The news coverage of Monday’s proceedings at the Leveson Inquiry will split every media outlet into two very definite categories. Two key sessions at the Royal Courts of Justice saw two very different donations of evidence. The first saw the parents of a murdered teenager describe how their already overturned lives were muddled further when the News of the World commissioned the hacking of their daughter’s phone. The second saw the star of Bridget Jones’ Diary and American Dreamz explain how his privacy was intruded by journalists in a similar manner.
I should admit from the outset that I know which session I felt more compelled to watch. Nevertheless, I will watch with fascination as Tuesday’s press rolls. Which newspapers will have Hugh Grant’s face on the front? Which will choose the Dowlers’? More significantly, which will opt for neither, and cower away from Lord Justice Leveson’s excavation? I’ve decided to split my piece into two; the evidence of both the Dowler family and Grant was fascinating, but for quite different reasons.
Say what you like about his acting skills, Hugh Grant has placed himself firmly on the front line of this battle for press standards. Following countless appearances on news channels around the world, various Press Conferences as a spearhead of the Hacked Off campaign and a tour during Party Conference season, Grant paid a visit to the Leveson Inquiry. The headline-grabbing moment of his afternoon session was undoubtedly his stating of the belief that the Mail on Sunday had hacked into his voicemail. This added to the ever-growing list of newspapers other than the News of the World accused of phone hacking at the Leveson Inquiry, which also consists of The Sun and the Daily Mirror.
I, more than most, am usually happy to give my full support to any accurate criticism thrown in the direction of the Mail on Sunday and its daily sister. Yet, is Grant’s allegation accurate, or has he just jumped to a conclusion? It’s understandable that a person who has already had their phone hacked a number of times to assume another case has similar roots. However, the MoS’ owner, the Daily Mail and General Trust, issued a statement reject his claims and stating outright that the scoop in question had been found after an acquaintance of Mr Grant had spoken to a journalist. Two conflicting pieces of information from two conflicted sources. I’ll let you decide who you believe.
Bob Dowler and Sally Dowler
For me, the morning session of the Leveson Inquiry on Monday 21st November 2011 will be the moment that the hacking scandal changed. All the celebrity, shame, rumours, facts and figures that had proceeded vanished in an instant as the dignified parents of Milly Dowler were sworn in to give evidence. The sheer humility of the witnesses meant that, for the first time, the scale of the scandal was ignored. Instead, it was time to focus on the story of a family who weren’t rich, famous or well-connected. They were unwillingly dropped into the blindingly bright limelight during what was, most probably, the most difficult time of their lives.
The honesty and emotion portrayed by the couple was mixed with raw and enlightening descriptions of their whirlwind experience. Mrs Dowler described her initial elation as she was given false hope when her daughter’s voicemail inbox became reachable after days of it being full. At the time, the mother jumped to natural and logical conclusion that her daughter had listened to and deleted some messages. In reality, her daughter was no longer alive, and her phone had been tapped by a Private Investigator. When discussing their conversation with Rupert Murdoch at height of the hacking scandal in July, the Dowlers described the meeting as “tense”, but described the News Corporation CEO’s approach as “very sincere”.
For me, one of the most intriguing parts to this case is the public reaction to it. Are we more outraged by a large scale illegal operation involving the phones celebrities or are we more outraged by a small number of everyday people having being beaten when they’re already at their lowest point? I know what makes my blood boil at a higher temperature, but how about you? The Leveson Inquiry continues…
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Callum Jones is a blogger and Student and contributor to the Huffington Post who has a keen interest in Politics and Current Affairs. He tweets@CallumJonesBlog and has his own personal blog http://callumjones.blog.com He Will also be giving PostDesk a unique insight into the Leveson inquiry over the next few weeks.