30 Nov 2012

Press watchdog recommended by Leveson report

9:03 am on 30 November 2012

The Leveson report in Britain has recommended that a tougher form of self-regulation backed by legislation should be introduced to uphold press standards.

Lord Justice Brian Leveson said on Thursday a new independent regulatory agency was needed because newspapers had wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people for many decades.

He said the proposals in his report will protect the rights of victims and people bringing complaints.

The inquiry was sparked by the public revulsion about the hacking of the mobile phone of Milly Dowler, a murdered teenager.

In a 2000-page report, Lord Justice Leveson said the press had failed to properly regulate itself. 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."


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 is 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


Prime Minister David Cameron said he had "serious concerns and misgivings" over the idea of statutory regulation.

He said in the Commons that 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.

"In this House, which has been a bulwark of democracy for centuries, we should think very, very carefully before crossing this line."

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".

Mark Lewis, solicitor for the family of Milly Dowler, said his clients were reading and considering the report.

"They are hopeful that this will lead to some proper independent regulation of the press, by the press but by other people as well, not by the government.

"To ensure that things, that this, what happened to them, doesn't happen again," he said.

David Sherborne, a barrister for the victims of press intrusion, said they welcomed the contents of the report.

"In particular the clear recognition of widespread failings in the behaviour, ethics and standards of the press and the devastating consequences for victims," he said.

A former editor of the Scotsman newspaper says regulation of the press has been considered an anathema throughout the era of constitutional democracy in Britain.

Tim Luckhurst, who is now a professor of journalism at the University of Kent, said Justice Leveson has got it badly wrong and he doubts the British public will support regulation.

He told Morning Report the Leveson inquiry has already improved the behaviour of the press, but regulation and legislation is a step too far.