Breivik spared himself to spruik his “cause”


Anders Behring Breivik had considered killing himself just before he was arrested for having killed 69 people at a youth camp, he told a court yesterday.Anders Behring Breivik had considered killing himself just before he was arrested for having killed 69 people at a youth camp, he told a court yesterday.

“I thought, ‘Do I really want to survive this? I will be the most hated man in Norway and every day for the rest of my life will be a nightmare.

“Then I looked at my Glock [pistol]: ‘Should I shoot myself in the head?’”

But he decided it was more important for his “cause” — fighting multiculturalism and Islam in Europe — to have a trial and use it to air his political views.

Breivik told the court he had managed to get onto the island of Utoya, home to a Labour Party summer camp for teenagers, by dressing as a policeman and telling people he had been ordered there following a bomb explosion in Oslo [which he had planted, killing eight].  The ferry to the island, which had been halted following news of the bomb, returned to pick him up.

The head of security on Utoya Island asked why she had not been told he was coming and he told her Oslo was in chaos after the explosion because half its police were on summer holidays. “She bought it,” he said. She and another security guard were the first two people he killed when he reached the island.

He said the first shot was the hardest — “I thought, ‘I don’t want to do this? There were 100 voices in my head saying ‘Don’t do it!’”

But he decided, “This is now or never.” After that he went into fight-or-flight mode and stopped analysing his feelings, he said.

To frighten people he shouted, “You are going to die today, Marxists!”  This made people “panic completely”, he said.

He described several groups of people standing still as if “paralysed” as he walked up to them to shoot them. He said he shot many people several times because he realised that some of those he first attacked had “played possum” and pretended to be dead.

He had shot people who ran away, a man who tried to stop him, a man who begged “Please, friend!” and a boy who came out of a tent wearing an iPod and didn’t know what was happening. He had also shot at a boat that he thought might have helped survivors in the water, he said.

He went up to one group and asked, “Have you seen him?”, so that they would think he was helping and not run away, he said. He used smoke grenades to try to make others come out of a building.

But he had left alive one boy and one girl he thought looked younger than 16. He believed he should not kill anyone under that age.

Breivik said he would have stopped killing if he had been able to speak to a senior officer the first time he rang police on a mobile phone from the island. “Since they hadn’t called me back, I thought they didn’t intend to let me surrender, so I might as well continue until I am killed.”

He denied reports that he had laughed and smiled as he committed the atrocities.

Breivik said he would not have gone to Utoya Island if his bomb attack in central Oslo earlier in the day had been more “successful”. He believed he needed a higher death toll in order to get media attention, he said.

Breivik said he believed he had “fairly normal emotional patterns” before 2006, when he began meditation exercises to dull fear so that he could commit the attacks. This also had the effect of dulling other emotions.

“I don’t think I could have gone through this trial without trying to de-emotionalise,” he said. “If I tried to understand the suffering I had caused, I wouldn’t be able to sit here today? I don’t even try to take it in.”

First published in The Age.

‘They cannot cope’: royal nurse’s family need support like DJs, says MP

LONDON The family of nurse Jacintha Saldanha was “devastated” by her death and should be getting the kind of counselling being offered to the two Australian DJs who tricked her, a prominent British MP has said.Keith Vaz, who met the family at their Bristol home and also greeted them with a hug at Parliament on Monday, said: “They simply cannot cope or understand what is happening. This is a small, loving family. When I was there they were having prayers for her and they will continue to love her and to cherish her until they take her to India where they wish to bury her, after they have ? reclaimed the body.”

Mr Vaz said police had been helpful and the family had been visited by a liaison officer but: “I am not sure that they are getting the kind of support that, for example, the DJs in Australia appear to be getting?

“The hospital has made it very clear it has supported Jacintha, which is what we would expect a good employer to do. I think that at a time of grief it’s important to give the family that support, and I would hope very much that trained psychologists and others will be helping this family because they are obviously grief-stricken.”

But he avoided answering a question about whether the family had known if Ms Saldanha was very distressed after learning that she had passed on a hoax phone call to the Duchess of Cambridge’s ward at her hospital last week.

“They are a very close-knit family and they had previously contacted her every day. It’s for them to tell everybody what has happened over those crucial two days.”

He said the family was grateful that the hospital had set up a memorial fund in Ms Saldanha’s memory, and that the local Bangalorean community had “rallied round”.

The hospital said it had spoken to Ms Saldanha’s partner by phone on the day of her death and offered to meet him whenever he wanted.

An autopsy is due to be conducted on Ms Saldanha’s body on Tuesday. Her death is currently described by police as unexplained but not suspicious and is suspected to have been suicide.

