Impact on the Leveson Inquiry and press regulation in the UK
Submitting InstitutionKingston University
Unit of AssessmentEnglish Language and Literature
Summary Impact TypePolitical
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Political Science
Law and Legal Studies: Law
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Journalism and Professional Writing
Summary of the impact
Prof Brian Cathcart's research, investigation and analysis led him to
co-found the Hacked Off campaign, which campaigned for a public inquiry
into the newspaper phone hacking scandal. The Prime Minister set up such
an inquiry under Leveson LJ. In response to the inquiry report, the
Government developed legislative and other proposals to implement
Leveson's recommendations. Cathcart, who became executive director of
Hacked Off, was involved at a high level in the development of these
proposals. This led to the approval by Parliament of a new Royal Charter
for press regulation.
Brian Cathcart joined the Journalism department of Kingston University in
2003 and became Professor of Journalism in 2006.
From 2007/8, he investigated issues of press abuse, including the phone
hacking scandal, in which journalists working for national newspapers
illegally accessed the telephone communications of members of the public,
police officers, celebrities and politicians.
He published the results of detailed investigations of the behaviour of
the press towards Kate and Gerry McCann, parents of the missing child
Madeleine McCann. Eleven newspapers made allegations against the McCanns
of grave criminal offences, allegations which they later conceded were
without foundation, and which led to the McCanns and their associates
being paid substantial damages by Express Newspapers and other groups.
In 2011, Cathcart produced detailed reporting and analysis of the
behaviour of the press towards Christopher Jefferies, wrongly accused by
eight national newspapers of murdering his tenant, Joanna Yeates. The
newspapers admitted in court that their allegations were untrue, and paid
substantial damages to Mr Jefferies.
His investigations into these and other press abuses, including phone
hacking, bribery, libel and gross invasion of privacy, and his analysis of
the cultural crisis in the British press, were set out in a lengthy
article "Code Breakers", published by Index on Censorship.
In 2008-10, Cathcart acted as adviser to the House of Commons Culture,
Media and Sport Select Committee. His role involved identifying and
recommending witnesses to be heard and drafting questions. He helped to
draft and then edited the report "Press Standards, Privacy and Libel",
which detailed allegations of unethical, damaging and illegal behaviour by
national newspapers. This included a catalogue of hundreds of false
articles about the McCann case for which newspapers had paid compensation
and made apologies.
Cathcart's book "Everybody's Hacked Off" covered the later developments
in the press abuse stories and the Leveson Inquiry (see Section 4).
References to the research
"Press Standards, Privacy and Libel", Second Report of Session 2009-10,
Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, House of Commons (Volumes 1 and
2) (drafted and edited by Cathcart):
Cathcart, "Everybody's Hacked Off: Why we don't have the press we
deserve, and what to do about it", Penguin, 2012
Details of the impact
In spring 2011 Cathcart co-founded Hacked Off (with Dr Martin Moore of
the Media Standards Trust) to press for a public inquiry into phone
hacking and ensure that the victims and the public were included in the
subsequent political process.
In July 2011 the Prime Minister announced a public inquiry. Cathcart and
colleagues met him and made suggestions on the remit of the inquiry which
led to 16 separate wording changes, notably extending the inquiry's scope.
In autumn 2011, Hacked Off took victims of press abuse to meet the Prime
Minister. The public inquiry under Lord Justice Leveson ran from November
2011 to June 2012. Cathcart addressed its opening seminar, and provided
written and oral evidence as Professor of Journalism at Kingston
University. Hacked Off made a written submission, drafted by Cathcart.
During and after the inquiry Hacked Off worked with victims of press
abuse such as Christopher Jefferies, Hugh Grant, Brian Paddick and the
McCanns. Among other things it arranged support meetings for those giving
testimony, and in November 2012 it arranged meetings between victims and
the leaders of the three main political parties.
The day after the Inquiry reported in November 2012, Hacked Off launched
a petition for full implementation of the recommendations, gathering more
than 140,000 signatures in 10 days. Hacked Off next published a draft
`Leveson Bill' which Labour and the Liberal Democrats both adopted as the
basis for their proposals, with minor amendments.
