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Church was one of a slew of celebrities, including actor Hugh Grant, “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling and actress Sienna Miller, who have sat in the witness box at London’s Royal Courts of Justice and described stakeouts and snatched photos, leaked medical details and midnight pursuits _ all justified, in the tabloids’ eyes, because the people they were pursuing were famous.

Ian Hargreaves, professor of digital economy and former director of the journalism school at the University of Cardiff, said the hearings have had a profound impact on the public psyche _ and on Britain’s political class _ by revealing so much about how part of the press works.

“It’s been a process of revelation, based on firsthand testimony,” he said. “A lot of journalists feel it has been one-sided, but processes that have been known about and talked about in private are suddenly being talked about on a big public stage.”

Hearings continue into the new year, and justice Brian Leveson and his panel hope to issue a report by late 2012 that could recommend major changes to Britain’s system of media self-regulation.

So far, the most strident defense of tabloids _ and the week’s most jaw-dropping testimony _ came from unrepentant former News of the World journalist Paul McMullan. He described chasing celebrities’ cars as “good fun,” called phone hacking “a perfectly acceptable tool” of the trade and dismissed privacy as “the space bad people need to do bad things in.”

He also said celebrities should stop complaining and be grateful for the attention of paparazzi.

The inquiry has also shown that it’s not just celebrities who find themselves in the tabloids’ sights. The parents of 13-year-old Milly Dowler, who was abducted and murdered in 2002, described how the News of the World’s hacking of Milly’s phone, and the deletion of voicemail messages, had given them false hope that their daughter was still alive.

This week Christopher Jefferies, a retired teacher arrested on suspicion of murder in a high-profile case a year ago, described how his life had been wrecked by “smears, innuendo and complete fiction” in articles that painted him as a voyeuristic eccentric, or worse.

Jefferies was released without charge, and another man has been convicted of the killing. Jefferies successfully sued eight newspapers _ including Murdoch’s The Sun tabloid _ for libel, but said he would “never fully recover from the events of the last year.”

“There will always be people who don’t know me who will retain the impression that I’m some sort of weird character who is probably best avoided,” he said.

The inquiry has also heard claims the Murdoch empire used negative articles and even espionage against its critics. Former TV host Anne Diamond recounted how she had asked Murdoch during a 1980s interview “how could he sleep at night” knowing his newspapers ruined people’s lives.

She said after that “there were consistent negative stories about me in Mr. Murdoch’s newspapers.”

One glaring example was a story in The Sun headlined “Anne Diamond killed my father,” about a fatal road accident she had been involved in years before. The same newspaper took pictures of Diamond carrying the coffin of her infant son at his funeral, despite her plea for the press to stay away out of respect for the family’s grief.

Mark Lewis, a lawyer who has represented high-profile hacking victims, testified that he was put under surveillance by a private investigator working for Murdoch’s News International. The surveillance, apparently in search of material to discredit him, included following and filming his 14-year-old daughter.

“That was truly horrific, that my daughter was videoed, was followed by a detective with a camera,” Lewis said. “That shouldn’t happen to anybody’s child.”

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