Friday, November 25, 2011

Leveson Inquiry : The Times And Daily Mail Join Forces To Intimidate Witnesses

A few days ago something happened which we in Hacked Off had been hoping to arrange for many months. For the first time, a large group of people who have been victims of press abuses met informally in central London and were able to offer each other support.

The idea for such a gathering came to us after we met a victim of phone hacking who has no public profile. Her story is like many heard at the Leveson inquiry this week: she is utterly blameless but was targeted by the News of the World because she knew someone famous, and she was left feeling horribly violated. When she sued she was placed under enormous pressure to withdraw, so that soon she also felt isolated and frightened.

It seemed obvious to us that she needed to meet others who were in a similar position, so that she could feel the strength of numbers. Even for some of the famous victims, the same seemed to apply.

It proved difficult to arrange. Though they have one thing in common, these people are otherwise very diverse and widely scattered, and they are represented by a number of different solicitors. We at Hacked Off also had a lot of other things to do.

The first real opportunity came as the Leveson inquiry began hearing from victims this week. Hacked Off, with a lot of help from the lawyers, finally made the get-together happen.

We met on Tuesday evening at a venue in central London. It was a fascinating and memorable occasion. Since this whole issue is about privacy it would scarcely be appropriate to recount the details, but the famous and the obscure mixed, talked and made friends and I think for at least some of them the vital objective of finding common strength was achieved.

Think of what many of them have endured: the persistent, often covert intrusion, the knowledge that News International and other journalists were in possession of some of their most private secrets, the fear, for themselves, their families and friends, that if they spoke up or sued, sooner or later these newspapers would exact their cruel revenge. There was a lot to talk about.
This was a private occasion, with no press release and no fanfare as that was the very last thing that any of the guests wanted. So why am I writing about it? Here is a clue: when the guests were arriving at the venue, press photographers were outside snapping them without their more