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Press 'in the dock' over abuses

Original Source: GUARDIAN: 16 NOVEMBER 2011
Press Association, Wednesday November 16 2011

Britain's press is "in the dock" for abuses ranging from phone hacking to hounding celebrities and crime victims, the Leveson Inquiry has heard.

The mother of Hugh Grant's child received threats after the actor spoke out against media intrusion, while Kate McCann felt "mentally raped" when a newspaper published her private diary, the hearing was told.

Murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's mother Sally experienced "euphoria" when she got through to her missing daughter's mobile phone voicemail after a private detective working for the News of the World deleted some of the messages.


Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into press standards heard that both well-known figures like Harry Potter author JK Rowling and previously unknown members of the public have fallen victim to journalistic malpractice.


David Sherborne, representing 51 alleged victims of press intrusion, described the scale of phone hacking at the News of the World as an "Industrial Revolution" that represented a cultural shift away from old-fashioned journalism.


But he argued that there were wider problems with Britain's newspaper culture.


"We are here not just because of the shameful revelations which have come out of the hacking scandal, but also because there has been a serious breakdown of trust in the important relationship between the press and the public," he said.


"It is the whole of the press, and in particular the tabloid section of it, which we say stands in the dock, at least metaphorically so - and certainly in the court of public opinion."


Mr Sherborne said the charges ranged against newspapers included: phone hacking, "blagging" private information through deception, blackmailing vulnerable or opportunistic people into breaking confidences about well-known people, intruding into the grief of crime victims and hounding celebrities, their families and friends.


He highlighted the "terrible intrusion" into the lives of the Dowler family after 13-year-old Milly was abducted in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, in March 2002.


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