Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks has applied for a third time for core participant status in the Leveson Inquiry.
Stephen Parkinson, representing Brooks, said his client was at risk of being criticised by witnesses in module three of the inquiry, examining the relationship between the press and politicians. He also confirmed Brooks is expected to give evidence before the inquiry in May.
If granted the status, Brooks will be able to see written evidence in advance and submit questions to be asked by inquiry counsel.
Parkinson added: “I also say on the basis of her experience of modules one and two that exposes her to the possibility of criticism by others we know that such criticism has been made of her in the past.”
David Sherborne, representing the core participant victims, argued that politicians Tom Watson MP and Dr Evan Harris be granted the status, as both had direct knowledge of being harassed by the press. He advocated that politicians Chris Bryant, Simon Hughes, Denis MacShane, John Prescott, Claire Ward and Tessa Jowell continue to hold their status as core participants.
Lord Justice Leveson heard from several individuals, including Elaine Decoulos and Michael Ward, also applying for core participant status, and said he would make a decision before Easter.
Newspapers represented at the inquiry, along with the National Union of Journalists and the Metropolitan Police, will continue to be core participants.
He invited newspapers to submit their top five public interest stories to the inquiry, saying he recognised the “good work” of the press.
From April 23, proprietors and media owners will give evidence to the inquiry. The judge said he would also hear “catch-up evidence” from previous modules and address the hacking of Milly Dowler’s voicemail in full, on the week of May 8. The first part of the inquiry is expected to finish before the end of July.
The judge heard submissions from lawyers representing News International and Trinity Mirror, who said any findings of fact made by the inquiry could implicate individuals in improper or unlawful activity.
Lord Justice Leveson told the court: “I can make a finding of fact that X was happening without making a finding of fact, not having investigated, who was responsible for X happening… I’ve certainly got to make a finding haven’t I, or do you say I haven’t, about whether there was unlawful interception of mobile telephones?
“I am merely what I can do and what I should do, in advance, in fairness, if I am minded to proceed in a certain direction… I’ve not made findings of fact against anybody yet.”
Sherborne told the judge: “Sir, with the greatest respect, the submissions that you’ve heard belong very firmly in Alice in Wonderland territory.
“If the inquiry reaches conclusions that it was well known that these unlawful or improper practices were taking place, or that those who denied knowledge did so falsely, then these are conclusions which can and should be fully addressed in the report.”
Concluding the hearing, Lord Justice Leveson said he would continue to fulfill his terms of reference without impeding on any criminal investigation.
The week commencing April 23, the inquiry will hear from proprietors and media owners, with other evidence crossing modules. From May 8, Leveson will hear evidence from more proprietors, “catch-up evidence” and will kickstart module three. The module will continue until the end of June with module four beginning in early July. Module four is expected to finish by the end of July after closing submissions are made.