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Phone-Hacking Probe Judge Urged Not to Hurt Criminal Trials

October 31, 2011

The judge overseeing Britain’s government inquiry into News Corp. (NWSA:US)’s phone-hacking scandal pushed back at attempts by police and prosecutors to set limits on the evidence he can review.

U.K. police and prosecutors have said the government inquiry could threaten future criminal trials if evidence is introduced too soon. The probe is being conducted at “enormous expense” to the public and should be “worthwhile,” Judge Brian Leveson, who is overseeing it, said at a hearing today in London.

“I have my own statutory responsibility and my own statutory powers,” Leveson said at the hearing. “It would be an abrogation of those responsibilities if I were to defer” to the police. Leveson hasn’t ruled on the police request.

The inquiry was announced in July by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron nine days after the revelation that journalists at News Corp.’s News of the World tabloid hacked into the phone of a murdered school girl Millie Dowler in 2002. The probe’s scope extends beyond the now-shuttered tabloid, covering press ethics and its relationship with politicians and police.

Lawyers for the Metropolitan Police and the U.K.’s Crown Prosecution Service asked Leveson to write procedures for the probe to prevent the publicizing of police documents from hurting their criminal cases against former employees of the News of the World tabloid.

Leveson today granted so-called core participant status in the probe to the Telegraph Media Group Ltd. and Trinity Mirror Plc, publisher of the U.K.’s Daily Mirror tabloid, meaning the companies can have legal representation in the inquiry and view evidence.

Police in Surrey, England, also asked Leveson to grant the force core participant status after newspapers revealed officers there didn’t investigate News of the World after it learned the tabloid hacked Dowler’s phone in 2002. The police force’s lawyer said some of its officers may have had their phones hacked.

Leveson didn’t make a ruling on the Surrey force’s request.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at

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