Leveson Inquiry: 10 key witnesses
- 24 July 2012
- From the section UK
From revelations of the prime minister's "LOL" text messages to Rebekah Brooks, to the disruption caused by an anti-war protester, the Leveson Inquiry has set the stage for some dramatic scenes.
Here are 10 of the key moments of the media ethics inquiry.
'She's picked up her voicemail'
Sally and Bob Dowler, the parents of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, were the first people to give evidence in person. Taking to the witness stand on 21 November last year, they explained how the hacking of their daughter's phone had given them false hope that she was still alive.
Mrs Dowler said they had called the 13-year-old's phone repeatedly in the weeks after she went missing in Surrey in 2002, but the voicemail had become full. However, Mrs Dowler was able to access it again after some of the messages were deleted and recalled telling friends: "She's picked up her voicemail, she's picked up her voicemail."
The revelation that the News of the World (NoW) had hacked Milly's phone after she vanished led to a public outcry, the newspaper's closure and the establishment of the inquiry itself.
But the Metropolitan Police later fell under the inquiry's spotlight as witnesses tried to determine whether the messages had been deleted automatically or deliberately.
LOL texts from PM
The appearance of Rebekah Brooks was among the inquiry's most hotly anticipated.
The former News International (NI) chief executive said David Cameron had ended some text messages to her with the letters "LOL" in the belief that the acronym stood for "lots of love" not "laugh out loud". The revelation became an instant topic of discussion on micro-blogging site Twitter.
Asked about the frequency of their text contacts when she was head of NI, the former Sun and NoW editor said they had exchanged messages about once a week, rising to about two a week in the run-up to the 2010 general election.
It emerged that Mr Cameron had sent Mrs Brooks a "keep your head up" text message when she quit NI.
Mrs Brooks also said she had had the express permission of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah to run a story in 2006 about their son Fraser being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. But he Browns later issued a statement saying that "at no stage" had their permission been sought.
News Corp's 'cheerleader'
The appearance of Rupert Murdoch's son James at the inquiry created shockwaves across Westminster and left a cabinet minister fighting for his career.
Questioned over the phone-hacking scandal that had shut down the NoW, the News Corporation boss maintained his position that he had not been aware of earlier suggestions that phone-hacking went beyond a single reporter - the then royal editor Clive Goodman jailed for phone hacking in 2007.
But it was evidence related to the News Corporation takeover bid for BSkyB, another casualty of the phone-hacking scandal, that proved most explosive. News Corp released to the inquiry a 163-page dossier of emails that appeared to show Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt's support for the bid, which he had been chosen to oversee in an impartial, quasi-judicial role.
Before the day was out, Labour was calling for Mr Hunt's resignation and the culture secretary's special adviser, Adam Smith, resigned the next day over his excessive contact with News Corp.
Mr Hunt insisted he had acted with "scrupulous fairness", and asked for his own appearance before the inquiry to be brought forward but his request was declined.
'A plea for journalism... it isn't always pretty'
Ian Hislop, the editor of satirical magazine Private Eye, told the inquiry that new laws were not needed to govern the press.
Practices such as phone hacking, paying police officers and being in contempt of court contravened existing laws, he said, and the inquiry should examine why the laws were not rigorously enforced.
Mr Hislop, a panellist on BBC quiz Have I Got News For You, criticised close relationships between the press and both police and politicians.
However, he defended the practice of blagging - obtaining information by deception - saying it had been "very effective" in some investigations.
"I wanted to put in a plea for journalism and the concept of a free press, that it is important; it isn't always pretty… and I hope this inquiry doesn't throw out the baby with the bath water," he said.
'It would compromise a source'
Former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan gave evidence to the inquiry via video link from the US.
Questioned in some detail about claims made by Sir Paul McCartney's former wife Heather Mills that her voicemail had been hacked into, Mr Morgan admitted hearing a recording of a message.
But he insisted: "I can't discuss where that tape was played or who made it - it would compromise a source."
Ms Mills later issued a statement saying that she had never disclosed private voicemail messages to Mr Morgan.
Mr Morgan said he was "not aware" of any phone hacking at the Daily Mirror while he was in charge. But he said the "Fleet Street rumour mill" had been buzzing with rumours that the practice went a lot further than Clive Goodman.
'No hidden agenda'
Lord Justice Leveson decided to make a statement before proceedings on 25 June after the Mail on Sunday claimed he had threatened to quit the inquiry.
Its story was said to have followed comments made by Education Secretary Michael Gove at a press lunch that the inquiry was having a "chilling" effect on freedom of speech.
But Lord Justice Leveson said he had only contacted the cabinet secretary at Number 10 because he was concerned about "the perception" his inquiry into press standards was "being undermined".
He told the inquiry he had no "hidden agenda" to stifle a free press.
'Mendacious smears driven by hatred'
The Leveson Inquiry got a sprinkling of Hollywood on one of its first days with the appearance of Hugh Grant.
The actor claimed during his evidence that he had been a victim of phone hacking by the Mail on Sunday (MoS), which had published a story about his relationship with Jemima Khan.
In February, Paul Dacre, editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers had denied hacking had been the source of the story and accused Mr Grant of making "mendacious smears driven by his hatred of the media".
Lord Justice Leveson decided that Mr Dacre should return for a second time to resolve the row.
Mr Dacre again denied phone hacking had been the source of the 2007 story, saying that he would withdraw the "mendacious smears" comment only if Mr Grant withdrew his suggestion that Mail newspapers had been involved in phone hacking.
Mr Grant later said he stood by his claim.
'I never asked a PM for anything'
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch declared his session was an opportunity "to put certain myths to bed".
High on his list was the idea that he used his papers and contact with politicians to further his commercial ambitions. Hitting the desk at one point, he said he did not know many politicians and had "never asked a prime minister for anything".
He also claimed former Prime Minister Gordon Brown had phoned him in 2009 after the Sun had switched allegiance to the Conservatives.
Mr Murdoch quoted Mr Brown as saying: "Well, your company has declared war on my government and we have no alternative but to make war on your company."
But Mr Brown later denied this, saying the claim was "wholly wrong", and in June he said phone records released by the Cabinet Office cast further doubt on Mr Murdoch's claim.
'We're in this together'
With Prime Minister David Cameron's appearance at the inquiry came more revelations of embarrassing text messages.
The inquiry heard that Rebekah Brooks had sent a text to the then opposition leader saying "professionally we're definitely in this together", after the Sun paper had switched loyalty to his party ahead of the general election.
Mrs Brooks signed off the text to Mr Cameron, on the eve of his speech to the 2009 Conservative Party conference, by writing: "Speech of your life? Yes he Cam!"
Mr Cameron said the text had referred to the fact his party and Mrs Brooks's newspapers would be "pushing the same agenda".
BBC political editor Nick Robinson said that when questioned about the Murdochs, Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and Jeremy Hunt, the PM looked "tense, edgy, uncomfortable and again and again said he couldn't recall events".
In a dramatic intervention during the Leveson Inquiry, a protester disrupted former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair's evidence.
The man, who said he was David Lawley-Wakelin from the "Alternative Iraq Enquiry", burst in and called Mr Blair a "war criminal" before being removed. Police arrested Mr Lawley Wakelin on suspicion of breach of the peace but later released him without charge.
Lord Justice Leveson apologised to Mr Blair and questioned how the man had been able to enter the court.
During his evidence, Mr Blair defended his friendship with Rupert Murdoch, saying it had been "a working relationship" until he had left Number 10.
He said he had not changed any policies to please the newspapers owned by Mr Murdoch.