Joan Smith

Columnist Joan Smith arriving at the High Court for the Leveson inquiry

Credit: Rebecca Naden/PA

Columnist Joan Smith, whose name appeared among those in the notes of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, told the Leveson inquiry that she was "amazed by the detail" in Mulcaire's notes.

Smith was called in by Metropolitan police detectives investigating phone hacking for what she called a "ceremonial unveiling of the notes" after her name was found among the thousands recorded by Mulcaire during his work for the News of the World.

She told the inquiry that, along with her name, address and phone numbers, Mulcaire had written down the publications she wrote for and information about the movements of her and her former husband, Labour MP Denis MacShane, including flight times and transcripts of voicemails.

She added that Mulcaire, who she said was an "obsessive notetaker", had first recorded her details around six weeks after MacShane's 24-year-old daughter was killed in a Skydiving accident in 2004, which had "attracted a huge amount of publicity".

"I was particularly shocked at that period when Denis was bereaved … that the News of the World had been interested enough in the both of us to listen to our voicemails."

Detectives asked her if there was any way that Mulcaire could have obtained the information legitimately, to which she replied that the high level of security around government ministers at the time made it unlikely.

Smith, who has been a journalist for more than 30 years and is a published author, denied that her and McShane had attempted to keep their relationship secret, telling the inquiry that they had had dinner with the former prime minsters of Italy and Spain. "Hardly the behaviour of a couple attempting to keep their relationship private," she said.

Smith also told the inquiry that, while the couple had not been particularly secretive, they had "never courted the press or invited them into our lives".

Asked by Lord Leveson whether she considered herself to be a celebrity, Smith replied: "Not in the least".

"I am a very minor public figure in the sense that I write books.

"I'm a writer, I can speak publicly and have done but I'm not someone whose private life would be of much interest to the public."

Smith was heavily critical of the tabloid press during her evidence, claiming that it suffered from a confusion about "what interests the public and what is in the public interest". She added that "you don't have to be a famous actress" to be targeted, "you just have to tangentially come into the orbit of someone well known".

Asked whether she thought she thought the tabloids had been interested in her over her own life and work or as an "adjunct of her husband", she said it was the latter.

"His daughter's death made his profile much higher and once they became interested in him they became interested in me.

"So I suppose I was collateral damage."

Smith said the thought that as a journalist she was "a different breed" from "tabloid hacks", who she accused of "acting like children".

"They are almost infantile in their attitude to sex and private life. They go around like a child who has just discovered that their parents have sex. Trying to peek around the door. The rest of us just try to get on with our lives. "

She added that she thought the tabloids were "remorseless and pitiless in terms of what they do not just to celebrities and crime victims, but ordinary people too".

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