As the global blame game over her death continued, the King Edward VII Hospital said the radio station that broadcast the call, 2DayFM, had not contacted the hospital’s senior management or its press office in advance. The station has claimed it called five times trying to seek permission to run the call in public.

Rhys Holleran, chief executive officer of the station’s owner, Austereo, said on Melbourne radio: “We rang them up to discuss what we had recorded [before it went to air – absolutely. We attempted to contact them on five occasions because we wanted to speak to them about it. It is absolutely true to say that we did attempt to contact those people.”

He did not explain why the prank went to air despite the station’s failure to receive permission for it and said the tragedy that followed had been completely unforeseeable.

A hospital spokesman said its management was “extremely surprised” at the station’s claim it had called because it indicated the broadcaster was well aware of its responsibility to inform the hospital of what it had done, yet went on to broadcast regardless.

British newspaper columnists have also questioned how it could have been legal to tape Ms Saldanha secretly and then broadcast the exchange without her personal knowledge or permission.

Ms Saldanha’s brother, Naveen, told MailOnline that his devoutly Catholic sister was a “proper and righteous person” and would have been “devastated” by her unwitting role in the breach of medical confidentiality: “She would have felt much shame about the incident.”

The two DJs, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, have apologised and said they were “gutted and heartbroken” by the tragedy.

First published on

Nurse would have been ‘hit badly’ by royal prank

LONDON Jacintha Saldanha was a kind woman. “She used to walk an elderly neighbour who has dementia… down to the shops and back,” one of her neighbours told London’s The Times.Jacintha Saldanha was a kind woman. “She used to walk an elderly neighbour who has dementia… down to the shops and back,” one of her neighbours told London’s The Times.

The neighbour said Ms Saldanha’s two children, a son and daughter aged 14 and 16, “were always polite and well-behaved. The boy often played football on the green”.

But Ms Saldanha, who often stayed in nurses’ quarters in London away from the family home in Bristol, also described herself to friends as “a very nervous person”, one told The Telegraph. She would have been “hit badly” by the prank phone call to her hospital asking after the Duchess of Cambridge; it would have “played on her mind”.

While there is no clear evidence from Ms Saldanha or anyone else that the prank call by two Australian radio presenters triggered her suspected suicide, news of her death has been greeted by a tidal wave of revulsion that now includes a scathing letter from the head of the hospital concerned to the management of the radio station, 2Day FM in Sydney.

And the two presenters who imitated the Queen and Prince Charles, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, are not only suspended indefinitely but appear to have deleted their Twitter accounts following a barrage of abuse.

Lord Glenarthur, chairman of the King Edward VII hospital where Kate had been staying earlier this week over pregnancy-related illness, sent a letter on Saturday condemning the call and asking for assurances the station would not do anything like that again.

Read Lord Glenarthur’s letterIn a letter to Max Moore-Wilton, chairman of the station’s parent company, Southern Cross Austereo, Lord Glenarthur said he protested in the strongest possible terms over the hoax call, which had been “extremely foolish”. The decision by management to transmit the pre-recorded call was “truly appalling”.

“The longer-term consequence has been reported around the world and is, frankly, tragic beyond words. I appreciate that you cannot undo the damage which has been done but I would urge you to take steps to ensure that such an incident could never be repeated.”

Ms Saldanha was relieving on reception when she took the call, in which Greig purported to be the Queen. She put it through to the ward where another nurse gave intimate details of the duchess’s condition. Media subsequently canvassed questions such as whether the nurses involved should be disciplined, suspended or reported to the British midwifery regulator. The hospital took no such actions.

A palace spokesman said the Royal couple had not complained of the security breach: “On the contrary we offered our full and heartfelt support to the nurses involved and hospital staff at all times.”

Ms Saldanha, 46,  was found unconscious early on Friday morning and ambulance officers could not revive her. An autopsy is due sometime this week.

According to the Daily Mail, a female executive of the Australian radio station burst into tears when the paper broke the news to her in the middle of the night. She  said it couldn’t be true and  that the Mail’s call to her must be a hoax.  Assured that Ms Saldanha was indeed dead, executive Vicki Heath cried, the paper said.

But British newspapers, presumably relieved to be the innocent parties in a media scandal, are ripping into the station for having continued to skite about the prank even after offering a half-hearted apology earlier in the week, before Ms Saldanha’s death.

