Eight months of testimony are finally winding down at the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics. The panel, convened in the wake of the phone hacking scandal at the News Corp-controlled News Of The World, heard again today from Metropolitan police deputy commissioner Sue Akers. Akers has been leading the probes into alleged illegal activities by journalists including phone and computer hacking and bribery. In February, she told the inquiry there appeared to be “a culture of illegal payments” at News Corp’s The Sun newspaper. Today, she said police had determined that public officials, including a high-security prison guard, have received payments from more than one newspaper, expanding the field to those owned by Trinity Mirror and Express Newspapers along with News Corp’s News International. (In Express chief Richard Desmond’s earlier statement to the inquiry, he said he was unaware of any such activity at his papers.) When Akers appeared in February, News Corp said the practices she’d described were “ones of the past.” Akers confirmed today to Lord Justice Brian Leveson that there has been a change in the culture and practice of News International. Akers also told the inquiry that News Corp’s internal Management and Standards committee has proffered significant evidence that has led to “very substantial” arrests. She further said the police have notified 2,615 people they may have been victims of phone hacking. There are 101 ongoing probes into computer hacking, she added. Across the investigations, 74 people have been arrested, including former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks who is facing charges of conspiring to pervert the course of justice. She is currently on bail with a hearing set for Sept 26. Eleven other arrested journalists will answer bail tomorrow. The inquiry will make recommendations on press regulation to the government later this year, although Leveson could call for further clarifying testimony in the fall.
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