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
    +7

    Comment number 279.

    Obviously the enquiry only goes so deep.The press is not free, is is biased and controlled by those who seek to gain political power and financial control over the masses.Look around, they are doing quite well aren't they?The enquiry fails to address the elephant in the room, the fact that democracy is a sham and has been circumvented by greedy politicians, international bankers and media cartels.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 278.

    The usual suspects are all aghast that that Lord Leveson hasn't denounced the vast sprawling conspiracy that is so abundantly clear to them. This is the trickiest balancing act between protecting the innocent, not protecting the potentially guilty and also stopping venally commercial organisations from abusing freedom of expression for profit.

    Independent standards regulation is the way ahead

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 277.

    And whilst this unbelievably expensive clown circus is going on, compo continues to be handed out like graffiti to those being 'wronged' by the press. Yet the Gov earlier this week stopped payments to those who are victims of crime.

    "Mugged Madam? Sorry to hear that. But if you were called a name on Twitter we might be able to do something..."

    "And only if you can afford a rich barrister..."

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 276.

    All that money spent, just to say we need a stronger Press Complaints Commission. Well duh........ Nearly everyone has been saying that for donkeys years

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 275.

    "The anti hacking laws, harrassment laws, public order laws, slander laws, Human Rights.probably some more but all that is needed is better enforcement of the above. No new Laws needed"

    Utterly futile comment unless you are a millionaire. How long did it take the Dowlers?

    The same abject c**p as we get from banker apologists. Nothing wrong, shut up you filthy proles, mind your own damn business

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 274.

    The "last chance saloon" has re-opened and just maybe come under new management.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 273.

    Will it make a difference or will there continue to be Milly Dowlers?
    Hacking is hacking, 'public interset' is really abotu selling newspapers not the public.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 272.

    The PM is not going to do anything about this until the 'current prosecutions' are completed. What a farce!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 271.

    Leveson = yawn = no change.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 270.

    Free Press is not free if it can be bought
    Free Press is not free if it is regulated

    Free Press must be free from monopoly and political control

    Answer - the internet

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 269.

    I find Leveson dissapointing so far. Any proposals will always be diluted by govt; at best so we are likely to get very little press accountability.
    It seems the press will be "free" not to agree to all this.
    What we need is laws that explain everyones freedom of speech, and the responsibilities of publishers.

  • rate this
    -25

    Comment number 268.

    Frankly, I could not give a damn.All the media loves a media story and will again go on and on and on and....The 'victims' have all received fat comphensation cheques and since we don't remember who they are anyway, they are all VERY happy.. Most of us have to get on in the real world and try to earn a real living.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 267.

    This report and what it recommend was a waste of PUBLIC money.more laws to protect the rich and powerful of this country. Who need to be reminded by a FREE press of the standards required of them.other wise we will go down the same path as America as showen in the documentary on BBC4 ..or are we already there?? how much is this all going tocost the poor tax payer before its layed to rest?

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 266.

    254.
    Tully


    "Ian Hislop said it best, and I'm probably going to quote it wrong, but it was something like "we don't need more laws, we just need the press to obey the ones we do have"""

    Perhaps we should modify that to say the laws we already have should be enforced . I suppose we must bear in mind that those who should enforce them are often in collusion with the press.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 265.

    What it comes down to is Murdoch sleaze machine taking full advantage of British Press system to extend its odious tentacles into many parts of British Life & Government and to thus reduce us all to their own low levels of misbehaviour.

    This a crusade by Rupert in particular to reduce humanity to the lowest denominator

    Fortunately we have now booted the Murdoch rascals out of the country

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 264.

    Cameron and Hunt exonerated!!!!! 'The Teflon Tories' a disgrace

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 263.

    Thanks a lot Hugh - thanks to you and your chums we lost a golden opportunity to sort out the press properly.
    -One of the incidents reporting related to Charlotte Church and certain tabloids counting down the days to her 16th Birthday when it would be legal to have sex with Her!

    Simply because this young woman is famous doesn't mean She is required to put up with such contemptible behaviour.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 262.

    @256. Tony Hannibal

    Is the public allowed to purchase a copy of this report?

    --

    You can download the report from links published on the front page Leveson Inquiry website.

    http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 261.

    Three cheers for Leveson and arise, Sir Hugh Grant! May this report put an end to the biggest threat to our democracy: the abuse of power by the press, the politicians and the police.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 260.

    In my opinion the problem has always been Murdoch.If he'd been put in his place years ago we wouldn't have got to the stage of needing an enquiry and both Labour and Tory governments are to blame.
    It always bugged me that ANY newspaper baron thought they could try and manipulate events in this country,let alone one who wasn't even British.
    John Major confirmed this when he gave his evidence.

 

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