Hacked Off: Campaign for an inquiry into Phone Hacking

Posted: July 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

The phone hacking scandal has now cast its shadow so widely across  British public life that only a full public inquiry can restore confidence in  our press, police and government institutions.

What began as ‘one rogue reporter’ with a handful of victims is now  acknowledged to be industrial-scale illegal information gathering, probably  affecting thousands. All kinds of people, including royalty, cabinet ministers,  celebrities, police officers, bereaved families and victims of crime have been  targeted, and it seems it’s not just voicemail messages that have been hacked  but also calls and emails, bank details and health records.

A full public inquiry into phone hacking and other forms of illegal  intrusion by the press is imperative. The inquiry should cover:

  • The extent of the use of  illegal information-gathering methods by the press, directly and through  intermediaries;
  • The conduct of the Metropolitan  Police Service in investigating these matters, and its relations with the  press;
  • The communication between press  and politicians in relation to these matters;
  • The conduct of the Press  Complaints Commission and of the Information Commissioner, and of other  relevant parties such as mobile telephone companies;
  • The lessons to be learned from  these events and actions to be taken to ensure they are not repeated.

News International has been slow to acknowledge the extent of the  wrongdoing. It has made limited admissions and is trying to buy off of civil  claims. Most other news organizations have kept their reporting of the scandal  to a minimum. And public concern has been heightened by the response to these  activities from the Press Complaints Commission, the Metropolitan Police and by  politicians and Government.

A police investigation and civil proceedings are under way, but they  are narrowly focused. Even if there are prosecutions, they will concern  themselves only with specific cases and individuals. Without an inquiry most of  the evidence will stay secret and the wider story of illegal  information-gathering and the official response to it will never be told.

Unanswered questions

Many questions remain unanswered: how extensive was illegal  information-gathering? How did it affect our public life?  Was everything done that should have been to  halt it and expose and punish those responsible? And if not, why not? The  longer these questions remain unanswered the more damage is done to confidence  in our institutions.

Only a public inquiry with full powers to call for papers and summon  witnesses can explore the full range of issues involved, establish what went  wrong and identify lessons to be learned. Anything less risks leaving a lasting  stain of suspicion on individuals, companies and institutions. Anything less  would be widely seen, both in Britain and abroad, as a cover-up.


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