After the initial backlash, Christian said, “We’re very sorry if we’ve caused any issues.” But the following day he tweeted, “Still haven’t heard the royal prank that has the world talking? Listen to it here…”

His most recent tweet, promising that the latest on the royal prank was coming up, was posted half an hour before the ambulance was called for Ms Saldanha.

Major advertisers including Coles and Telstra have reportedly cancelled their advertising and the station has suspended all other advertising but chief executive Rhys Holleran has insisted the presenters broke no laws.

“This is a tragic event that could not have been reasonably foreseen and we’re deeply saddened by it. I spoke to both presenters … And it’s fair to say they’re completely shattered. These people aren’t machines. They’re human beings.”

He added, “Prank calls as a craft in radio have been going for decades and decades. They are not just part of one radio station or one network or one country, they are done worldwide.”

British media have also noted that the radio station had conditions imposed on its licence after an incident in 2009 where a 14-year-old was attached to a lie detector test and admitted on air to having been raped when she was 12.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority said it had received complaints about the hoax call but that complaints should first go to the station: “If a complainant is dissatisfied with the response, the complaint can be made to the ACMA.”

The Daily Mail says the regulator has strict procedures for invasion of privacy but they only apply to news and current affairs shows. The show in question was a music-chart program and so not subject to those rules.

First published on

Nurse at Kate’s hospital who took crank call from Sydney DJs suicides

LONDON: The nurse who took the crank call of two Sydney DJs asking questions about the Duchess of Cambridge’s health has been found dead and is suspected to have killed herself.

Jacintha Saldanha, a 46-year-old mother of two, was found unconscious near the King Edward VII Hospital where Kate spent three nights earlier this week being treated for pregnancy-related vomiting.

Two crews of ambulance officers tried to revive her but she died at the scene and police said her death was unexplained but not suspicious.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge issued a statement saying they were “deeply saddened” to learn of her death and their thoughts and prayers were with her family. They said they had received excellent care at the hospital.

A palace spokesperson told the BBC they had made no complaint to the hospital over the crank call.

The hospital issued a statement confirming that Ms Saldanha had recently been the victim of a hoax call: “The hospital had been supporting her through this difficult time.”

She had worked there for four years and was an excellent nurse.

Hospital chairman Lord Glenarthur said, “This is a tragic event. Jacintha was a first-class nurse who cared diligently for hundreds of patients during her time with us. She will be greatly missed.”

Ms Saldanha was found at 9.35 Friday morning London time. She was reportedly working on reception when two presenters from radio station 2Day FM called in pretending to be the Queen and the Prince of Wales. She is thought to be the person who took the call and put it through to the duchess’s ward, where a second nurse disclosed private details of Kate’s condition.

The Telegraph newspaper reported that Michael Christian, the Sydney DJ who pretended to be Prince Charles, apologised earlier in the week but carried on tweeting about it, including a tweet this morning that said, “MORE on the #royalprank after 7.30 tonight.”

During the call, DJ Mel Greig pretended to be the Queen and Christian was in the background apeing Prince Charles. Greig had rung reception and asked to speak to “my grand-daughter Kate”. Ms Saldanha, thinking she was speaking to the Queen, said, “Oh yes, just hold on ma’am” before putting the call through to a duty nurse.

In reports about her suspected suicide, British newspapers and BBC television ran large smiling photos of the Australian hoaxers. They said the DJs and the station had continued to advertise the stunt world-wide.

The Daily Mail wrote, “today Christian was continuing to boast about the prank ‘making international headlines’ on Twitter”.

The King Edward, which is the Royal Family’s hospital of choice and the birthplace of princes William and Harry, was deeply embarrassed by the call and at the time accused the DJs of “journalistic trickery”.   Earlier this week it said it was considering legal action.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said on Friday, “It is deeply saddening that a simple human error due to a cruel hoax could lead to the death of a dedicated and caring member of the nursing profession.”

Distressed nurses were photographed holding on to each other when entering the hospital today.

The radio station issued a statement saying it was deeply saddened by the news and extending its deepest sympathies to the family. It said both the presenters were “deeply shocked” and it had been agreed they would make no comment.

They would not return to their radio show until further notice, out of respect for the tragedy, 2 Day FM said.

Ms Saldana’s family issued a statement saying they were mourning the loss “of our beloved Jacintha” and asking that the media respect the family’s privacy.

First published on

Kate pregnant: royals confirm news after Duchess taken to hospital


Royal bump-watchers have finally been rewarded with the news that the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton-that-was, is expecting her first baby.Royal bump-watchers have finally been rewarded with the news that the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton-that-was, is expecting her first baby.

