High Court challenge begins over cancellation of part two of Leveson Inquiry

Lord Justice Leveson with the report from the first part of the inquiry Credit: PA

The Government’s decision not to go ahead with the second part of the Leveson Inquiry into press standards and regulation is being challenged at the High Court.

Leveson II was due to look into unlawful conduct within media organisations as well as relations between police and the press.

But Culture Secretary Matt Hancock announced in March that reopening the “costly and time-consuming” inquiry – which reported on press regulation and ethics in 2012 – was not “the right way forward”.

The decision was taken jointly by Mr Hancock and then Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

The challenge is being brought by Christopher Jefferies, Kate and Gerry McCann, and Jacqui Hames, who all gave evidence during the first part of the inquiry.

Bristol landlord Mr Jefferies, who was libelled by the press when he was wrongly accused of the murder of Joanna Yeates in 2010, told the inquiry he was “vilified” by the media.

The McCanns complained of press intrusion into their lives after their daughter Madeleine went missing on holiday in Portugal in 2007.

Former detective and Crimewatch presenter Ms Hames received apologies and damages from News Group Newspapers, part of News UK, and Trinity Mirror over phone hacking and other illegal activity.

Speaking after Mr Hancock’s announcement, Ms Hames said the Conservatives had broken a promise by former prime minister David Cameron to finish the inquiry and she had “no confidence” in the Government.

Phone-hacking victim and former Crimewatch presenter Jacqui Hames Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Crowdfunded journalism website Byline Media is also bringing the judicial review, which will be heard by two senior judges on Thursday and Friday.

Sir Brian Leveson heard the first part of the inquiry, which cost the taxpayer £5.4 million, over 17 months and delivered his report in 2012.

In a letter to then Home Secretary Amber Rudd dated January 23, Sir Brian said he believed the bulk of the inquiry’s scope should go ahead.

He said: “I have no doubt that there is still a legitimate expectation on behalf of the public and, in particular, the alleged victims of phone hacking and other unlawful conduct, that there will be a full public examination of the circumstances that allowed that behaviour to develop and clear reassurances that nothing of the same scale could occur again: that is what they were promised.

“For the reasons given above, I do not believe that we are yet even near that position and would urge you to give further consideration to the need for at least the bulk of part two to be commenced as soon as possible.”

Sir Brian added that while he could not preside over the second part himself because of his workload, he would have been “very willing” to help another chairman.

Gerry and Kate McCann ahead of their appearance at the Leveson Inquiry Credit: Lewis Whyld/PA

Announcing the original inquiry in 2011 in response to a wave of public anger over alleged phone-hacking by the now-defunct News Of The World, Mr Cameron said that it would be divided into two parts.

But Mr Hancock said there had been “significant progress” in the practices of the press and the police, including the creation of the new Independent Press Standards Organisation, since Sir Brian’s report.

A large majority of those responding to a consultation launched by his predecessor John Whittingdale in 2016 opposed the implementation of Leveson II, he said.

Telling MPs he was formally closing the inquiry, Mr Hancock said that priority should be given to dealing with the challenges of the modern media landscape, such as the rise of clickbait, fake news and social media.