Inquiry begins into hacking scandal

By the Associated Press | July 28, 2011 | 6:29 AM EDT

LONDON (AP) — A senior judge on Thursday opened an inquiry into Britain's phone-hacking scandal that will start by looking at whether the country needs tougher media regulation.

Justice Brian Leveson says he has the legal power to demand evidence from witnesses — and plans to use it "as soon as possible."

Leveson's inquiry was announced earlier this month by Prime Minister David Cameron in the wake of a scandal over illegal eavesdropping that has shaken Rupert Murdoch's global media empire.

Leveson's seven-member panel includes an former newspaper reporter, a civil liberties activist and a broadcast journalist. They are meeting Thursday to start work and will hold their first public hearings in September.

The panel is due to issue a report within a year.

Leveson said that "in the first instance the inquiry will focus primarily on the relationship between the press and public and the related issues of press regulation."

Later it will look at relations among the press, police and politicians.