The purpose of
this site is for information and a record of Gerry McCann's Blog
Archives. As most people will appreciate GM deleted all past blogs
from the official website. Hopefully this Archive will be helpful to
anyone who is interested in Justice for Madeleine Beth McCann. Many
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Lord Justice Leveson delivers the findings of his inquiry
week before publication:
Victims to urge government to keep Leveson
commitments, 21 November 2012
Victims to urge government to keep Leveson commitments ITV
1:14 pm, Wed 21 Nov 2012
The father of Milly Dowler and mother of Madeleine
McCann have arrived at Westminster to urge the government to keep its commitments on the Leveson Inquiry, to which both families
They are due to meet with David Cameron, followed by Labour
leader Ed Miliband and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
The day of publication:
Kate McCann to give response to Leveson
Report, 29 November 2012
Kate McCann to give response to Leveson Report ITV Central
Kate McCann will be commenting today on the publication of the Leveson Report
6:30am, Thu 29 Nov 2012
McCann will be giving a press conference this afternoon in response to the publication of the Leveson Report, the inquiry
into media ethics. Mrs McCann will be speaking after David Cameron's statement to the House of Commons.
Live Updates: The Leveson Report, 29 November
PART F THE CULTURE, PRACTICES AND ETHICS OF THE PRESS: THE PRESS
Chapter 5 Some
3. Kate and Gerry McCann
3.1 In his submissions
opening Module One of the Inquiry, David Sherborne, Counsel for the Core Participant Victims, described the press treatment
of the McCanns as a 'national scandal': not merely had they suffered the personal tragedy of the abduction of their
daughter, they were subjected to a barrage of press reporting which could only be fairly characterised as a diatribe. Clearly,
therefore, it is appropriate to take the experience of the McCanns as a 'case study' warranting further examination
for the light it throws on the culture, practices and ethics of the press. Their case is also highly illuminating in the context
of the action, or rather the inaction, of the PCC.
The McCanns' personal perspective
3.2 Madeleine McCann was abducted from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, on 3 May 2007,
shortly before her fourth birthday. Her parents were dining with a number of friends at a tapas bar within the holiday complex
and also within sight of the apartment where she was sleeping, together with her younger twin siblings. As Dr Gerry McCann's
witness statement makes clear, much has already been written about the details concerning Madeleine's disappearance, and
no one reading this Report is likely to be unaware of the basic facts. These include the fact that the McCanns are still searching
for their daughter. In terms of the chronology, however, it should be noted that on 7 September 2007 the McCanns were accorded
the status of arguidos (ie persons of specific interest to the investigation, but not a synonym for an accused) by
the Portuguese Policia Judicaria (PJ). This was somewhat of a watershed in terms of the nature and quality of press
3.3 Just as the Dowlers had articulated the need to engage
with the press in order to gain their assistance and support, the McCanns explained that they had no option but to implement
a proactive press strategy: they were in a foreign jurisdiction, and time was of the essence in this, as in all other, child
abduction cases. Such were the pressures of press engagement that it was necessary at an early stage to enlist the full-time
assistance of a press advisor, Clarence Mitchell; he had been seconded to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as part of the
media liaison at this town. Dr McCann stressed to the Inquiry that the initial experiences of dealing with the press were
"I think for those people who can remember, it
was a very unusual scenario, and we got a distinct impression that there was a genuine want to help attitude from the journalists
there, and I think also many of the executives who perhaps saw what had happened to us and there was a huge amount of empathy.
So I really did feel early on there was a desire to help."
these favourable impressions began to dissipate when the McCanns returned home from Portugal. Much has been said by other
witnesses about press intrusion and the behaviour, in particular, of paparazzi; the experiences of the McCanns were no different.
They had become a news item, a commodity, almost a piece of public property where the public’s right to know possessed
few, if any, boundaries. As Dr McCann explained:18
"When we got back to our home in Rothley,
again there were tens of journalists – we live in a cul de sac, at the end of it – camped outside our house, cameras,
helicopter crews following us. We were hemmed in the house for a couple of days before the police moved them to the end of
Q. Then you tell us that photographers were still banging on car windows, even with one or more children
in the car; is that right?
MRS McCANN19: And they stayed there until December 2007. That was only after
we had help to get them removed, but they were there every day, and they'd wait for Gerry to go and they knew I'd
have to come out of the house at some point with the children. It would be the same photograph every day, we'd be in the
car, myself and two children, the photographers would either spring out from behind a hedge to get a startled look that they
could attach "fragile", "furious", whatever they wanted to put with the headline, but there were several
occasions where they would bang on the windows, sometimes with the camera lenses, and Amelie said to me several times, "Mummy,
In answer to the suggestion that
the positive decision made by the McCanns to engage with the press in order to serve their own interests effectively meant
that they had waived their rights to privacy and everything else, Dr McCann said this20
it has been argued on many occasions that by engaging then it was more or less open season, and I think it's crass and
insensitive to suggest that by engaging with a view to trying to find your daughter, that the press can write whatever they
want about you without punishment."
