The first public hearings in the inquiry into phone hacking will be held in September, and will focus initially on the relationship between the press and the public, Lord Justice Leveson confirms.
Prime Minister David Cameron asked Lord Leveson to lead an inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal after the allegations rocked Britain, leading to the closure of the News of the World, arrests, resignations from media bosses and top policemen, and the derailment of a major media takeover bid.
The inquiry panel has met for the first time to discuss how the investigation will proceed. It will focus initially on the relationship between the press and the public as well as on press regulation and then move to the relationship between the media and the police as well as politicians. All sections of the media – including the press, broadcast and online – will be involved.
Lord Leveson, 62, was also forced to quash claims that his links to the Murdoch family made him unfit to lead the inquiry.
Analysis from Gary Gibbon: Lord Leveson's 'look but don't touch' hacking inquiry
He said it was “inevitable” that there would be some contacts between the inquiry panel and the organisations that would be under investigation but “there should be no apology for this”.
Lord Leveson, who prosecuted serial killer Rose West when he was a barrister, added: “Had I the slightest doubt about my own position, I would not have accepted the appointment and I also make it clear that I am satisfied that what the panellists have said creates no conflict of interest for them or for me.”
The judge indicated the panel would attempt to meet the prime minister’s 12 month deadline for reaching an initial conclusion, but it would not do so “at all costs”.
It may be tempting for a number of people to close ranks…but I would encourage all to take a wider view of the public good. Lord Justice Leveson
The inquiry will also have a second section, which will focus more specifically on what happened at the News of the World paper – but this will only take place when the police investigations are complete.
Lord Leveson said witnesses should expect legal letters ordering them to appear before the inquiry. A series of seminars will be held in October looking at law, media ethics, and the practice and pressures of investigative journalism.
The judge will be helped in his investigations by a panel of experts from the legal, media, political and policing professions.
Read more on phone hacking: the directory of inquiries
Lord Leveson said: “At some stage, there needs to be a discussion of what amounts to the public good, to what extent the public interest should be taken into account and by whom.
“I hope that an appropriate cross section of the entire profession, including those from the broadcast media, will be involved in the discussion.”
He added: “It may be tempting for a number of people to close ranks and suggest that the problem is or was local to a group of journalists then operating at the News of the World, but I would encourage all to take a wider view of the public good and help me grapple with the width and depth of the problem.”
Separately, the Acting Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Tim Godwin, who took over running Scotland Yard on Monday after Sir Paul Stephenson’s earlier resignation, has told the Metropolitan Police Authority that he plans to tackle the problems in the force.
He said: “These are very challenging times for us, and sometimes I find it hard to hear the views expressed about corruption being endemic in the Met…let me reassure you, corruption is in no way endemic within the police service or within the Metropolitan Police.
“But it would be foolish if I didn’t acknowledge the perceptions that have been created over the past weeks. There are a number of issues that we therefore as an organisation have to address.”