The Inquiry ranged widely over legal matters, seeking perspectives on both criminal law (bribery, data protection, contempt of court and laws relating to phone hacking) and civil law (notably defamation, privacy). Recommendations relating to regulation and data protection included proposals for specific legislative reforms.

Because illegal activities by journalists were sub judice, criminal matters were addressed only in general terms, but they arose many times in evidence from editors, reporters, lawyers, police officers, victims of press abuse and others.

Legal costs and their implications for public access to justice in libel and privacy were a particular focus and proposals for arbitration were linked with regulation in the Recommendations.

The Inquiry also looked at legal matters relating to the police and to media ownership, and there was frequent discussion of the Human Rights Act, notably in the context of privacy and freedom of expression. The actions and decisions of the Inquiry were also subject to several legal challenges.

Censorship and freedom of expression

Hardly a witness failed to mention this matter, and the judge referred to it in almost every public session, often stressing its importance to democracy. The need for the Inquiry to avoid stifling freedom of expression was also written into the Terms of Reference.

Differences arose over how far it was possible to prevent journalists causing unjustified harm to the public without censoring or at least 'chilling' their legitimate output. Was effective regulation possible without an unacceptable loss of freedom of expression? Britain's tradition of highly partial and 'raucous' press reporting might be in jeopardy, some asserted. In these discussions the public interest was often invoked, as, less often, were examples of good and bad practice in other countries.

The Report addressed this at some length in Part B, Chapter 2, and it looked in detail at the legal aspects in Appendix 4. Among witnesses who discussed it were, on the press side, Paul Dacre, Trevor Kavanagh, Alan Rusbridger and James Harding, and from a legal perspective, Hugh Tomlinson and Gavin Phillipson, and also the philosopher Baroness Onora O'Neill.

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Privacy and celebrity

The question of whether, or how far, the right to privacy was qualified in the case of prominent or famous people arose many times in the Inquiry. JK Rowling, Sienna Miller and Charlotte Church were among celebrities to describe their treatment by journalists, as did politicians such the former prime minister Gordon Brown and Chris Bryant MP. See also the testimony of Max Mosley. Some editors, reporters and lawyers made a case that the famous must be more accountable than others, that it served the public interest to expose any dishonesty or hypocrisy and that people who were role models should be publicly accountable for their conduct. See John Witherow, Paul McMullan, Colin Myler. See also: 'The public interest'.

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Defamation and libel

Defamation and libel were discussed many times during the Inquiry. At the time, a campaign was under way led by the Alternative Libel Project to secure reform of the law, which led to the Defamation Act 2013. The Project made a submission and the Inquiry heard criticisms of the prevailing law from Project leaders Jonathan Heawood and John Kampfner .

Evidence of the workings of the law came from victims such as Christopher Jefferies, the McCanns (Gerry and Kate), JK Rowling, Margaret and James Watson, and Irene Dennehy, from lawyers such as Mark Lewis, Gillian Phillips, Hugh Tomlinson QC and Charlotte Harris, and from journalists such as Peter Hill, David Allen Green (who blogs as 'Jack of Kent'), Lionel Barber and Alan Rusbridger.

Defamation was discussed in the Report in Part J, Chapter 3. It is largely concerned with costs, the judge declaring that with a legislative process under way it was not his business to comment on the law itself.

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Since the bribing of public officials is a criminal offence, notably under the Bribery Act 2010, and since Operation Tuleta was investigating specific allegations of bribery by news publishers, the Inquiry considered this matter only in general terms. It was expected to be examined fully at a later date by Leveson 2. The ethics of paying sources of information, and of offering payments for information publicly, were discussed more fully, as were questions about decision-making and financial controls.

The Report reviewed payments for stories in Part F, Chapter 6, Section 10, having received evidence from journalists and editors including Dawn Neesom, Peter Wright, Hugh Whittow, Mazher Mahmood, Nick Davies and Paul McMullan. Film-maker Chris Atkins testified on the distorting effects of offers of money.

