Mixed reaction to reform proposals

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, has spoken out against compulsory statutory press regulation

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, has spoken out against compulsory statutory press regulation

First published in National News © by

Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations for reform of regulation of the press have sparked widely varying reactions among journalists, politicians, campaigners and victims of intrusion.

Civil liberties group Liberty - whose director Shami Chakrabarti served as an assessor in the inquiry team - welcomed the principal recommendation of a more robust and independent press self-regulator, but said it was unable to back the last-resort alternative of compulsory statutory regulation.

Ms Chakrabarti said: "Leveson's main proposal makes sense for the public, press and politicians alike. The press sets up a robust body - independent of Government and serving editors - and earns legal protections from needless challenges in court. The public gets confidence of greater access to justice and redress when things go wrong. What nobody needs and Liberty cannot support is any last-resort compulsory statutory press regulation - coming at too high a price in a free society."

Head of the Press Complaints Commission Lord Hunt said: "I do not want the message to go out from this country that the UK is bringing in a press law but we do have to make a fresh start with a new body and that is what I'm going to reveal. I did sense that Brian Leveson wants the press now to get on with it. He embraced a free press. What we have to make sure now is the press do not let him down. There is a huge opportunity here and we must seize it."

Former Formula 1 boss Max Mosley, who successfully sued the News Of The World for privacy damages over claims that he was involved in a "sick Nazi orgy", said it would be "astonishing" if the Government did not implement Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations.

He said: "It certainly is a very thorough document and it's in many respects better than one could have hoped. It would make the situation much better than it is now and what he has done is more or less give the press what the Hunt-Black proposals would want, but underpinning with a statutory to make sure there's no backsliding and no cheating.

"The only real omission is that if you want to stop something coming out because you find that they are going to breach your privacy, you would still have to go to court to do that, which of course is very expensive. I think it would be astonishing if the politicians didn't implement the report because no responsible politician could allow the current situation to continue."

Solicitor Mark Lewis, who represents the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, said: "The Dowlers are going to want to go and look at this in more detail. What has happened to them has happened to them, they want to ensure that same sort of thing can't happen again in the future. Whether or not there can be a prevention of that sort of abuse of victims in the future remains to be seen because, of course, implementation is all-important and we have to wait to see what happens."

Campaign group Hacked Off, which has represented some of those complaining of unwarranted press intrusion, said in a statement: "We welcome this carefully prepared and thorough report. The judge has rightly condemned the outrageous conduct of the press in the recent years. The crucial point is the importance he places on the complete independence of regulation from politicians and from the editors and proprietors, who run the wholly discredited PCC.

"He has proposed a system of voluntary and independent self-regulation. The proposals made by the industry do not come close to this ideal. What is needed is a regulator which can properly and effectively protect the victims of press misconduct. He has recommended that this be backed by legislation to protect the public and the press. These proposals are reasonable and proportionate and we call on all parties to get together to implement them as soon as possible. The press must be given a deadline. The inquiry is over. Now is the time for action."

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