Leveson goes live

14 November 2011 by

Updated |Today marks a minor landmark for open justice. For the first time, a public inquiry is being  shown live over the internet.

The Leveson Inquiry into Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press has taken over Court 73 in the Royal Courts of Justice, so when Counsel to the Inquiry Robert Jay QC begins his cross examination, you could even imagine you are watching a live trial – on that note, watch this space.

The Iraq (Chilcott) Inquiry was broadcast live but it was not a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, as Leveson’s is. The Inquiry’s website has been relaunched and will be hosting the live stream of hearings on this page. My only grumbles about the new website are that the live coverage should be more prominently advertised on the main page.

You can find the Inquiry’s terms of reference here. The inquiry will have four modules, dealing with:

  • Module 1: The relationship between the press and the public and looks at phone-hacking and other potentially illegal behaviour
  • Module 2: The relationships between the press and police and the extent to which that has operated in the public interest
  • Module 3: The relationship between press and politicians
  • Module 4: Recommendations for a more effective policy and regulation that supports the integrity and freedom of the press while encouraging the highest ethical standards.

Today marks the beginning of the Module 1 hearings. It should be noted that Module 2 is unlikely to begin until the police’s criminal investigation into its own conduct is complete, which may take a while.

There will be plenty of interest from a perspective of human rights, most obviously what Lord Justice Leveson perceives to be the correct balance between Articles 10 (freedom of expression) and 8 (right to private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Lord Justice Leveson may also wish to examine the reporting of human rights in the press, something this blog has regularly suggested is problematic.

For more background, see my post A phone hacking scandal refresher, or follow the subject matter experts at Inforrm’s Blog for in-depth coverage as the hearings progress. For more about public inquiries generally, I recommend the 25 October 2011 edition of BBC Law in Action, which is available via podcast for 11 more days.

And, if the excitement of the live Leveson hearings is proving too much, you can tune in from 2:15 today to watch the slightly more gentle questioning of legal blogger David Allen Green, amongst others, by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Privacy Injunctions. Open justice fans have never had it so good.

Update, 15 November 2011 – See these two excellent posts from Inforrm: Leveson: Public Inquiry by tweet – Judith Townend and News: Leveson Inquiry – First Day of the Hearings, “Who guards the guardians?”. Also, Inquiry Counsel’s opening statement is here via the Hacked Off Website.

Judith Townend helpfully lists the Twitter accounts which are covering the Inquiry hearings:

For that, it’s best to look at dedicated Twitter accounts. Index on Censorship has set up its own @indexleveson account for that very purpose. The Hacked Off campaign can be found at @hackinginquiry. Other noteworthy tweeters include: the FT’s @benfenton; the Guardian’s @jamesro47; and the Hacked Off campaign co-ordinator @selkie. Please suggest others in the comments below.

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  1. Paul W says:

    I would hesitate to describe Robert Jay’s activity so far as cross-examination, more like a butler deferentially prompting the celebs to make their points.

  2. Richard England says:

    ‘We consistently have posted on problems relating to the system as well as criticisms of people like Chrisopher Booker who have been called out by judges for the way he has presented them.’

    Ah, well then, part of those consistent postings will no doubt include one in the near future about Mr. Booker’s allegations. One obvious question is can he prove them? For instance could one of the parents solicitors confirm that they have been denied access to secret evidence given to the judge on any of the instances mentioned.

    If such instances do take place – and rumours of ‘Annex B’ evidence in Family Court cases have persisted for years – then this will be the most serious scandal to have engulfed the UK judiciary in living memory.

    It will also render this report about the use of secret evidence, released only last month by Oxford University, meaningless and inaccurate;


  3. Richard England says:

    And yet, though a wonderful development and well reported by the UK Human Rights Blog, I wonder why the blog hasn’t reported the ‘mirror’ story.

    That detailed in Christopher Bookers Sunday Telegraph column of the 13th November 2011;

    Our family courts repeat the error that jailed Dreyfus

    And here, Booker makes the allegation that the family court system allow the use of secret evidence; that is evidence that cannot be seen by parents or their solicitors – probably the worst human rights offense that a sitting court can make.

    And yet the article, which compares the use of secret evidence with the most famous case of secret evidence – Captain Alfred Dreyfus has not been refuted – either by the President of the Family Courts – Sir Nicolas Wall, or the Ministry of Justice.

    How strange that the biggest story of judicial malfeasance in recent contemporary history should be completely ignored by a blog that would normally be expected to at least try to have the allegation investigated.

    Why is that?

    1. Adam Wagner says:

      Richard – thanks for pointing this out.

      Truth is, I didn’t see the article.

      But if I was part of the conspiracy, that’s exactly what I would say, isn’t it?

      In seriousness, neither I nor this blog are part of any conspiracy to propagate any problems in the family justice system. We consistently have posted on problems relating to the system as well as criticisms of people like Chrisopher Booker who have been called out by judges for the way he has presented them.

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