Leveson report: New body to curb press 'havoc'

 

Lord Justice Leveson: "It must protect both the public interest and the rights and liberties of individuals"

A tougher form of self-regulation backed by legislation should be introduced to uphold press standards, the Leveson report has recommended.

Lord Justice Leveson said the press had "wreaked havoc in the lives of innocent people" for many decades.

But the report's recommendations have divided the coalition government.

David Cameron said he had "serious concerns" over statutory regulation but Nick Clegg said he supported some form of legal underpinning.

And Labour leader Ed Miliband urged the government to accept the report in its entirety.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Cameron said he broadly welcomed Lord Justice Leveson's principles to change the current system.

But he said: "We should be wary of any legislation that has the potential to infringe free speech and the free press.

"The danger is that this would create a vehicle for politicians whether today or some time in the future to impose regulation and obligations on the press."

Proposed new press law

Would:

  • Create a process to "validate" the independence and effectiveness of the new self-regulation body
  • Validate a new process of independent arbitration for complainants - which would benefit both the public and publishers by providing speedy resolutions
  • Place a duty on government to protect the freedom of press

Would not:

  • Establish a body to regulate the press directly
  • Give any Parliament or government rights to interfere with what newspapers publish

Deputy Leader Nick Clegg said changing the law was the only way to ensure "the new regulator isn't just independent for a few months or years, but is independent for good".

Mr Miliband described the report as "measured, reasonable and proportionate" and said Labour "unequivocally" endorsed its conclusions.

After the first of cross-party talks, a senior Labour source said Mr Cameron had agreed to ask the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to draft a bill to implement Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations.

The source added Labour would push for a Commons vote on implementing the recommendation in principle by the end of January.

The Hacked Off campaign, which represents victims of phone hacking said Mr Cameron's "failure" to accept the full recommendations of the report was "unfortunate and regrettable".

Founder Brian Cathcart said: "Despite their years of abuses and outrageous conduct, it seems that the prime minister still trusts the editors and proprietors to behave themselves. It seems that the prime minister wants self-regulation all over again."

Madeleine McCann's mother Kate said she hoped the report would "mark the start of a new era" for the press, in which it treated those in the news "with care and consideration".

The prime minister knows he has given his opponents yet another stick to beat him with. He also knows, however, that the press are firmly on his side.

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors said he hoped any British politician would hesitate before doing anything that "might in the slightest way threaten the freedom of the media".

"What happens 20 years down the line if you have a different government, which was upset by the press again, once you've given away the principle and put a law in place, it's very easy to amend."

Mr Cameron set up the Leveson Inquiry in July 2011 after it emerged journalists working for the Sunday tabloid the News of the World had hacked the mobile phone of murdered Surrey schoolgirl Milly Dowler. The paper was subsequently shut down by its owners News International.

'Accountable press'

Among Lord Justice Leveson's findings:

  • All of the press served the country "very well for the vast majority of the time"
  • The press must create a new and tough regulator backed by legislation to ensure it was effective
  • This cannot be characterised as statutory regulation
  • Legally-binding arbitration process needed to force newspapers to deal effectively with complaints
  • Some "troubling evidence" in relation to the actions of some police officers - but no proof of widespread corruption
  • Over last 30 years all political parties have had too close a relationship with the press which has not been in the public interest
  • Former Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt was not biased in his handling of News Corp's BSkyB bid but failed to supervise his special adviser properly
  • The tabloid press often failed to show "consistent respect for the dignity and equality of women", and there is a "tendency to sexualise and demean" women.

In his 2,000-page report, Appeal Court judge Lord Justice Leveson said his proposals will protect the rights of victims and people bringing complaints.

He said the press had failed to properly regulate itself in the past, but he believed the law could be used to "validate" a new body.

Analysis

The statute proposed by Lord Justice Leveson is intended to do three things: Enshrine freedom of the press for the first time; recognise the new regulator; and ensure it can be can be audited to confirm it is performing to proper standards.

It also provides incentives to publishers to sign up. Incentives are needed because no serving newspaper editor can serve on the new body. The proposals amount to the press being allowed to set up its own regulator, but not sit on it.

Principally the incentives involve setting up an arbitration service to settle disputes with members of the public over privacy and libel. If a publisher isn't part of that service and has to go to court, it could be deprived of very considerable legal costs, even if it won. And if it lost, it could be made to pay additional, exemplary damages.

These proposals on arbitration represent a very large carrot and stick and that, says Lord Justice Leveson, needs legislation. But in addition, there's a shotgun in the cupboard. The broadcast regulator Ofcom could act as a backstop regulator for those publishers not persuaded by the Leveson carrot and stick.

He said: "There have been too many times when, chasing the story, parts of the press have acted as if its own code, which it wrote, simply did not exist.

"This has caused real hardship, and on occasion, wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people whose rights and liberties have been disdained.

"This is not just the famous but ordinary members of the public, caught up in events (many of them truly tragic) far larger than they could cope with but made much, much worse by press behaviour that, at times, can only be described as outrageous."

Lord Justice Leveson said putting "a policeman in every newsroom is no sort of answer," because legal powers were limited to allow the press to act in the public interest.

However, the press is "still the industry marking its own homework", and needs an independent self-regulatory body to promote high standards, he added.