Dr McCann was
not of course suggesting that the press was obliged to write about him only on his terms rather than on theirs. However, the
point he was making was entirely valid; a decision to engage with the press does not make a private person public property
for virtually all purposes, still less does it begin to justify defamatory reporting.
The protracted spate of defamatory reporting commenced in September 2007 and had to be endured by the McCanns over
four torrid months ending in January 2008. It only stopped after the McCanns were driven to take legal action against the
worst perpetrators. It is well known that British newspapers were relying on reports in Portuguese journals and other sources
which were either associated with, close to, or directly part of the PJ. But, as the McCanns themselves explained, the British
press often did not know the source; or did not know whether it was accurate, exaggerated or downright untruthful; or (as
the McCanns believed) sometimes made up.21
18pp27-28, lines 6-3, Gerry McCann, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-23-November-2011.pdf 19there is an error in the transcript. This should of course read ‘Dr G. McCann’ 20p19,
lines 17-22, Gerry McCann, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-23-November-2011.pdf 21pp16-17, lines 23-1, Gerry McCann, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-23-November-2011.pdf
number of titles were guilty of gross libels of the McCanns and of serious and total failure to apply anything approaching
the standards to which each has said they aspire.22 For that reason, the nature of the errors perpetrated by certain
sections of the press will be explored, but at this stage it is sufficient to make the observation that, aside from the gross
inaccuracy of the reporting in issue, some of it was, to put it bluntly, outrageous. One particular piece in the Daily Star
published on 26 November 2007 certainly justifies being so described and Dr McCann was moved to go yet further:23
"Q. "Maddie 'sold' by hard-up McCanns." This is the article you do refer to, the selling
into white slavery allegation. Probably you don't want to dignify that with a comment?
A. That's nothing
short of disgusting.
MRS McCANN: I think this same journalist, if memory serves right, also said we stored her
body in a freezer. I mean, we just ...
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: Just to make the comment, there's absolutely no
source for that assertion in the article."’
January 2008, letters before action were sent to a number of newspapers. The first response came from Northern & Shell,
on behalf of the Daily Express, on 7 February. According to Dr McCann, the Express rejected the complaint on the straightforward
ground that the McCanns were arguidos, but the paper suggested that they do an interview with OK! magazine; this
was an offer which was rightly (and without any exaggeration) characterised by Dr McCann as 'rather breathtaking'.24
3.10 It did not take very long, however, for Northern & Shell
to modify their position and, on 19 March 2008, a statement was read out in open court in which liability was admitted. The
settlement also involved the making of a substantial payment into the Madeleine fund and the printing of an apology on the
front page of the Daily Express and the Daily Star.25 The apology correctly pointed out that 'it is difficult
to conceive of a more serious allegation'. It also correctly recognised that 'there is no evidence whatsoever
to suggest that Mr and Mrs McCann were responsible for the death of their daughter, they were involved in any cover up and
there was no basis for Express Newspapers to allege otherwise'. Given this admission, it is difficult to understand
why the defamatory articles ever saw the light of day in the first place.
It should also be mentioned that others involved at the periphery of the McCann tragedy were the subject of defamatory
reporting which led to substantial libel settlements. Mr Robert Murat was wrongly accused of being involved in some way in
the abduction and was traduced in the British press; and the friends of the McCanns who had dined with them
22p13, paras 78-80, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Witness-Statement-of-Gerald-Patrick-McCann.pdf;
In July 2008 proceedings were commenced against Associated Newspapers Ltd in respect of 67 articles published in the Daily
Mail and the Evening Standard over a five month period, as well as over 18 articles on the latter's website. These proceedings
were compromised by the payment of a substantial donation to the Madeleine search fund and the publication of an apology in
the Evening Standard. The Daily Mail were willing to publish a number of 'free adverts' to aid the search, but refused
to publish any apology, claiming that the supportive articles they had written counter-balanced the others. As Dr McCann explained,
by that stage he did not wish to embark on a protracted dispute with the newspaper, particularly given the need to maintain
good relations with the press in continuing to publicise the search for Madeleine 23p37, lines 3-16, Gerry
McCann, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-23-November-2011.pdf 24p38, line 23, Gerry McCann, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-23-November-2011.pdf 25pp39-40, lines 22-1, Robert Jay QC, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-23-November-2011.pdf
on the evening of Madeleine's abduction
were falsely accused of being implicated in a cover up.
3.12 If ever
there were an example of a story which ran totally out of control, this is one. The appetite for 'news' became insatiable,
and once the original story had run its course the desire to find new leads and 'angles' began to take over, with
their corollary tendencies of sensationalism and scandal. Not merely was the rigorous search for the truth the first principle
to be sacrificed but also was any respect for the dignity, privacy and wellbeing of the McCanns.
