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Lord Leveson warns press over hacking inquiry

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Police investigate News of the World journalists over alleged phone hacking

© Rex Features / Jeff Blackler

Lord Justice Leveson has today warned newspapers against victimising witnesses who speak out against press intrusions during his inquiry, as more revelations come out about embattled publisher News International.

Leveson has been asked by the government to investigate the culture and practices of the press in the wake of the phone hacking scandal, with various high-profile people to give testimony, including Harry Potter author JK Rowling and actor Hugh Grant.

He said that he has "absolutely no wish to stifle freedom of speech and expression", but warned newspapers that they must not target those people who are due to speak out against them.

Also at the inquiry today, it emerged that the notebooks of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator jailed for hacking people's phones on behalf of the News of the World, contain information suggesting he worked for other newspapers.

The hearing heard that Mulcaire's notes featured the names of 27 employees from News of the World publisher News International, as well as jailed royal editor Clive Goodman.

However, the books also featured the words "The Sun" and the "Daily Mirror", suggesting that he may have carried out work for other newspapers.

> News of the World investigator 'was instructed to hack'

Leveson's hearings will examine the extent of unlawful conduct by the press, and assess the police's initial hacking investigation (although the latter will wait until the current police probe into the News of the World is complete).

News Of The World offices
In his opening remarks, Lord Justice Leveson said: "I fully consider freedom of expression and freedom of the press to be fundamental to our democracy. But that freedom must be exercised with the rights of others in mind."

He added that concerns had already been raised that the press might target those who spoke out during the inquiry, reports BBC News.

"I have absolutely no wish to stifle freedom of speech and expression, but I anticipate that monitoring will take place of press coverage over the months to come," he said.

"And if it appears that those concerns are made out, without objective justification, it might be appropriate to draw the conclusion that these vital rights are being abused, which itself would provide evidence of culture, practice and ethics which could be relevant to my ultimate recommendations."

Counsel to the inquiry, Robert Jay QC, told the high court that "at least 27 other News International employees" were named in Mulcaire's paperwork as well as Goodman, who was jailed in 2007.

In total, Jay said that around 28 names are legible in the 11,000 pages of notes which police seized from Mulcaire, relating to a total of 2,266 taskings and the names of 5,795 potential victims.

One News of the World employee - referred to only as "A" - is said to have made 1,453 separate requests for information from Mulcaire.

The BBC reports Jay as saying that "questions must be asked as to how high up in News International the metaphorical buck stops", potentially heaping more pressure on the already beleaguered chairman James Murdoch.

The QC also said that evidence is emerging that hacking extended beyond the News of the World, as Mulcaire also wrote The Sun and a name relating to the Daily Mirror in his notes.

Jay also told the inquiry that he had seen documents suggesting Mulcaire was hacking into voicemail messages as early as May 2001, potentially adding fuel to claims that the News of the World targeted the phones belonging to the families of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

> BBC's Lord Patten backs press self regulation

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