Horror stories of car chases, intense paranoia, spitting paparazzi, and most of all an ineffective regulatory system peppered today’s inquiry into News Corp’s News Of The World phone hacking scandal by a British government-backed inquiry into UK press ethics and practices. Notably appearing in London Thursday were actress Sienna Miller and Harry Potter author JK Rowling. Also giving evidence was media lawyer Mark Thompson whose client Hugh Grant gave evidence at the inquiry earlier this week. Thompson accused the UK’s Press Complaints Commission, which is the body that deals with complaints about the editorial content of newspapers and magazines, of being ineffective. “Some of the worst offenders are photographic agencies and paparazzi and the PCC can’t control them,” he said. Also on Thursday, the Leveson Inquiry announced that it would call former British newspaper editor Piers Morgan as a witness to talk about UK media methods. Morgan, who now hosts CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight, said he would appear soon. Hearings will resume Monday with testimony from singer Charlotte Church among others.
JK Rowling separately called the PCC “toothless”. But, she said, “I can’t pretend I have a magical answer.” (She then caught herself and added, “No Harry Potter joke intended, that slipped out.”) She said she has not been phone hacked but spoke about how she felt “blackmailed” by The Sun, also a News Corp newspaper, after a manuscript of one of her books was stolen from the printers and came into the hands of The Sun. She had to take legal action to prevent the contents of the book being revealed pre-publication, she said, and felt The Sun was trying to turn the situation into a photo opportunity. She also said paparazzi hounded the author so constantly after her children were born that she felt like a hostage in her own house, Rowling told the inquiry. When a journalist once managed to get a note into her daughter’s school bag, she noted, “It’s very difficult to say how angry I felt that my 5-year-old daughter’s school was no longer a place of complete security from journalists.” She further evoked an instance when a journalist directly contacted the headmaster at her eldest child’s school claiming they’d heard the girl had revealed details of the final Potter book that were upsetting to other schoolchildren. Rowling also objected to her addresses being printed in the press. “Clearly I can’t put an invisibility cloaking device over myself or my house, nor do I wish to,” she said.
Sienna Miller received a £100,000 settlement from News Of The World earlier this year over her phone hacking claims. Today she described being hounded by press and paparazzi – whether they were driving illegally or spitting at her to get a reaction. She said she was happy to be giving evidence and hoped that “some form of change comes to our media.” Prior to learning she was under surveillance, Miller explained that news items repeatedly appeared with information to which only she and her closest friends and family were privy. So she changed her mobile number 3 times in 3 months, but the stories continued unabated. “Horribly, I accused my friends and family of selling stories,” she said. When she realized the intrusions on both herself and her entourage were perpetrated by hackers, “I did feel constantly very scared and intensely paranoid.”