LONDON - After a yearlong inquiry full of sensational testimony, Britain's Lord Justice Brian Leveson is releasing his report Thursday into the culture and practices of the British press and his recommendations for future regulation to prevent phone hacking, data theft, bribery and other abuses.
The long-simmering scandal has already led to scores of arrests and some criminal charges. Dozens of cases have been settled out of court after victims of press intrusion sued. Here are some of the cases the Leveson inquiry has investigated:
The 13-year-old girl was abducted and murdered in 2002. In July 2011, it was reported that employees of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid had hacked into her telephone while police were still searching for her, giving her parents false hope that she was alive. Her mother, Sally Dowler, told the inquiry that when she could again leave a message on her missing daughter's phone, she shouted: "She's picked up the voice mails! ... She's alive!" Outrage over this case prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to commission the Leveson inquiry.
KATE and GERRY McCANN
Their young daughter Madeleine had vanished during a vacation in Portugal. The parents said newspapers were sympathetic at first but coverage later turned hostile. One story said the couple had sold their daughter into slavery, another that they had killed her and hid her body in a freezer. The couple successfully sued several British newspapers over suggestions that they had caused their daughter's death and then covered it up. Kate McCann described her dismay when extracts from her private diary — in which she wrote to her missing daughter — appeared in the News of the World in 2008. "I felt totally violated," she said. "There was absolutely no respect shown to me as a grieving mother or as a human being, or to my daughter."
The popular actor testified that since "Four Weddings and a Funeral" made him a movie star, details of his hospital visits had been leaked, his garbage was rifled through, his ex-girlfriend and his infant daughter harassed. He said an article earlier this year in The Sun and the Daily Express about his visit to a hospital emergency room was a gross intrusion of privacy. "I think no one would expect their medical records to be made public or to be appropriated by newspapers for commercial profit. That is fundamental to our British sense of decency," he said.
The bestselling author of the Harry Potter series said she was completely unprepared for the tsunami of media attention when the first of her books became a sensational success. "It feels threatening to have people watching you," she said. Rowling said she had tried to keep her three children out of the media glare and was outraged when her eldest daughter came home from primary school with a letter from a journalist in her backpack. "I felt such a sense of invasion," she said.
A singer who became a star as a teenager, Church said she had been asked to perform at Rupert Murdoch's wedding to Wendi Deng and was offered either a $100,000 fee or a promise of favourable treatment from his newspapers. She took the latter but was hounded anyway. "In fact, Mr. Murdoch's newspapers have since been some of the worst offenders," she said. Between the ages of 16 and 20, Church said photographers were frequently stationed around the clock outside her home. Church said she was repeatedly chased in her car and suffered "the indignity of paparazzi trying to take photographs up my skirt and down my top."
A lawyer who represented several people who claimed to be hacking victims, Harris testified that she was a victim of "highly intrusive" surveillance by newspapers. The purpose, she said, "was to obtain information which could be made public in the hope of putting pressure on me, presumably to deter me and my clients from pursuing claims against the company."