Victims of press intrusion lose High Court case over part two of Leveson Inquiry

Four victims of “serious media intrusion” have lost a High Court battle against the Government over its decision to cancel the second part of the Leveson Inquiry.

Christopher Jefferies, Kate and Gerry McCann and Jacqui Hames brought a judicial review in a bid to force the Government to reconsider.

But their case was rejected on Thursday by Lord Justice Davis and Mr Justice Ouseley.

Leveson Inquiry
Leveson Inquiry

Lord Justice Davis said: “I have … a great deal of sympathy for the claimants.

“I can readily understand their bitter disappointment at what has eventuated.

“But I am afraid that sympathy cannot override the law, and I can see absolutely no basis for these grounds of claim … achieving the result which the claimants seek.”

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.

Jacqui Hames
Jacqui Hames

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.

At a hearing earlier this month, the four argued David Cameron made a “clear and unambiguous commitment” when Prime Minister that Leveson II would go ahead.

Their lawyers said that commitment, made at a meeting with Mr Jefferies, Mrs McCann and Ms Hames in November 2012, meant they had a “legitimate expectation” it would proceed.

But Lord Justice Davis said Mr Cameron made “no such promise” in the meeting.

The judge also said he found it “unacceptable” that the case was based on a covert recording made of the meeting, despite everyone present having agreed that “what is said in this room stays in this room” at the outset.

He said the case failed “at almost every level”.

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.