The child will be third in line to the throne and is destined to be monarch regardless of its sex, as the British Government is negotiating with all Commonwealth countries to change the law so that a first-born girl can inherit the throne even if she has brothers.

The news was revealed after Kate was admitted to hospital on Monday afternoon for treatment for severe morning sickness. No due date has been announced.

St James’s Palace issued a statement announcing the pregnancy and saying, “The Duchess was admitted this afternoon to King Edward VII hospital in central London with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. As the pregnancy is in its very early stages, her royal highness is expected to stay in hospital for several days and will require a period of rest thereafter.”

Acute morning sickness is normally treated with extra hydration and nutrients, which might include an intravenous drip. Unpleasant though it is for the mother, the received wisdom is that it suggests a healthy pregnancy because it means the level of pregnancy hormones is high. It affects only two per cent of pregnant women.

Only a small number of women are understood to experience the symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum  throughout pregnancy.

”It will mean that the patient may need to be re-admitted throughout their pregnancy… but in terms of any particular complications, if it’s treated well and they’re kept well hydrated it’s something that is relatively easy and well treated,” consultant obstetrician Daghni Rajasingham from Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said

Royal pregnancies are not normally announced until they are passed the fragile 12-week mark and it is thought that the duchess’s hospitalisation is the reason for the press release at an early stage. The couple reportedly wanted to avoid speculation about her condition.

News of the pregnancy comes just three days after Catherine visited her former school St Andrew’s, where she ran around a hockey pitch wearing high-heel boots, laughing and playing with children.

It is 18 months since Kate married Prince William and speculation has been rife that a pregnancy might be on the way. A columnist in The Daily Mail last week wrote about the duchess’s new haircut and warned that women tend to change their hair when they have a drastic life change, adding, “Predictably? Kate’s new cut has sparked speculation that she may be pregnant. (And if she is keeping a Very Important Secret, then that demure fringe is perfect for hiding behind.”)

A remark that now looks as prescient as the not-so-ditsy speculation a couple of years ago about her sudden five-kilo weight loss – which was almost immediately followed by the announcement of the royal engagement.

With hindsight, it seems that an American magazine report last week was the first to break the news. US Life and Style magazine headlined with “A baby is on the way!’, citing an unnamed close friend of the couple as the source.

There must have been something in the air. Last week, Prince William accepted a home-made baby suit from a young mother in the crowd as he and Kate toured Cambridge. The suit read, “Daddy’s little co-pilot”.

Wellwishers have already signalled joy at the couple’s news, with British Prime Minister David Cameron saying ”the country will be celebrating with them”.

”I’m delighted by the news that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a baby. They will make wonderful parents,” Mr Cameron posted on Twitter, later admitting he learnt of the pregnancy when handed a note during a meeting.

Bookmakers will be taking flurries of bets on what the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will choose to call the eagerly anticipated new prince or princess.

Speculation as to what they might name their first child began even before Kate was pregnant, with predictions posted ranging from Mary and Matilda to Edmund and George on the mumsnet website before their wedding.

Their decision – be it traditional or unusual – will most likely set a trend for the next generation of babies.

Royal youngsters are mostly given safe, historical names which are passed down through the monarchy such as James, Edward, Charles, George, Mary and Elizabeth.

First published in The Age.