In their submissions to the Inquiry all the leading news publishers provided evidence of their governance systems and the controls in place to ensure conformity with the law. For example, the Daily Mail's publishers Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL) submitted governance documents showing how control of expenditure was exercised (see here). These were reviewed in the Report in Part C, Chapter 2.

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Phone hacking

From the 1990s, newspapers illegally hacked the voicemails of celebrities, politicians, police officers, the royal household, rival journalists, ordinary people in the news such as bereaved families and the relatives, friends and associates of target individuals.

In 2006, a journalist, Clive Goodman, and a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, both working for the News of the World, were caught hacking, and though the paper said it was just 'one rogue reporter' who was to blame, in 2009 The Guardian showed the practice went wider. There followed civil court actions, denials and accusations of cover-up involving News International (owners of the paper), the police and politicians.

In July 2011, The Guardian revealed that the phone of murdered 13-year-old Milly Dowler had been hacked and the Leveson Inquiry was established. By then, new criminal proceedings were under way and the matter was sub judice, so the Inquiry dealt with the subject mainly in general terms, including the roles of the police and politicians.

Since the Inquiry, it has been confirmed that journalists for the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and the People also hacked phones. Thousands were targeted and nine journalists were convicted of hacking, including former News of the World editor Andy Coulson.

Many submissions and witnesses addressed phone hacking. The Inquiry heard evidence from Guardian journalist Nick Davies as well as from relevant police officers, notably Philip Williams and John Yates, and from victims including Bob and Sally Dowler, Charlotte Church, Lord Prescott and Sienna Miller. Andy Coulson, Ian Edmondson and Neville Thurlbeck, all subsequently convicted of hacking, also gave evidence.

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Data theft & data protection

This was a leading theme of the Inquiry, the subject of Part H of the Report and of 18 Recommendations.

The Operation Motorman affair, though not investigated in detail in Part 1 of the Inquiry (because criminality was a matter for Part 2), left no doubt that the protections in place for the private data of citizens were inadequate. Private investigators employed by almost all the national press had plundered personal data on an industrial scale, and the investigation of this by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) prompted two reports, What Price Privacy? and What Price Privacy Now?. The Inquiry looked closely at the consequences of those reports.

Much of the relevant evidence was supplied by the ICO and by its officers, past and present, most notably the Commissioner of the time, Christopher Graham, and his predecessor, Richard Thomas. Representatives of the PCC, notably Stephen Abell, were questioned about their responses to the two reports. Newspaper executives such as Peter Wright and Rebekah Brooks also supplied evidence.

Focusing on necessary reforms, the Inquiry proceedings highlighted questions of how far journalists should enjoy special privileges under data protection legislation, what powers of prosecution the ICO should have, what guidance the press industry needed, and the quality of relevant governance in the industry.

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The Inquiry took an interest in how journalists and news publishers handled information from sources that were not identified by name to the reader, reflecting concerns that controversial stories were published in which sources were anonymous and that this could be used to conceal fabrication or unethical news gathering techniques.

For their part, journalists and others expressed concern that there should be no legal or regulatory threat to the confidentiality of sources.

Many journalists were asked to comment on these matters in their witness statements and Robert Peston (then at the BBC), John Witherow (editor of The Times) and John Whittow (then editor of the Daily Express) were among those who explained their approach and that of their organisations. In oral testimony, The Guardian's Nick Davies discussed sources at some length.

The confidentiality of sources was discussed by, among others, Gillian Phillips, senior lawyer at The Guardian, and Keir Starmer, then Director of Public Prosecutions. In the Report, Part B, Chapter 2, Section 6 reviews the issue and Appendix 4 provides an account of the law as it relates to the press.

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The public interest

Both the law and the regulatory codes recognise that in some cases journalists may use the defence that they acted in the public interest, meaning in brief that, though they may have broken a law or breached a code, their actions were justified because they did more good for the public than they did harm.

