Press 'need to act' after Leveson
- 5 December 2012
- From the section UK
What was the Leveson Inquiry?
It was a public, judge-led inquiry set up by Prime Minister David Cameron to examine the culture, practice and ethics of the press.
It was established in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid.
Lord Justice Leveson has made recommendations on the future of press regulation.
What did it look at?
It looked at the relationship between the press and the public, including phone-hacking and other potentially illegal behaviour, and at the relationships between the press and the police and the press and politicians.
What did Lord Justice Leveson recommend?
He made broad and complex recommendations relating to how the press is regulated:
- Newspapers should continue to be self-regulated - and the government should have no power over what they publish.
- There had to be a new press standards body created by the industry, with a new code of conduct
- That body should be backed by legislation, which would create a means to ensure the regulation was independent and effective
- The arrangement would provide the public with confidence that their complaints would be seriously dealt with - and ensure the press are protected from interference.
Why did he recommend reworking press regulation?
The current system, where the press is self-regulated voluntarily through the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), is widely agreed to be doomed - the PCC itself has agreed to move into a "transitional phase" until a long-term replacement can be established.
The chairman of the PCC, Lord Hunt, wants a new "tough, independent regulator with teeth". He told the Leveson inquiry there was a willingness among publications for a "fresh start and a new body" based on legally-enforceable contracts between publishers and the new body.
The Free Speech Network, which represents many editors and publishers, is vigorously opposed to any state involvement in press regulation. It says the press exists to scrutinise those in positions of power, and it could not do that if those it was scrutinising had authority over it.
But the Hacked Off campaign, which represents many alleged victims of phone-hacking, says voluntary self-regulation has failed and its said that the Leveson proposals are the way forward.
Will his recommendations be implemented?
Prime Minister David Cameron had reportedly promised to implement the recommendations, providing they were not "bonkers". But within hours of the report's publication, he said that he was not convinced legislation underpinning self-regulation was right.
Mr Cameron then warned the press the "the clock is ticking" for them to introduce a self-regulation system with the tough powers set out by Lord Justice Leveson.
"That means million-pound fines, proper investigation of complaints, prominent apologies," he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says he backs Leveson, highlighting a split within the coalition government. Labour leader Ed Miliband has urged the government to accept the report in its entirety.
What about broadcasters and the internet?
The inquiry has been specifically into the press, not into the media more generally.
Broadcasters are regulated by Ofcom, which is backed by law.
Other people publishing on the internet, such as bloggers and tweeters, are not regulated as such, but are covered by laws on issues such as libel and contempt of court. Some, including MPs and peers, have questioned the wisdom of bringing more regulation to the press and not the wider internet. Lord Justice Leveson himself referred to material on the internet as "the elephant in the room".
However, any publisher could sign up to the new legislation-backed self regulator that Lord Justice Leveson envisages.
How was the inquiry conducted?
Witnesses during eight months of hearings included alleged victims of press intrusion, journalists, newspaper executives and proprietors, police, communications advisers and politicians.
They were called to give evidence under oath at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London. Legally, they could have been compelled to attend.
In some cases, specific evidence about phone-hacking allegations was not heard, to avoid prejudicing ongoing criminal investigations.
Up to 30 June 2012, the last set of published costs, the inquiry had cost £3.9m. An inquiry spokesman has estimated that the overall cost of the inquiry so far could reach £5.6m.
Who is Lord Justice Leveson?
Lord Justice (Sir Brian) Leveson became a barrister in 1970 and a QC 16 years later.
He was made a High Court judge in 2000 and appointed to the Court of Appeal in 2006. As chairman of the Sentencing Council, a position he still holds, he is responsible for criminal sentencing policy in England and Wales.
Lord Justice Leveson led the prosecution case against serial killer Rose West, who was jailed in 1995 for the murder of 10 women and girls, and was the judge during the 2006 trial following the killing of 10-year-old London schoolboy Damilola Taylor.
Will there be any further Leveson inquiries?
The Leveson Inquiry's terms of reference includes a second phase, looking at the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within News International and other media organisations, and how the police investigated allegations.
This is due to take place once all legal proceedings are completed - police are currently carrying out three investigations looking into phone hacking, computer hacking and payments made to public officials by journalists. Several journalists and others have been charged under these investigations and are due to stand trial.
However, in May 2012 Lord Justice Leveson released a statement questioning the value to be gained from a Part 2, given the "enormous cost", the fact that material will be years out of date by then, and that it could take longer than the first inquiry.