Cameron accused of Leveson betrayal


VICTIMS of phone hacking have accused Prime Minister David Cameron of betrayal after he rejected the recommendation of the Leveson Report on how to regulate an “outrageous” press that “had wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people”.
After nine months of hearings involving more than 600 witnesses, Justice Brian Leveson said Britain needed a tougher form of press self-regulation, backed by legislation. He denied that this amounted to statutory regulation because his proposed independent watchdog would not involve politicians (or newspaper editors).
Mr Cameron said he welcomed Justice Leveson’s principles but was wary of legislation that might infringe on free speech. “The danger is this would create a vehicle for politicians, whether today or some time in the future, to impose regulation and obligations on the press,” he said.
The founder of the Hacked Off campaign, Brian Cathcart, said: “Despite years of abuses and outrageous conduct, it seems that the Prime Minister still trusts the editors and proprietors to behave themselves.”
Mark Lewis, a solicitor for several phone-hacking victims, including the family of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, said some of his clients were feeling let down: “Cautious optimism lasted for about 45 minutes and then the Prime Minister spoke and said, well, he’s not actually going to implement a report that he instigated . . . He called it the victim test; he called it the Dowler test. It looks like he failed his own test.”
Mr Cameron’s stance was directly contradicted by his deputy in the governing coalition, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who said changing the law was the only way to ensure the new regulator was permanently independent. “We need to get on with this without delay. We owe it to the victims of these scandals, who have already waited too long for us to do the right thing,” Mr Clegg said.
He was joined by Labour leader Ed Miliband, who said his party “unequivocally” backed the report.
Justice Leveson found that politicians had become too close to the press and that this was responsible for decades of political inaction over press abuses and the concentration of ownership. He criticised some police for poor judgment, but found no evidence of widespread corruption involving press relationships with police.
He said News International, the publisher of the now-defunct News of the World, seriously failed in corporate governance over phone hacking. And he found the account of a key event by James Murdoch, then executive chairman of News International, was less credible than that of an executive with a different story.
Justice Leveson found that News International and its parent company, News Corp, failed to investigate evidence that phone hacking was widespread among its journalists.
“There was serious failure of governance within the NotW. Given criminal investigation and what are now the impending prosecutions, it is simply not possible to go further at this stage … What can be said is that there was a failure on the part of the management at the NotW to drill down into the facts to answer the myriad of questions that could have been asked and which could be encompassed by the all-embracing question, ‘What the hell was going on?’ ”
That the company clung to the line that hacking was confined to “one rogue reporter” was “extraordinary” and said a great deal about the paper’s approach to ethics.
Justice Leveson found evidence was unclear as to what James Murdoch knew of hacking allegations. Mr Murdoch had been sent an email chain in which a hacking victim alleged that illegal practices were “rife within the organisation”. Mr Murdoch told the inquiry he had not read the whole chain and was unaware of this claim.
Justice Leveson concluded: “James Murdoch replied to the email within two minutes of receiving it. The speed and content of his reply appear to support his claim not to have focused on the key allegation.”
Mr Murdoch had also said he was never shown or told the significance of a different email, headed “for Neville”, that was also evidence that hacking was more widespread. In contrast, the then legal chief of News International, Tom Crone, told the inquiry the significance of this email was made clear to Mr Murdoch on June 10, 2008.
Justice Leveson said he concluded “that Mr Crone’s version of events … should be preferred to that of Mr Murdoch”.
Justice Leveson recommended legal protection for freedom of the press; increased damages for people who win libel or invasion of privacy cases; a system to protect media plurality; and rules to encourage politicians to reveal meetings with editors and publishers.
But he was criticised for failing to deal more thoroughly with digital media, devoting only one page to “new media”.
■An independent regulator, underpinned by statute, with power to fine newspapers up to £1 million ($A1.5 million) or 1 per cent of turnover for breaching a new code of conduct. No power to prevent publication.
■Majority on board of new body must be independent of the press, with no serving editors and no MPs.
■Arbitration to enable wronged parties to seek swift redress through a prominent apology and fines, if appropriate.
■”Kite mark” (standards) system for publications that sign up.
■Whistleblowing hotline for journalists put under pressure to breach the new code of conduct.
■Communications regulator Ofcom to review how new body is working every two years and to act as regulator if publishers refuse new body.First published in The Age.

‘What the hell was going on?’: Leveson questions Murdoch’s credibility

The Murdoch-owned company News International seriously failed in corporate governance over phone-hacking and James Murdoch’s account of a key event was less credible than that of an executive who told a different story, the Leveson inquiry has found.

In a 2000-page report on press ethics released overnight, Lord Justice Leveson also said that:

• Rupert Murdoch exercised power over politicians without having to ask for favours directly;

• An independent watchdog should be established by law to regulate newspapers because they had often behaved outrageously and wreaked havoc in innocent lives; and

• Police made poor decisions in not pursuing phone-hacking but were not driven by fear of, or relationships with, News International executives.

Justice Leveson found that News International and its parent company News Corp had failed to investigate evidence that phone-hacking was widespread among journalists at the News of the World.

“There was serious failure of governance within the News of the World. Given criminal investigation and what are now the impending prosecutions, it is simply not possible to go further at this stage,” he said.

“What can be said is that there was a failure on the part of the management at the News of the World to drill down into the facts to answer the myriad of questions that could have been asked and which could be encompassed by the all-embracing question … ‘What the hell was going on?’”

The way the company clung to the line that hacking had been confined to “one rogue reporter”, in the face of outside investigations and doubts by its own senior executives, was “extraordinary” and said a great deal about the paper’s approach to ethics, the report said.

Justice Leveson found that evidence was unclear as to what NI’s then-executive chairman, James Murdoch, knew of hacking allegations.

Mr Murdoch had been sent an email chain in which a hacking victim alleged that illegal practices were “rife within the organisation”. Mr Murdoch told the inquiry he had not read all the email chain and was unaware of this claim.