The Metropolitan Police said it accepted the criticisms made against it in the report.

Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said he had already taken "decisive action" on the issues raised and his priority was now ensuring phone-hacking victims got justice.

The chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, Lord Hunt, said the press had to seize the baton and make sure it "doesn't let Lord Justice Leveson down".

 

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  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 99.

    Tomorrow's headlines.

    Leveson clears press of any wrongdoing.

  • rate this
    +53

    Comment number 98.

    Earlier this year I was described in an unfair manner by the press who used demeaning words that were NOT mentioned in a court case I was involved in. In response to my challenge the PCC said the press were entitled to give their "opinion" of me in addition to stating the facts.
    Thank god the PCC is to be replaced - the are impotent and totally useless. I now will proceed to sue the newspaper.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 97.

    I am more interested in the political reaction this afternoon and the coming days, that is when we will see the full details of the report to emerge and understand the position of the parties. Could well influence the way I vote in the next election.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 96.

    "Dad, what was the News of the World?"
    Well son, it was a sunday newspaper that had a lot of pictures and made up unsavoury stories about so-called 'celebrities'
    "Gosh dad, that doesn't sound too wholesome. I'm glad we don't have that sort of thing around anymore"
    Too right kiddo, lucky for us Mr Murdoch sorted out that bunch. Now, where did I put my Sun on Sunday?

  • rate this
    +83

    Comment number 95.

    Papers found to be serial libellers should have their right to publish withdrawn for an appropriate period. Fines are paid out the money made selling this garbage to the gossip hungry mindless masses.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 94.

    @21 I think you're missing the point. Just because there are many people wanting to read the trash, it doesn't give the right to journalists to hack. Besides, most of the targetted individuals were victims of serious crimes, not those celebs who normally appear in the trashy publications.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 93.

    Hands up anyone who thinks this was worth the 5.3 million quid. All a bit of a joke really. We will now have the press reporting on an inquiry into the press. If anyone thinks that is not going to be biased in one form or other they are deluding themselves. At least the lawyers got a nice little earner out of it - but then they always do.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 92.

    It is about time we had laws to protect the people from the news paper scum. A young women body is found is redlight area and she has to be a hooker, even when they do not know who she is. The scum press has proven time and time agene they cannot be trusted anymore.
    I just hope this new body is not as one side as the GMC is, as the GMC thinks it is okay for doctors to lie to their patients.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 91.

    Did we really need this inquiry? Has it really told us anything we didn't already know?

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 90.

    This seems to propose the bare minimum of what is acceptable to address the problem.

    The Government has to implement this is full - no changes.

    Cameron, Hunt and the police have got off very lightly, as have politicians in general. To this end I find it somewhat of a whitewash...

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 89.

    It will still be up to the press to become 'members' of the new regulatory body. I have a 'so what' argument about this - the rich will still be able to sue, and the poor ignored. It is fine to give lip-service about fairness and transparency, but without enforcement it means nothing.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 88.

    The only regulation of the press should be what is already enshrined in law. The addition of there being a criminal offence if untrue allegations or statements are published, is the only thing required. This must also apply to other media , including TV , which is probably more guilty of innuendo than the press, and of course , the internet which is probably the worst source of untruths..

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 87.

    He proposes to enforce "Fairness and objectivity" and "ethical standards". That is dangerous: what is a fair point of view or an ethical one for me is an outrage to another and vice versa.
    Maybe newspapers will have to say: "This is what we are allowed to say but for the real gen, read our blog..."

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 86.

    Wasn't the problem that the press were doing things that were already illegal and laws just weren't being enforced?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 85.

    I agree with Lord Leveson.

    The minute we lose our free press is the minute we lose our democracy. Free press is vital to hold politicians to account, and for regulation by the Government to happen, politicians who claim expenses for Duck Moats or Adult Channels will never again be held to account.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 84.

    It amazes me how the MEDIA think this was going be anything other than a "Cover-up".

    It is sad that Leveson cant see that "normal" people only care that our politicians keep out of the media moguls pockets.

    He has chosen to ignore this corruption that was clearly going on.

    Newspapers should just get on with a job of reporting "news" not creating fiction to enable them to sell more copies.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 83.

    Stronger regulation of the press does certainly strike chords of fear about censorship, although Mr. Murdock has wreacked such damage that the very concept of objective reporting and analysis of news has all but been destroyed, certainly here in the US. But, now I think a new commission is required. That commission would examine the need for an entirely new global financial system. Good luck.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 82.

    Give it a rest with the 'if we don't buy it they won't peddle it' argument. It's tripe! We prohibit all kinds of things in society we deem to be harmful (whether the evidence supports it or not... cannabis anybody?! Even puritanical America is ahead of us but apologies for the derailment). I would argue that who is sh******g whom isn't good for society and isn't in the public interest.

  • rate this
    -76

    Comment number 81.

    I suppose we will be the same as North Korea, no freedom any longer. Partly thanks to the actor who was shamed.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 80.

    This does not outline the sanctions that should be available to the new body.
    2000 pages to tell us what we already knew that the PCC need to be scrapped and the minority bad people in the press need to be held to account when they get out of line.
    Lets watch this be kicked into the long grass, slowly but surely and with care

 

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