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Leveson inquiry likely to hear witnesses' evidence for three months

Original Source: GUARDIAN: 26 OCTOBER 2011
James Robinson, Wednesday 26 October 2011 14.18 BST

Phone-hacking evidence to be heard at high court from 21 November with witnesses including Milly Dowler's parents 

Bob, Gemma and Sally Dowler, the family of murdered school girl and alleged phone-hacking victim Milly Dowler. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA


 Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into phone hacking and media standards expects to spend about three months from late November hearing evidence from withesses.


The inquiry will start on 14 November at the high court in London, with the first witnesses due to appear a week later on 21 November.


Victims of phone hacking will be the first to give evidence. After that Leveson and his panel of six assessors, who include former Daily Telegraph political editor George Jones and ex-Channel 4 News political editor Elinor Goodman, will start to take evidence from other parties, including newspaper editors and journalists.


At a high court hearing on Wednesday the inquiry team said it is likely to hear from witnesses until next February. More than 60 individuals are suing News International for alleged phone hacking, and the inquiry will also take evidence from other witnesses on issues such as invasion of privacy.


The precise order in which witnesses will be called is unclear. Phone-hacking victims include the parents of murdered teenager Milly Dowler who last week received 2m in compensation from News International for the hacking of their daughter's voicemail messages by the News of the World, plus a 1m donation from Rupert Murdoch to six charities of their choosing.


Others due to give evidence to the inquiry include Sienna Miller, who received 100,000 in damages and an apology from News International earlier this year, and other alleged victims of phone hacking including Lord Prescott, Abi Titmuss, Ulrika Jonsson and Labour MPs Chris Bryant and Tessa Jowell.


Harry Potter author JK Rowling and the parents of Madeleine McCann are also expected to give evidence to the Leveson inquiry about invasion of privacy by the media.


They are among about 50 people who have applied for "core participant" status at the Leveson inquiry. That gives them full access to all the documents produced during the inquiry and entitles them to give evidence in person or through a lawyer.


A case brought by a number of public figures taking civil action against News International, including actor Steve Coogan and football agent Sky Andrew, is also due to be heard at the high court in February.


That will ensure the activities of the UK arm of Murdoch's News Corporation continue to be publicly scrutinised well into next year.


Murdoch and his son James, who is deputy chief operating officer at News Corp, are facing criticism from investors over their handling of the phone-hacking affair, which resulted in the closure of the News of the World in July.


The Leveson inquiry is expected to take about a year to complete. It was ordered by prime minister David Cameron in the wake of the hacking scandal.


That was prompted by a wave of public revulsion that followed revelations in the Guardian that a phone belonging to Milly Dowler was hacked on the instructions of the News of the World.


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