British PM outlines membership, terms of hacking probe

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British Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled Wednesday the members of the judge-led panel probing the phone-hacking scandal and said its scope had been widened in response to the spiralling crisis.

The inquiry, led by Lord Justice Brian Leveson, will begin hearings under oath within the next few weeks and is due to report within 12 months, Cameron said in an emergency statement to the House of Commons.

Cameron said the inquiry's terms of reference would be extended to look not just into the cosy ties between Britain's media, politicians and the police exposed by the scandal, but also their individual conduct.

In addition, it will be extended to include all police forces where journalists may have paid for information, not just Scotland Yard, and will look at broadcasters and social media, not just newspapers.

Leveson's panel will include civil rights campaigner Shami Chakrabarti of the group Liberty; former West Midlands police chief constable Paul Scott-Lee; and David Currie, the former chairman of Ofcom, Britain's communications regulator.

It also includes three journalists: the former political editor of Channel 4 news, Elinor Goodman; the former political editor of the Daily Telegraph, George Jones; and former Financial Times chairman David Bell.

"These people have been chosen not only for their expertise in the media, broadcasting, regulation and policing, but for their complete independence from the interested parties," Cameron said.

The inquiry is divided into two parts, the first looking at the culture, practices and ethics of the press, and the second looking at News International, the group which owns the News of the World, where the scandal began.

The first part will begin with weeks, looking at contacts between national newspapers, politicians and the police, and at why nobody acted on warnings about the activities of the News of the World dating back years.

It will also look at the regulation of the press and how it failed to deal with phone hacking, and has been tasked to come up with a new regime to replace the system of self-regulation policed by the Press Complaints Commission.

The second part of the investigation, into Rupert Murdoch's News International, will begin only when the police probe into the scandal is complete.

Rebekah Brooks, a former editor of the News of the World, resigned as chief executive of News International last week and was arrested by police on Sunday over phone hacking and alleged bribery of police officers.

Brooks, Murdoch and his son James were also grilled by lawmakers on Tuesday about what they knew about hacking and illegal payments to police.

© 2011 AFP

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