The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

It has been notified to the police, yes.

You can say what you like about Mr Grant, and believe me, enough of the newspapers have now, but then as Mandy Rice-Davies said, they would say that, wouldn't they? However, he has agreed to speak, as others have, not because of any financial motive. He has chosen not to sue for the hacking of his telephone. As the newspapers sit here with their livelihood at stake, as they tell us, the victims are here on their own time and at their own risk.

The last core participant whose evidence I will refer to and who can tell you about the risks of standing up to such bullies and how very real they are is Anne Diamond. She will give evidence to the Inquiry about the vendetta which she believes was waged against her because of a question she put to Mr Murdoch years ago and the devastating consequences for her and her family as a result.

Ms Diamond is a journalist and broadcaster as well as a mother of five children, one of whom, as is well-known, unfortunately died of cot death. She had he the temerity to ask the owner of News International what he thought about the fact that his newspapers ruined people's lives, exercising her freedom of speech, you might say. But, of course, you can't do that to a newspaper mogul, and that was it, the start of a press war against her from a particular newspaper section for the best part of 20 years. How could she ever win, you might think. She will describe a catalogue of incidents, each more surprising than the last, stories dredged up by the Sun newspaper with headlines such as "Anne Diamond killed my father", paying her family nanny to talk about the relationship she had with her husband at the time and publishing, most shockingly, on its front page a photograph which the Sun newspaper managed to buy from a freelancer who had taken private images of her and her husband whilst they held their son's coffin at his funeral. Her account of the effect on her and her family is a sobering tale.

Unless anyone thinks that this intimidating treatment is reserved only for the well-known or the victims who have chosen to speak out or even the arbitrary judges who rule against the press, the Inquiry has already had a taste of this themselves at the seminars. Who can forget the unedifying spectacle of Kelvin MacKenzie trying to rubbish the Inquiry by attacking its chairman? I won't repeat his particular brand of vilification, but there was nothing accidental in this. It was a smear intended to undermine the process, no doubt, as opposed to anything personal.

It appears that after the event, Mr MacKenzie somewhat recanted, offering an apology, albeit a somewhat muted one, one which did nothing to retract the smears as opposed to regretting simply the discourtesy that they represented, given how kind the chairman was to him. This, we say, is another classic example of how the tabloid press works. The apology Mr MacKenzie offered was deep in the middle of his column, somewhere buried in the inside pages of the newspaper. A far cry from the prominence which the comments themselves attracted in headlines throughout the national press, as he was no doubt well aware they would. The apology, by contrast, almost went without mention.

And the rubbishing didn't end with the chairman. Mr Dacre apparently dismissed the entire board of assessors in one side swipe, stating that none of them have the faintest clue about how newsrooms operate.

I think I've now had at least my allotted time, and so I will draw my conclusions to a close, sir. I have outlined at some length, perhaps, the various individual but in some ways common complaints which my clients, the core participant victims, have about the culture, ethics and practices of the press as they have observed them and has impacted, in many cases profoundly, on their respective lives, families and friends.

I leave you obviously with the task of devising a real and effective system of dealing with these abuses, abuses which are largely if not almost exclusively, as I've said, the province of a certain section of the press.

I say only this, and it is of little comfort, no doubt. I ask rhetorically: what kind of ethical lessons can you teach to those journalists who authorised or condoned the hacking into the voicemail of a murdered schoolchild or who vilified the grieving parents of an abducted toddler by accusing them of her murder? What hope is there about the prevalent culture when the most powerful press organisations in this country, as we've heard, in the face of the incidents I've mentioned, steadfastly maintain that what we need is a freer press as opposed to any greater form of regulation? And what light is there at the end of the tunnel in terms of the change in practices when Britain's most popular Sunday daily newspaper had to be shut down because it was condoning criminal activity on an industrial scale, and instead of getting to the bottom of how it happened, those in positions of responsibility hired another set of private investigators to follow the 14-year-old daughter of the lawyer who had the temerity to sue it in the hope that this tactic would deter further claims?

The victims who I represent don't want to stop proper investigative or public interest journalism. No one sensibly does. But if the relationship between the press and the public is to recover, then this is the time for it to start, and it must start now.

Self-regulation through the PCC, as one of my clients says, is tantamount to handing the police station over to the mafia. The press talk about freedom, and with that we say comes responsibility, responsibility particularly for the rights of others. But even leaving that to one side for a moment, it was Albert Camus who said "Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better".

We've had press freedom for many years and they've not got better, they've got worse. It is time, we say, for change, and by that I mean real change.

Keyboard shortcuts

j previous speech k next speech