High Court ruling due on challenge over part two of Leveson Inquiry

Victims of “serious media intrusion” will find out if they have succeeded in their High Court action over the second part of the Leveson Inquiry.

Christopher Jefferies, Kate and Gerry McCann and Jacqui Hames brought a judicial review against the Government’s decision to cancel part two of the inquiry.

Lord Justice Davis and Mr Justice Ouseley will deliver their ruling on the case in London on Thursday.

At a hearing earlier this month, the court heard David Cameron made a “clear and unambiguous commitment” that Leveson II would go ahead at a meeting with Mr Jefferies, Mrs McCann and Ms Hames in November 2012.

The second part of the inquiry was due to look into unlawful conduct within media organisations as well as relations between police and the press.

Leveson Inquiry
Leveson Inquiry

But then 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.

Helen Mountfield QC, representing the four, previously told the court there “could hardly be matters of greater public importance” than the issues Leveson II was due to look into.

She argued the decision to cancel it was “unlawful” because the four had a “legitimate expectation” it would go ahead following the meeting with Mr Cameron, who was Prime Minister at the time.

Jacqui Hames
Jacqui Hames

The barrister added: “The Prime Minister’s commitment to the claimants created a substantive legitimate expectation that part two of the inquiry would proceed.

“But it did mean … that if the defendants were minded to go back on the Prime Minister’s commitment they were required to take such an expectation into account as an obviously relevant factor when they took the decision. They did not do so.”

Government argued whatever Mr Cameron said at the meeting “did not give rise to a binding obligation” to proceed with the second part of the inquiry.

They also complained about a “covert recording” of the 2012 meeting, made by an unknown person associated with the Hacked Off campaign group, which was only recently disclosed to the Government’s legal team.

Nathalie Lieven QC, representing the secretaries of state, said: “The defendants have not resisted the application to admit this evidence, because it is relevant and will have to be considered, but submit that the manner in which it has been obtained and used is far from satisfactory.

“These matters go to the degree to which a statement made in these circumstances can give rise to a legally binding obligation on the Government.”

Christopher Jefferies
Christopher Jefferies

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 Leveson 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 Mr Cameron to finish the inquiry and she had “no confidence” in the Government.

Gerry and Kate McCann
Gerry and Kate McCann

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 Ms Rudd dated January 23, Sir Brian said he believed the bulk of the inquiry’s scope should go ahead.

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 it would be divided into two parts.

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.