London: City law firm caught in Leveson claims
The document - written by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) – came to light last weekend and suggested that law firms were among those heavily involved in commissioning private investigators to obtain sensitive information through hacking and other illegal practices.
After days of questioning, Lord Leveson wrote to MPs claiming that the Soca report fell outside his terms of reference for the hearings, but also added that his inquiry was ‘specifically asked not to circulate it without further discussion’.
Sources close to the judge have told The Independent that the request was made by the media law firm Bindmans, whose clients include former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott and Hugh Grant, as well as former British Army intelligence officer Ian Hurst whose computer was hacked by the News of the World.
Bindmans is heavily disputing the claim, insisting its communications with the investigation were ‘misunderstood’ and that it was in fact trying to have the report admitted into evidence rather than bury it.
According to the newspaper, Mr Hurst passed the document to the inquiry to expose widespread hacking in blue chip industries – and senior police officers’ knowledge of the illicit trade in personal information.
Mr Hurst – who was initially outraged that his lawyers may have helped to supress the report – has since stated that the firm ‘acted appropriately’ and claimed that Lord Leveson is ‘clearly being mischievous’.
Meanwhile, Lord Leveson has agreed to appear before a parliamentary committee and answer questions on his report, which recommended press regulation should be overseen by the state.