London: The entire British press stands in the dock because of its alleged practice of buying, stealing and manufacturing stories, according to the lawyer who represents 51 victims of phone-hacking and other forms of intrusion into individual privacy.

Deposing on Wednesday before the Lord Justice Leveson inquiry into the media's culture, practices and ethics, lawyer David Sherborne said the British press had a 'self-serving agenda', and added that not only the tabloids but the entire press stands 'in the dock'.

He said: "While there are 51 core participant victims there are many more with similar stories. The press is a powerful body. They have a common interest and a self-serving agenda...this is about survival... A number of individuals have already been vilified for agreeing to share their experiences with this inquiry".

Noting that the police had pointed to over 2,000 assignments relating to the 'News of the World' in notebooks belonging to private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, Sherborne said this suggested that over the four years the notebooks covered, each edition of the tabloid could have had around 10 stories a day based on phone hacking "even leaving aside the
other dark arts practiced by the newspaper".

The now closed tabloid's stories were built on "manifestly unholy and indefensible ground", he said and added that the number of stories "must surely raise questions about who knew what and what level".