C4 News ~ ‘Leveson: what the inquiry missed’ – Katherine Quarmby (Author of ‘Scapegoat’)



The overarching Leveson inquiry lasted 16 months and took evidence from 474 people. But journalist Katharine Quarmby tells Channel 4 News that it ignored the views of one major group.

Leveson: what the inquiry missed (G)


Lord Justice Leveson took evidence from 184 oral witnesses on just one module alone – the relationship between the press and the public. He took further oral evidence from many more people and organisations for three separate modules – the press and the police, the press and politicians and the future of the press.

But despite much campaigning, one group which is clearly victimised by some sections of the press – disabled people – did not get the chance to give oral evidence.

Submissions on disability from members of the public to the inquiry outnumbered those from any other equality strand, such as transgender, migrants and refugees, (except that of women).

Four women’s groups, one transgender group and one refugee group gave oral evidence, but disabled people were barred from doing so.

This was despite the fact that unlike any other group (except, perhaps, gypsies and travellers), they have been the target since the coalition came to power of what I would term an orchestrated witch-hunt by certain sectors of the media.

Leveson could have exposed a very modern witch-hunt: politicians, happy to demonise vulnerable British citizens for political advantage. And their aides who whisper dangerous misleading statistics to favoured journalists.

Two newspapers – The Sun and the Express – even run popular campaigns against “scrounging”, in which they encourage the public to denounce people they judge to be disability benefit fraudsters.

This has had an effect on disabled people in Britain – one such, Peter Greener, who has MS, was harassed for three months by his neighbour, who called him a scrounger because he can sometimes walk.

He considered committing suicide, such was his despair. He’s not an isolated case either – disabled people regularly speak of their everyday experiences, of being harassed as ‘skivers’, “scroungers” and “fakers” on the street if they dare to be out and about.

This is not surprising: the media campaign against them has been hugely successful. Focus group research by Glasgow Media Group confirms that the general public believes that 50 to 70 per cent of those on disability benefits are fraudulent (they also found that there has been a tripling in the use of words such as “scrounger” in the last five years in media reports).

Those false statistics (the real figure for disability benefit fraud, from the government itself, demonstrates that is under 1 per cent) are peddled, it appears, by some in government.

Leveson could have exposed the triangulation of a very modern witch-hunt: politicians, happy to demonise vulnerable British citizens for political advantage. And their aides who whisper misleading and dangerous statistics to the third group – favoured journalists.

But instead he displayed the nervousness around disability that so characterises the elite – he didn’t understand the politics of it so instead he just glossed over the problem, eventually accepting written evidence on media reporting of disability from a few chosen organisations and individuals.

I’m glad that our evidence was finally accepted, but Leveson missed an opportunity in oral hearings to expose the nexus of power that can be used, with devastating effect, to demonise one group.

This would have benefited other groups as well and enabled targeted groups, rather than individuals to hold government and the press to account.

So while I’m delighted with the forensic approach taken to skewer both politicians and journalists involved in the dark arts of media management and victimisation of individuals and applaud Leveson for it, I would have liked him to go further.

Now, sadly, it’s too late.



Katharine Quarmby won the AMIA Literature award 2011 for her book Scapegoat: why we are failing disabled people and was a finalist in the Paul Foot Awards 2011 for her journalism on disability and the media







9 thoughts on “C4 News ~ ‘Leveson: what the inquiry missed’ – Katherine Quarmby (Author of ‘Scapegoat’)

  1. jeffery davies says:

    yes but after all the dust has settled nowt will be done by camerooon and co and things will stay the same so whot a waste of 5or6million spent by them not to do anything jeff3

  2. Humanity2012 says:

    Politicians and Tabloids have a Lot to Answer For and should Answer For their
    Actions which have Inflicted Misery and Suffering upon Vulnerable People

  3. jed goodright says:

    there is no way there will be any change in emphasis in the media. the damage has been done and now it is acceptable to deny disabled people the access to society that has been fought for for decades. disabled people are the pyriah that the bankers never became. disabled people are the sole cause of the economic crisis (depression) that grips the uk. in this climate, and it is a harsh one, it would be understandable if disabled people just killed themselves off.

  4. Serenity says:

    There is no way I’m signing that petition, already the press are no more than the political propaganda wing of the government even Leveson dare not confront them on the witch-hunt of the most vulnerable in society. If the government did it’s job and provided the infrastructure for a first world country we would have jobs and homes it is our governments incompetence which should be under the spotlight, in a free country this would be the case but in the dictatorship under which we live it’s easier to cull the weakest who can not fight back as they fear the powerful, survival of the richest.
    I’m with Shami Chakrabarti on this, it’s laughable people signing a petition too take away even more of their rights and shore up the dictatorship.

  5. Serenity says:

    Been reading page 11 today, thanks for the education black triangle! 🙂
    So K Peak I’m now off too sign the petition.

  6. fiona branson says:

    have channel four submitted any evidence to leveson re; privacy/news media access to medical devices carried at industrial, scientific and medical bandwidth/access to these devices accidentally provided to C4 via DTI/OFCOM due to poor regulation of medical/research devices in the UK , given that you have raised issue of proliferation of non-consensually applied medico-media technologies in the UK – as have the BMJ. Have you raised these frequencies – some accessible via the mobile phone network – and the parlous treatment of dis
    abled recipients, with no process of complaint should they experience ‘harmful interference’ and NO DATA PROTECTION STANDARDS WHATSOEVER offered to these medical device users where a licensed frequency user ‘rents’ the frequency (which carries their medical device as a low-power radio device), for ‘commercial or scientific exploitation’? Or is this C4’s illicit contribution to technological ‘workfare’?

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