Through the evidence of journalists (for example, Alan Rusbridger and John Witherow), regulators (Ofcom, the BBC), academics (including Professor Gavin Phillipson and in the hearing of 16 July 2012) and lawyers (Hugh Tomlinson, Keir Starmer), the Inquiry investigated how the public interest should be defined, referring to the ethical codes of the BBC, Ofcom and the PCC as well as to guidelines drawn up while the Inquiry sat by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Also examined was the question of who should decide when and how the public interest was relevant. This led to the question of the independence of regulation: if a regulator was insufficiently independent of the press, would it too often give journalists the benefit of the doubt, even where citizens suffered harm?

The Report addressed the public interest at length in Part B, notably in Chapter 3. The legal aspects were analysed in Appendix 4. The Inquiry made three Recommendations relating to the public interest.

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The prosecuting authorities

The Terms of Reference of the Inquiry required it (in Section 2a) 'to make recommendations for how future concerns about press behaviour, media policy, regulation and cross-media ownership should be dealt with by all relevant authorities' ' including, explicitly, 'the prosecuting authorities'. Behind this, no doubt, lay concerns about whether the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had been sufficiently active in addressing phone hacking and data theft, and whether it was adequately prepared and equipped to tackle criminality in the media.

The Inquiry received evidence from Lord MacDonald, who had been Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) from 2003 to 2008, and from Keir Starmer, who was DPP at the time of the hearings. At the time of the hearings, the CPS was dealing with an unprecedented number of cases involving jour-nalists and had issued new internal guidelines (see here).

Further new guidelines followed, here.

The new guidelines were welcomed in paragraph 49 of the Inquiry's Executive Summary.

In the event, the Report devoted little space to the role of the CPS, though it made one specific Recommendation (number 56) relating to liaison with the Information Commissioner's Office.

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Legal costs and public access to justice

The cost of civil legal proceedings, notably in cases of defamation and breach of privacy, was a primary concern of the Inquiry. Such cases are generally heard in the High Court, where costs are beyond the means of ordinary citizens. No-win-no-fee deals, formally known as Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs), were also controversial. By 2011, these matters had already been the subject of much complaint and of several reviews, and some of the history is set out in the Report in Part J, Chapter 3, notably at Section 6.

Part K, Chapter 4, Sections 12-14 look at possible remedies put forward by the Alternative Libel Project, Early Resolution, the Media Regulation Roundtable and Max Mosley. The Inquiry also received evidence on these matters from the Society of Editors, the National Union of Journalists and from legal executives in the press including Liz Hartley of Associated Press.

The Recommendations of the Inquiry (chiefly numbers 73 and 74) aimed to link the introduction of free arbitration in civil media cases with press regulation, through measures later passed into law (but not put into effect) as Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.

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Recognition & statute

The chief novelty of the Inquiry's Recommendations on regulation was the proposal for a 'recognition body' whose job would be to certify that a press regulator (or regulators) met the standards of effectiveness and independence set out in the Report. This proposal was explained in Part K, Chapter 7, with the detail in Section 6, and the relevant Recommendations are numbers 27-33.

The Report did not propose mandatory regulation under statute, but Recommendation 33 stated that statute would be required to create a recognition body and fix its criteria. (It also said such a statute should 'place an explicit duty on the Government to uphold and protect the freedom of the press'). Background to the possible involvement of statute was set out in Part K, Chapter 4, Section 6, referring to evidence by Lord Black, Paul Dacre, the Media Regulation Roundtable, the Libel Reform Coalition and others. Other evidence relevant to recognition was provided by the Irish Press Council and Dr John Horgan.

Recommendation 31 stated that the task of recognition should be assigned to Ofcom, or failing that an independent body or individual. In the event, by cross-party agreement reached in March 2013, a new body, the Press Recognition Panel, was set up under Royal Charter rather than by Act of Parliament. See also: 'Royal Charter'.

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Understand all the key topics and the context behind the Inquiry's findings

Journalism & society
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Future of journalism
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Background & history
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Subsequent developments
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Ethics & abuses
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