The Leveson Inquiry continued today with testimony from a woman who claims she was sacked after being falsely accused of leaking confidential information, and from the parents of a murder victim whose reputation was trashed by the tabloids.
The Leveson Inquiry website - complete with videos and transcripts - can be found here. Prior to hearing from the first witness, Mary-Ellen Field, one of the barristers expressed concern that Hugh Grant had been subjected to an unwarranted attack by the Daily Mail after his testimony yesterday.
Mrs Field was working for an accountancy firm called Chiltern in early 2003 when she met the model Elle Macpherson, with whom she had an excellent business relationship. Miss Macpherson retained her for business matters, but this cosy relationship did not last, and Mrs Field was accused of passing information to journalists under the influence of alcohol. She said she was speechless at this allegation, and even more so when she was in effect bullied into going into rehab. She said her reputation had been trashed. Unfortunately, it wasn't simply her reputation that was trashed, in spite of complying reluctantly, she soon found herself fired. She said she had been accused of doing "eleven things" but was not given any details at all.
Prior to this, there had been concerns that the office had been bugged; she even arranged to have it swept for bugs, but nothing was found. It was only after the phone hacking scandal came to light, and Elle Macpherson was named in connection with it, that the penny dropped. She described the wrecking of her career as collateral damage.
Mary-Ellen Field testifiying to the Leveson Inquiry, November 22, 2011.
Also testifying today were Margaret and James Watson, the parents of Diane Watson, a 16 year old Glaswegian schoolgirl who was murdered by a fellow pupil, Barbara Glover, in April 1991. This case has actually been raised in Parliament. Mrs Watson did the talking; they were not complaining about hacking but the way two publications, in particular the Glasgow Herald and Marie Claire, had published totally fictitious accounts of their daughter's murder, which more or less made out the perpetrator to be the victim. Shades of Clarke Pearce and Satpal Ram?
Worst of all, Mr and Mrs Watson believe this scandalous reporting drove their 15 year old son to suicide the following year.
In the afternoon, comedian and actor Steve Coogan complained about intrusive reporting; he said the first time he had been subjected to this was January 1996, by the Daily Mirror. At another time, someone phoned his late great-grandmother posing as a member of the local council, and tried to pump her for information about him.
He also had evidence that his telephone was hacked into; among other things, details of the amounts of money that he had withdrawn from cash machines was found to be in possession of one of the men at the centre of this storm. On at least one occasion, someone had impersonated him on the telephone in order to try to obtain information about him.
Obviously, Mr Coogan's gripes are not in the same class as those of Mrs Field or Mr and Mrs Watson, but this is a cancer that affects all of us, great and small, famous and not so, in horrendous and simply unpleasant ways. There will be a lot more such testimony to come over the following weeks.