Justice Leveson concluded: “James Murdoch replied to the email within two minutes of receiving it. The speed and content of his reply appear to support his claim not to have focused on the key allegation.”

Mr Murdoch had also said he was never shown or told the significance of a different email, headed “for Neville”, that was also evidence that hacking was more widespread. In contrast, News International’s then-legal chief, Tom Crone, told the inquiry the significance of this email had been made clear to James Murdoch at a meeting on June 10, 2008.

Justice Leveson said he concluded “that Mr Crone’s version of events … should be preferred to that of Mr Murdoch. There are aspects of the account of Mr Murdoch that cause me some concern: in particular, it is surprising if the gist [of a lawyer’s opinion that there was evidence hacking was widespread] was not communicated to him. Furthermore, [editor Colin] Myler and Mr Crone had no reason or motive to conceal relevant facts, as borne out by [Mr Myler] sending James Murdoch the [earlier] chain of emails containing the ‘bad news’.”

Rupert Murdoch had told the inquiry that senior management at News International covered up the truth: “[We were] all misinformed and shielded from anything that was going on there … there’s no question in my mind that maybe even the editor, but certainly beyond that, someone took charge of a cover-up that we were victim to.”

Justice Leveson said if there had been such a cover-up, “then the accountability and governance systems at News International would have to be considered to have broken down in an extremely serious respect. If James Murdoch was not the victim of an internal cover-up, then the same criticism can be made of him as of Mr Myler and Mr Crone in respect of the failure to take action”.

Justice Leveson also criticised Rupert Murdoch and News International’s parent company, News Corporation: “Although there is no evidence from which I could safely infer that Rupert Murdoch was aware of a wider problem, it does not appear that he followed up (or arranged for his son to follow up) on the brief [he said he had given] Mr Myler ‘to find out what the hell was going on’…

“If News Corporation management, and in particular Rupert Murdoch, were aware of these allegations, it is obvious that action should have been taken to investigate them. If News Corporation were not aware of the allegations, which … have cost the corporation many hundreds of millions of pounds, then there would appear to have been a significant failure in corporate governance.”

The report also criticised politicians’ close relationships with publishers including Rupert Murdoch. It said his denials that he had ever made express deals with any prime minister “were not the end of the story”.

It concluded that politicians, just like Mr Murdoch’s editors, tacitly understood “the basic ground-rules” of dealing with him: “Politicians knew that the prize was personal and political support in his mass-circulation newspapers …. [They] were well aware that ‘taking on’ Mr Murdoch would be likely to lead to a rupture in support, a metaphorical declaration of war on his titles, with the inevitable backlash that would follow.”

But the report said Mr Murdoch’s influence was more about what did not happen than about what did. Examination of policies did not reveal any that showed politicians compromised to favour Mr Murdoch’s interests directly, “but no government addressed the issue of press regulation, nor of concentration of ownership”.

Justice Leveson found that politicians had spent too much time cultivating relationships with the press and had failed to be transparent and accountable to the public over it. While he did not suggest any “deals” contrary to the public interest had been made, he said,  “potential threats and promises hang in the air”.

He also found that two generations of failure to deal with press misconduct was due to “the press and the politicians [having] formed too close a relationship”.

Prime Minister David Cameron rejected the report’s central recommendation for legislation to set up an independent body to regulate the press. He warned this would result in undue limits on freedom of speech.

But he also said the status quo was unacceptable and that the British press would have a limited amount of time to set up an appropriate watchdog.

Opposition Leader Ed Miliband backed the Leveson proposals for new laws and so did deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Justice Leveson also recommended legal protection for freedom of the press; increased damages for people who win media cases over wrongs such as libel or invasion of privacy; a system to protect media plurality; and rules to encourage politicians to reveal meetings with editors and publishers.

First published on

UK coalition divided over tougher press regulation

LONDON: The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, faces a potential breach in the ruling coalition over the findings of the Leveson inquiry, with all three main parties split over any recommendations for press regulation.

Mr Cameron’s office received six advance copies of the “hefty” report on Wednesday and was due to convene a coalition meeting on Thursday morning to try to thrash out a joint response with his Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.

But Mr Clegg also approached the Speaker of the House of Commons to ask that he be permitted to make a statement separate to Mr Cameron’s.

Politicians of all parties are divided over whether freedom of the press should prevail over the need to constrain the worst excesses of Britain’s rabid tabloids, such as the phone-hacking scandal that led to the Leveson inquiry 16 months ago. The public overwhelmingly wants laws to keep papers in line, with a poll on Tuesday reporting that 79 per cent wanted an independent press regulator established by law.

