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Update 14 May 2012: Lord Justice Leveson has said he will not pursue action under Section 36 of the 2005 Inquiries Act against the Independent on Sunday. He added that a detailed ruling on the matter will be published on the Inquiry website.
The editor of the Independent on Sunday gave a staunch defence of his paper’s decision to publish an article about former News of the World editor and David Cameron’s ex-communications chief Andy Coulson’s shareholdings in News Corp.
In a robust performance, John Mullin said the paper had three sources for the story by the time he saw Coulson’s witness statement last Thursday.
“We have used nothing from Coulson’s statement,” he told the Inquiry.
Mullin, summoned by an order made by Lord Justice Leveson under section 21 of the Inquiries Act, refused to reveal the sources of the 6 May story, which claimed that Coulson held shares in News Corporation while he served as David Cameron’s director of communications, at a time when the government was deciding whether or not to approve the company’s takeover of BSkyB.
Lord Justice Leveson, who has been vocal about his distaste for leaks, told Mullin: “I am very anxious to ensure the evidence we are going to deal with is dealt with in an orderly fashion”, adding that there was a risk of disrupting “the process I’m trying to advance”.
Under the Inquiry protocol, witness statements are confidential. Over the course of the Inquiry, Leveson has issued restriction orders — under section 19 of the Inquiries Act — that prohibit witness statements from being published in whole or in part outside the confidentiality circle of Leveson, his assessors, the Inquiry team, core participants and their legal representatives.
Mullin said he was aware of the Inquiry’s restriction order regarding the publication of witness statements, but said he believed the order did not apply to the story, as none of the sources relied on Coulson’s statement.
Defending his paper, Mullin said: “the fact that the Inquiry is going on shouldn’t stop us from doing good, honest journalism.”
“My job is to put into the public domain the key question which has to be answered,” he said, adding that doing so before Coulson gives evidence is “perfectly defensible journalism”.
Mullin apologised to the Inquiry for any inconvenience caused, asserting that it was not his intention and that he and his paper are “motivated only by trying to get to bottom of the issue”.
Coulson is scheduled to give evidence at 2pm today.
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