It was a busy day at the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics. This morning it was confirmed that police have recovered millions of emails from the main server of News Corp’s News International unit that were thought to have been deleted, while Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre in the afternoon continued to refute Hugh Grant’s earlier testimony that the Sunday newspaper had hacked into the actor’s voicemail for a 2007 story. Sue Akers, the police chief in charge of three investigations into alleged press misconduct, testified that investigators are working to search through the recovered emails, which News Corp’s UK newspaper arm said had been deleted, but that the work will take a few more months. She also noted that the police have a “cooperative working relationship” with News Corp’s management and standards committee, which the group set up when the phone-hacking scandal at the News Of The World blew wide open this summer.
Meanwhile, Dacre spoke to events from November last year when Grant, in the first allegation against a paper not controlled by News Corp., told the inquiry that he believed his phone had been hacked by the Mail’s Sunday newspaper. Associated Newspapers, of which Dacre is editor-in-chief, publishes the Mail and other titles and angrily denied the allegations in a statement following Grant’s November testimony. “I had to instantly rebut the fact that your inquiry was being told that we were hacking into phones,” he told Lord Justice Leveson’s chamber today. “The damage was being done. I’m glad to say once we got that out we had much more balanced reporting from the BBC and other media.” He denied, however, the inquiry’s suggestion that he “shot from the hip” with the statement and accused Grant and the Hacked Off campaign of an attempt to “hijack” the inquiry “in a highly calculated attempt to wound my company.” (The Hacked Off campaign, which was established to lobby for a public inquiry into phone hacking, refuted Dacre’s comments in a statement posted to its website.) Dacre also noted, “I am as confident as I can be that there is no phone hacking at the Daily Mail.”
Earlier in the session, Dacre, also chairman of the Press Complaints Commission’s editors’ code of conduct committee, allowed that a new regulatory system that could oversee standards and impose sanctions would benefit the UK press, while a new press card system would also be a boon because “the existing press cards don’t mean much.” In other comments, he lamented the effect the News Of The World scandal has had on the industry at large, saying it was a pity the paper is gone. “I wouldn’t have the News Of The World in my house, but it did break great stories,” he said.