Leveson: second half of inquiry may not go ahead

Important that the inquiry does not restrict police investigations, judge says.

New Statesman
Lord Justice Leveson. Photo: Getty Images

The chair of the Leveson Inquiry has suggested that the second part of his investigation may not need to go ahead.

In a ruling posted on the inquiry's website last night, Lord Justice Leveson revealed the likelihood of the second half being delayed due to ongoing police investigations. 

The Leveson Inquiry into ethical standards in the British press is split into two halves to avoid prejudicing any eventual trials. The first half of the inquiry, which will report later this year, is focusing the "culture, practices and ethics of the press, relationships between national newspapers and politicians, relationships between the press and the police and the failure to act on previous warnings about misconduct." The second part of the inquiry was to examine "the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within, among other media organisations News International."

Leveson expressed concern last night that because of the number of arrests made and materials seized - including the analysis of 300 emails - by the police in Operations Weeting (into phone hacking), Elveden (police payments) and Tuleta (computer hacking), the second half of the Leveson Inquiry would have to wait longer than expected. For this reason, he said, the first half of the inquiry should go as far as possible.

He said: ""It is very important that any inquiry does not prejudice either the police investigation or any potential prosecution to such extent as thwarts the investigation or renders a prosecution so unfair as to constitute an abuse of process.

"I do not know whether there will be prosecutions but, having regard to the number of arrests and the quantity of material seized (including the 300 million emails which it is said have had to be analysed), if there are, it is likely that the process of pre-trial disclosure and trial will be lengthy so that part two of this inquiry will be delayed for very many months, if not longer.
 
"In those circumstances, it seems to me that it is in everyone’s interests that part one goes as far as it possibly can. If the transparent way in which the inquiry has been conducted, the report and the response by government and the press (along with a new acceptable regulatory regime) addresses the public concern, at the conclusion of any trial or trials, consideration can be given by everyone to the value to be gained from a further inquiry into part two."
 
Leveson also spoke of the "enormous cost" involved in a second half. The inquiry, which began its hearings in November, cost £2m by the end of January alone.