Leveson Inquiry: Phone-hacking was in the public interest

Illegal phone-hacking could be justified as being in the public interest if it exposes corruption

Guardian journalist David Leigh yesterday told the ongoing press standards inquiry that the phone hacking scandal may be justified if it exposes corruption.

The suggestion came as Leigh, an assistant editor at the Guardian newspaper, admitted to hacking the phone of an arms company, but claimed the circumstances made his actions ethical.

He added that there was a voyeuristic thrill to listening to someone else’s private messages, saying: ‘I don’t hack phones normally, I have never done anything like that since, but on that particular occassion this minor incident did seem to me perfectly ethical.’

Although intercepting messages or calls is a criminal offence, David Barr, counsel to the inquiry, says Crown prosecutors could consider if an accused was acting in thepublic interest,adding: ‘This may be your get-out-of-jail-free card.’

Leigh went on to describe the difference between serious journalists seeking to expose corruption, and tabloid cockroaches who hacked phones for celebrity gossip.

He says: ‘I like to think that if the incident I have described came to the attentions of the DPP and I was asked about it, the DPP would conclude that there was no public interest in seeking to prosecute me or another person for doing something like that.’

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