Hollins details press intrusion

The Leveson Inquiry was taken back to the theme of press intrusion today with the evidence of Baroness Hollins, whose daughter Abigail Witchalls was stabbed and left paralysed in Surrey in 2005.

Hollins described the “huge” and “insensitive” press intrusion her family suffered after Abigail’s attack. “Things we spoke about in the [hospital] waiting room would be in the papers next day,” she said, adding that she does not know how news of Abigail’s pregnancy — which the stab victim discovered only after being admitted to hospital — got into the public domain.

She noted how journalists camping in her daughter’s garden were ordered by police to leave, as was a reporter who appeared at Abigail’s son’s sports day at school. The Inquiry was told that the press appeared at Hollins’ mother’s funeral expecting to see Abigail, who was in intensive care at the time, and had taken photographs of the family during a pilgrimage to Lourdes without their permission or knowledge.

“The intrusion seemed not really to have any sensitivity to the fact we were not seeking publicity,” Hollins said.

Hollins added that she contacted the PCC, but was told she needed the name of the journalists involved and article published to pursue a complaint.

“Our distress about press intrusion was not about one incident,” she said, “it was about hundreds of incidents.”

The Inquiry also heard from mobile phone networks O2, Vodafone and T-Mobile, and private investigator companies. Asked about the emergence of the phone hacking scandal, the head of the Institute of Professional Investigators, David Palmer, said it was “not altogether surprising” that the practice had been taking place. Tony Smith of the World Association of Professional Investigators said “we all knew it was going on”, though he said he was “amazed” at its extent.

It was also revealed today that the Commons home affairs select committee will question senior Metropolitan police officers and the Information Commissioner next week about the private investigator industry.

The Inquiry continues on Monday.

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