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U.K. Tabloid Publisher Loses Ruling Over Secret Evidence

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Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- The publisher of the Daily Mail tabloid in Britain lost a lawsuit to ban the use of anonymous evidence by journalists at a judge-led inquiry into media ethics, set up after News Corp.’s phone-hacking scandal.

The ruling today in London allows unnamed reporters and editors to allege illegal practices at newspapers other than News Corp.’s now-shuttered News of the World tabloid. Associated Newspapers Ltd., a unit of Daily Mail and General Trust Plc, sued the inquiry over claims that anonymous statements would be unfair and risk hurting other tabloids’ reputations.

Associated Newspapers also publishes the Mail on Sunday and Metro in the U.K. The Daily Mail’s editor, Paul Dacre, has been a critic of the inquiry, saying in October that phone hacking at the News of the World exposed police failures in past investigations rather than a need for more industry regulation.

The public interest in the inquiry’s chairman “being able to pursue his terms of reference as widely and deeply as he considers necessary is of the utmost importance,” Judge Roger Toulson said in the judgment.

Lawyers for victims of phone hacking say journalists who wish to expose wrongdoing at their newspapers should be free to do so without fear of a backlash. The names of the newspapers will also be left out of the statements.

The inquiry, led by Judge Brian Leveson, was announced in July by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron after revelations that the News of the World hacked into the voice mail of a murdered school girl in 2002, when she was missing. The probe extends beyond News Corp.’s five-year-old scandal, covering the ethics of the press and its relationship with politicians and police.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in London at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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