Only 9 per cent supported the idea of newspapers setting up their own body to deal with complaints and decide sanctions if journalists broke agreed codes of conduct.

The associate director of the lobby group Hacked Off, Evan Harris, said of the poll: “The results hardly vary whether voters read The Guardian or The Daily Mail, and are held as strongly by Conservative swing voters as by Labour voters.”

But that same day, 86 MPs, including 76 Tories, wrote to The Guardian opposing statutory regulation, warning that “state licensing is inimical to any idea of press freedom”. That contrasted with a letter earlier this month from 44 different Conservative MPs, who demanded statutory regulation.

Mr Cameron was believed to be considering a free vote in Parliament, given the widely differing views.

The actor and phone-hacking target Hugh Grant said victims did not want statutory regulation but independent regulation “underpinned by statute, which is a very different beast”.

“What people are campaigning for is an end to newspapers being able to regulate themselves, marking their own homework,” Grant said.

The London mayor, Boris Johnson, said any kind of state regulation was “preposterous”.

“The British media is one of the glories of our country. They keep politicians’ feet very firmly held to the fire, which is absolutely right,” he said.

Tom Mockridge, the chief executive of News International, the Murdoch-owned company whose paper News of the World was killed off as a result of its phone-hacking, said he backed tougher press regulation but warned the government not to “cross the Rubicon”.

“The people who argue for state regulation are saying they are going to trust the politicians in this country for another 300 years not to exploit that. That’s a trust too far,” Mr Mockridge said.

Lord Justice Brian Leveson was asked to look at the ethics, culture and practices of the press, and its relationships with the public, police and politicians. This followed newspaper revelations of widespread phone-hacking, including the hacking of the voicemail of a murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, and questions as to why police repeatedly failed to investigate the practice.

The 184 witnesses included the former culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, Rupert Murdoch and his son James, and the former News International executive Rebekah Brooks.

First published in The Age.

Church gives women bishops the thumbs down – again


The Church of England has again voted down the introduction of women bishops, after a long and divisive debate including over 100 speeches.The Church of England has again voted down the introduction of women bishops, after a long and divisive debate including over 100 speeches.

The measure had majority support but did not win the two-thirds majority in all three houses of the General Synod that was needed for it to pass. It was lost in the House of Laity by just six votes.

The result will embitter and embarrass supporters of modernisation, with many tweeting that they were “ashamed” of the church’s decision.

Among existing bishops, 44 voted for women to join their ranks, three voted against and two abstained. Among priests, 148 were in favour and 45 against. Of the laity, 132 were in favour and 74 were against. Forty-two of the church’s 42 dioceses have previously backed women as bishops.

The church will not vote on the issue again for at least five years. But there has been speculation that women priests might turn to civil law for redress, asking that the church be stripped of its exemption to obey equal-employment laws.

Before the vote, Sally Muggeridge of Canterbury asked who would go to see the Queen, a woman, and “tell her that we’ve failed her?”

Canon Jane Charman of Salisbury described the debate as “one of the most inward looking? I can remember”, saying a spin doctor did not exist who could make excluding women sound like good news to the outside world: “Synod, we need to pass this legislation.”

But speakers opposing the measure cited scripture as the basis for their refusal of “female headship”.

The synod was voting on a compromise measure that would have allowed women bishops but left wriggle room for conservative evangelicals, with women bishops able to “delegate” authority to a male bishop if their parish requested it. The incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said the compromise was “as good as we can get”.

But Edward Armitstead of Bath said the measure was unsatisfactory and that opponents of female bishops had not really been listened to: “The measure as it stands is discriminatory and does not offer reassurance to the almost a third of members who cannot accept female headship.”

Bishop Peter Forster of Chester said he was uncomfortable with the ordination of women as bishops even though he gladly ordained female priests. The proposed change would allow parishes to choose their own bishops and would mean bishops “will not be in Eucharistic communion with one another”.

Women spoke against the measure too. Rosemary Lyon said she was not a misogynist but “we need to stick with scripture.”

“Please vote against this. There is a better way,” she said.

Canon Rebecca Swyer of Chichester said she felt the church did not have the authority to make this decision.

Rod Thomas of Exeter said the compromise would still mean recognising the authority of female bishops, something he believed was not accepted in scripture.

But Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams asked how long the church could sustain a system in which some priests are blocked from being bishops. He said he wanted the church to “liberate itself” from the issue so that no more time and energy would be spent on it.

First published in The Age.

Breaking down the walls

The revelations of child abuse and cover-ups within the Irish Catholic Church have shocked the faithful, writes Karen Kissane from Dublin.

