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June 28, 2013

Lawyer phone-hacking ‘not in terms of reference’ says Leveson as he agrees to appear before MPs

By Gavriel Hollander

Lord Justice Leveson has said that he did not investigate alleged phone-hacking by lawyers because it was outside the terms of reference of his inquiry.

According to The Independent, the judge has written to MPs explaining his refusal to circulate a document from the Serious Organised Crime Agency outlining illegal practices at law firms, insurance and telecoms companies.

The paper reports that, in the letter, Leveson said he was “specifically asked not to circulate it (the document) without further discussion”.

Keith Vaz, the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, had earlier this week asked Leveson to explain why he had ignored the confidential Soca report, which suggests that hacking and information blagging was more prevalent in other industries than among media organisations.

Meanwhile, it was also confirmed yesterday that Leveson will face MPs later this year to answer questions about his inquiry.

However, he will not present evidence to the Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport select committee before MPs break up for the summer.

A spokesperson for the committee confirmed that Leveson has accepted an invitation from Tory MP John Whittingdale, who chairs the committee, but said he would not be able to attend before the end of the current parliamentary session next month.

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That means the earliest he could be questioned by MPs would be September.

Leveson is expected to be asked about the impasse between press regulation campaigners and newspapers over the shape of a new regulator for the industry.

The three main parties in Westminster agreed a Royal Charter-backed regulatory regime in March, which received support from pressure group Hacked Off. However, before the plan was submitted to the Privy Council, a group of publishers backed an alternative charter proposed by trade body Pressbof.

Last week, Financial Times editor Lionel Barber suggested that former BBC chairman Lord Grade could act as a mediator between the two sides. But Hacked Off said that no more negotiation was needed as the Government charter had the backing of MPs and the public.

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