7/7 father says celebrities 'hijacked' Leveson Inquiry
- 23 November 2012
- From the section UK
A father whose son was killed in the 7/7 bombings has told BBC Newsnight he thinks the Leveson Inquiry has been "hijacked" by celebrities.
Graham Foulkes said as the "celebrity circus" got involved the inquiry "lost its focus" and "value".
Police told him in 2011 that he was among those whose phones were targeted by a News of the World investigator.
The campaign group Hacked Off rejected his comments and said the inquiry was conducted in a "serious way".
The Leveson Inquiry into the culture, standards and ethics of the press was set up in July 2011 in response to revelations that the News of the World commissioned a private detective to hack schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone after she disappeared in 2002.
Lord Justice Leveson is due to publish his report on Thursday 29 November.
Mr Foulkes's 22-year-old son David was killed in the attack at Edgware Road tube station.
Seven years later, two days before the anniversary of the attacks, he was contacted by a police officer from Operation Weeting, an investigation into allegations of phone hacking by the now defunct News of the World newspaper, part of Rupert Murdoch's News International.
He says the officer told him that his phone details had been found in News International's office and that his messages might have been intercepted.
Mr Foulkes told Newsnight that while it had not been 100% proven that his phone had been hacked "the suspicion or the thought that it has been used is very, very difficult, it is very hard".
"When David died in 2005, that was a very difficult time. We were desperately unwell, and to be taken back to that time, whether our phone has been hacked or not, the mere suggestion of it took us back to that week, and that's a time in our lives which we never wanted to go back to."
Mr Foulkes said that he had been pleased when the Leveson Inquiry was set up.
"I thought for once government are doing the right thing, they are having an inquiry about something that's important to ordinary people in the street."
However, he says that those feelings quickly evaporated when celebrities starting appearing to give evidence.
"We had months where it wasn't about the inquiry it was about celebrities and what celebrities may or may not have done, so the whole inquiry completely lost its focus and lost its value," he said.
"I feel quite upset that an important piece of work for ordinary people, for ordinary members of the public, was railroaded by the celebrity circus."
Well known witnesses who gave evidence at the inquiry included actors Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan, actress Sienna Miller, singer Charlotte Church, author JK Rowling and former Formula 1 boss Max Mosley.
"The inquiry went from a very serious and important piece of work to OK Magazine overnight," he said.
Mr Foulkes also said he thought that politicians had been using the inquiry as an opportunity to "get hold of the media and shape it in a way that suits them", particularly in the wake of revelations about MPs expenses.
"There is no place for ordinary people in this media circle, political world that these people live in," he said.
However, despite having been caught up in the phone hacking scandal Mr Foulkes says that he is against increased regulation of the press:
"The great strength of this country is that we do have a free press and we currently have in place enough laws to deal with these kinds of activities. We don't need any more legislation, we just need a regulation or a body to control when they cross the line from a morality point of view."
Not all 7/7 victims and their families who have been caught up in the hacking scandal agree.
In October more than 50 victims of phone hacking including celebrities, 7/7 victims and members of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron warning that trust in the media could not be restored if the press is allowed to continue with a system of self-regulation.
And Dr Evan Harris, the associate director of Hacked Off, which represents victims of phone hacking, rejected the suggestion that the evidence to the Leveson inquiry was dominated by celebrities.
"If Mr Foulkes has the impression that the 88 day Leveson Inquiry was hijacked by three days of testimony from celebrity victims of hacking and intrusion into their children's lives, then that speaks volumes about the way the press reported the inquiry and does not reflect the serious way the inquiry conducted its work," he said.
He added that "at least two other victims of phone-hacking from 7/7 joined Hacked Off in meeting the prime minister this week, expressing their support for the Leveson process and demanding action".
Watch the full interview with Mr Foulkes and a debate on the Leveson Inquiry on Newsnight on Friday 23 November 2012 at 10.30pm on BBC Two, then afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.