MARIE COLLINS was 13 and in Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children when she was abused. It was the hospital chaplain, a Catholic priest. He went to jail for it, many years later, like so many of his colleagues in Ireland, but only after decades of misery for Collins.
“I never connected his abuse with the church,” she says. “I thought it was somehow my fault and that I was a bad person who had brought it on myself. I had years of depression and agoraphobia that included nine admissions to psychiatric wards.”
As a young adult, anxious that other children not be hurt as she had, she told a priest in her parish. “He told me it was probably my fault, that I must have led the poor man on, but that I was forgiven and I could go away and forget about it.”
That priest’s sentence of guilt outweighed any promise of forgiveness. Collins did go away, into more years of silence and depression. The misery did not lift until after her attacker, Father Paul McGennis, was jailed in 1997 over offences involving her and another child he abused 18 years after Collins. He was later convicted of having raped a third girl, 24 years after he attacked Collins.
She has no doubt the validation given to her by those court cases, and the later findings of four major inquiries into child abuse, helped her to recover. She says of the opening up of Ireland’s cesspit of secrets: “I think it’s helped everybody, really, except the Catholic Church … It’s certainly worked for survivors. Even as late as the 1990s, it was difficult for any survivor to be heard or believed in any way. That’s not the case any more.”
Australia’s royal commission into child sex abuse, announced last week by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will look at the Catholic Church and other institutions. In Ireland, the church has been the focus of inquiries because its traditional reach there incorporated almost all schools, hospitals, orphanages, charities and welfare organisations.
And it is the church hierarchy that has time and again been found guilty of covering up scandals and protecting perpetrators in its ranks.
“The revelation that had the biggest impact was not that the church had abusers,” Collins says. “It was news of the systemic cover-ups that angered people.”
In her case, the bishop to whom she took her story told her the priest concerned had no complaints against him: “But they had known 30 years earlier he was an abuser. A few months after he abused me, the church found out he was doing it. He used to take indecent pictures of the children and he sent them to the UK for processing, and Kodak … picked out a roll and sent them to police here. The police commissioner did not investigate, but brought the pictures to the archbishop. They took him out of the hospital and put him in a parish.”
Ireland’s Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, a practising Catholic, was so outraged by stories such as this that following a damning report last year, he launched an attack on the Vatican that made world headlines.
The Cloyne inquiry found a 1997 letter from the Vatican criticising a new policy by the Irish church hierarchy of reporting all offenders to police. The Cloyne report documented, as had three other inquiries before it, patterns of clerical deceit.
Breaking with decades of subservience to the church by Irish politicians of all stripes, Kenny stood up in Ireland’s parliament and attacked Rome.
He said the report exposed an attempt “to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic – as little as three years ago, not three decades ago. And in doing so, the report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism … the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican. The rape and torture of children was downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold, instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and reputation”.
Rome removed its ambassador to Ireland, and Dublin closed its embassy to the Vatican. Ireland has since reinforced its determination to act on secular principles of child protection by making it mandatory to report sexual abuse.
Meanwhile, ordinary Catholics aghast at the scandals have voted with their feet. While national attendance at weekly mass is about 45 per cent, in Dublin the figure is less than 20 per cent – both a huge drop from the 90 per cent attendance of 30 years ago.
Dublin’s archbishop, Diarmuid Martin, said in February: “The fact thousands of children were abused within the church … is a scar the church will bear for generations. There is no way in which what happened can be consigned out of the way into the archives.”
Of the Murphy report into the misdeeds of the Dublin archdiocese before his time, he said: “I offer to each and every survivor my apology, my sorrow and my shame for what happened to them … the Archdiocese of Dublin failed to recognise the theft of childhood.”
The church has set up new structures to deal with abuse. Andrew Fagan, director of child safeguarding for the Dublin archdiocese, says the new system reports all complaints to police immediately: “Civil law and civil procedure takes precedence.”
Church volunteers are now trained to be abuse-aware and to develop practices that involve careful supervision of children “to ensure our churches are as safe as they can possibly be. And people are carrying that information into other situations – it is making our society safer”.
Despite the positive developments, Marie Collins feels she can no longer be part of the church. She still believes in God and has tried to regain her faith in the institution, but each time has found herself slamming into what she believes is a wall of resistance to change on child abuse.
In February, she went to Rome for a Vatican seminar on child abuse for bishops around the world. There she met a church official who gave her hope because he was passionate about the need to tackle the problem. Soon afterwards, he was demoted.

First published in The Sydney Sun-Herald.