Mackenzie addresses Leveson
Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie criticised 'snobbery' against the tabloid press

Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie has lashed out at the "tremendous amount of snobbery" towards the tabloid press in his evidence to the Leveson inquiry into the phone hacking scandal.

"If you got Tony Blair's phone and hacked into that phone and found that he was circumventing his Cabinet to go to war, and you published that in the Sun you would get six months in jail. If you published that in the Guardian then you'd get a Pulitzer Prize," he said.

Lord Justice Leveson asked MacKenzie if he "truly believed" what he said.

"I sort of three quarters mean it," he replied. "There was a tremendous amount of snobbery against the Sun during my period as editor.

"My basic point is that standards are defined by the outcome."

MacKenzie, who ran the paper from 1981 to 1994, said that people viewed the Sun as "bottom of the pile" while the Guardian was regarded as the top of the pile.

"From the outside the perception is different towards the less successful papers like the Guardian and the big red-tops. It's just a different atmosphere."

He commented on wrongful assertions in the Guardian that journalists on the Sun's sister paper, the News of the World, had deleted messages on murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's mobile phone, giving her parents' false hope that she was still alive. It was later found that the reporters had not deleted messages.

"Had that been the Sun [making that claim], it would've come close to being shut down if it had got that story wrong. The Guardian sticks it away on page 10 and they get away with it.

"Don't you think there's a difference? They get that story completely wrong and [the authorities] did nothing."

Leveson called MacKenzie's claim an "interesting assertion".

MacKenzie went on to say that print journalists faced a "massively difficult problem" in maintaining accuracy. "There's no certainty in journalism, the same as there's no certainty in the legal world," he said.

He recommended heavy fines for publications that lie to the Press Complaints Commission.

"They were lied to by News International and that was quite wrong and they should pay a commercial penalty for doing that," he said. "No editor would dream of lying under these circumstances."

Leveson said that the difficulty of ensuring a story was accurate was "not an excuse for not having a go".

"My only concern is to ensure that the tenets of the [PCC] code, which include accuracy, are followed and people have regard to what ultimately they are putting in the papers which go to so many people," he said.