Cathcart was a lead participant for Hacked Off both in cross-party talks
at this time and in associated consultations with, among others, the Prime
Minister (David Cameron), the Deputy Prime Minister (Nick Clegg) and the
Leader of the Opposition (Ed Miliband). After the Conservatives proposed
introducing change by Royal Charter, Hacked Off produced a draft charter
derived from its Leveson Bill.
Hacked Off continued to help victims make their case for reform, notably
coordinating an open letter to the Prime Minister from more than fifty
victims. It also worked to counteract the propaganda of press
organisations, with Cathcart writing in the press, broadcasting and
In March 2013 the cross-party talks stalled, the Conservatives favouring
a charter put forward by press organisations. At the instigation of Hacked
Off, amendments were tabled to two Bills then before Parliament which
taken together were tantamount to the Leveson Bill. At the same time
Labour and the Liberal Democrats proposed a Royal Charter based on the
Hacked Off draft. The Conservatives then agreed to a version of the Royal
Charter very close to that proposed by the other two parties. This was put
to the Commons on 13 March and supported by every party.
On 31 July 2013 the Royal Charter was awaiting sealing by the Privy
Council. Supporting legislation had received Royal Assent as clauses of
the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act
2013, with Hacked Off again closely involved in the drafting. (The Royal
Charter was subsequently approved by the Privy Council on 30 October
The distinct and material contributions of the underpinning research to
this impact are as follows:
- The Hacked Off campaign was founded as a result of and in response to
the investigations cited in sections 2 and 3 above. The subsequent
activities of the campaign were thus underpinned by this research, and
motivated by it
- The input by Hacked Off to the terms of reference of the Leveson
Inquiry was based on an assessment of the results of the underpinning
- The evidence provided to the Leveson Inquiry by Hacked Off drew
substantially from the underpinning research
- The investigative results detailed in Cathcart's book "Everybody's
Hacked Off" contributed to the later impact on the Royal Charter.
The ability of Hacked Off to influence the delivery of a Leveson-based
Royal Charter with supporting legislation depended in large measure on
research-based expertise: knowledge of the experience of victims, of the
inadequate past performance of press regulation, of press conduct and
abuses, of the role of courts and the law, of the arguments surrounding
privacy and press freedom. Without this the drafting, submissions,
negotiation and public debating that were essential to Hacked Off's
actions would not have been possible. Cathcart's research thus played a
leading role in almost every aspect of Hacked Off's work.
Sources to corroborate the impact
Personal corroboration: Professor of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths
University of London. Member of Board of Directors of Hacked Off, able to
corroborate all impact claims. (Corroborating Contact Identifier: 1)
About Hacked Off: http://hackinginquiry.org/about-2/
Open letter to Prime Minister from victims: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/oct/06/david-cameron-celebrities-phone-hacking,
Hacking victims meet party leaders: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/leveson-inquiry/9694492/Father-of-Milly-Dowler-and-Kate-McCann-meet-Cameron-over-press-regulation.html
Corroboration of petition signatures: http://news.sky.com/story/1021805/leveson-hacked-off-calls-meetings-a-charade
Amendment to Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill: http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/peers-fresh-attempt-pass-leveson-law-changes-enterprise-and-regulatory-reform-bill
Amendments to Crime and Courts Bill: http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/69915.article,
Royal Charter deal struck by political parties: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21825823
Detailed timeline and analysis of Royal Charter negotiations: http://mediastandardstrust.org/mst-news/the-story-of-six-charters/
Hacked Off involvement in cross-party negotiations on Royal Charter: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/leveson-sustained-by-kit-kats-how-the-parties--and-hacked-off--swallowed-their-differences-and-the-sunday-night-deal-was-done-8539718.html
Draft Royal Charter agreed in cross-party talks and approved by the Prime
Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/leveson-report-draft-royal-charter-for-proposed-body-to-recognise-press-industry-self-regulator