier told the inquiry of his outrage that photographs of him at a sadomasochistic orgy were published.

He said his son, who has since died, resumed taking drugs as he could not cope after seeing the photographs.

Mr Mosley also said a second story, purporting to be the account of a woman who had filmed the orgy, was later found to have been written by News of the World reporter Neville Thurlbeck, who he said had forced the woman to put her name to it.

Image caption Max Mosley earlier told the inquiry an article about him had been 'invented' by News of the World

Earlier, Ms Miller - who has been the subject of media attention for her relationships with partners such as actor Jude Law - told the inquiry about incidents where she said paparazzi had driven dangerously and illegally while following her.

She questioned why having a camera made it legal for people - sometimes as many as "10 to 15 men" - to chase her. "I would often find myself - I was 21 - at midnight running down a dark street," she said.

In his evidence, lawyer Mark Thomson - who has represented celebrities including Jude Law and Lily Allen - argued for a stronger regulatory system for the press.

"I really don't think that just a few adjustments to the PCC (Press Complaints Commission) will work," he said. "Some of the worst offenders are photographic agencies and paparazzi, and the PCC can't control them."

Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry is looking at the "culture, practices and ethics of the media" and whether the self-regulation of the press works.

A second phase of the inquiry will commence after the conclusion of a police investigation into News of the World phone hacking and any resultant prosecutions. It will examine the extent of unlawful conduct by the press and look at the police's initial hacking investigation.

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