3.13 Sections of the press have suggested that this was very much a 'one off' and
scarcely illustrative of their culture, practices and ethics. But all the material evidenced below26 indicates
that this is not the case: although the treatment of the McCanns may very well be one of the most egregious examples, the
inquiry heard examples of similar practices from numerous witnesses. As paragraph 373 of the CMS Select Committee's Second
Report, dated 9 February 2010, makes clear:27
"The newspaper industry's assertion that
the McCann case is a one-off event shows that it is in denial about the scale and gravity of what went wrong, and about the
need to learn from those mistakes."
The press perspective
The Inquiry heard from two of the Daily Express journalists involved in reporting the McCann story. No criticism
is made or to be inferred of them, because it was not their decision to run with the story generally or to publish any specific
or individual pieces. For present purposes it is necessary to draw attention only to a short extract from the witness statement
of one of the journalists:28
"Although I was confident of the veracity of the reports I was
writing, due to the secrecy of justice laws they were impossible to prove, to any satisfactory legal standard, at that time...Due
to the restrictions of the Portuguese law, anyone who was unhappy about something that had been written or said about them
and wished to take action would almost certainly have been successful. As a journalist this is a wholly unsatisfactory position
which, in my view, leaves news organisations at the mercy of potential litigants. They simply are unable to defend themselves."
The witness elaborated on this in oral evidence, and stated that he was certain that
there were conversations between the news desk and lawyers about this. He continued: 'and that was the situation we
were in and there was no way round it'.29 This reveals much about the culture, practices and ethics of
the press. The journalist made it sound as if his newspaper was in the metaphorical cleft stick but, even on cursory analysis,
this was not the case. There was no imperative to continue to report on the McCanns, still less to tell this particular story
unless, of course, it is accepted that there was overwhelming pressure, both commercial and otherwise, to tell it. The news
desk recognised that if the story were told on the basis of the
26Part F, Chapter 6 27http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmcumeds/362/362i.pdf
28p4, paras 22-23, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Witness-Statement-of-David-Pilditch.pdf 29p62, lines 16-22, David Pilditch, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Transcript-of-Morning-Hearing-21-December-20111.pdf
unconfirmed reports coming out of Portugal,
then 'anyone who was unhappy' would have had a close to cast-iron claim.
It is of interest that the journalist could not bring himself to mention the McCanns by name; they, after all, would
be the prime candidates for being 'unhappy' about the story. By then, they had become almost depersonalised, a commodity.
Further, the newspaper decided to publish in the face of the concerns they had identified, placing themselves at 'the
mercy of potential litigants'. Again, the McCanns are not mentioned by name and the newspaper is close to being placed
in the role of victim. As the journalist put it, 'they [the newspaper] simply are unable to defend themselves'.
One might have thought that the more sensible response to this assessment, rather than bemoaning the apparent unfairness of
being placed in an impossible position, would have been the prudent course of not publishing stories which not only could
they not prove, but for which they had not a scintilla of evidence. Behind the scenes briefings by police officers, themselves
under pressure and constrained by Portuguese law which were passed through third and fourth parties, could hardly be thought
to constitute any, let alone a sound, basis for publishing such allegations as truth.
These issues were taken up with the editor of the Daily Express at the relevant time, Peter Hill. He frankly accepted
that running the McCann story was very high risk,30 given all the factors identified by his journalists. When asked
to explain why he chose to publish in those circumstances, Mr Hill explained:31"Because this
was an unprecedented story that in my years of experience I can't remember the like. There was an enormous clamour for
information and there was enormous – there was an enormous push for information. It was an international story, on an
enormous scale, and there had not been a story involving individuals, as opposed to huge events, like that in my experience
and it was not a story that you could ignore and you simply had to try to cover it as best you could."3.18
But 'covering it as best you could' meant running a story in circumstances where
there was a high chance that it was untrue and, in any event, was utterly unprovable. Mr Hill accepted the 'very high
risk',32 and felt driven to publish anyway, placing him and his paper in ethical difficulties in the context
of clause 1 of the Editors' Code and legal difficulties with the law of defamation. His answer also betrays a curious
form of logic: if, as was probable, the particular story was untrue, then it both could and should have been rejected. A different,
truthful and, by definition, better story should have been written based on the research that the journalists could undertake
that generated facts that could be proved. 'Covering it as best you could' did not mean throwing caution to the winds.
Mr Hill was also asked whether the interests of the McCanns were
taken into account. He was adamant that they were:33
'Of course. We published many, many, many,
many stories of all kinds about the McCanns, many stories that were deeply sympathetic to them, some which were not'
30p20, line 6, Peter Hill, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-12-January-2012.pdf 31p20, line 9-17, Peter Hill, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-12-January-2012.pdf 32pp83-84, Dawn Neeson, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Transcript-of-Morning-Hearing-12-January-2012.pdf; 33pp20-21, lines 25-2, Peter Hill, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-12-January-2012.pdf
Unfortunately, Mr Hill's answer betrays a similar curious form of logic: the deeply sympathetic stories on this
approach should be regarded as being capable of being weighed in the balance in some way against the stories 'which were
not', these being the stories which, as was put to Mr Hill, accused the McCanns of killing their child. His answer to
that proposition was that the stories he ran were only repeating the accusations of the Portuguese police.34
The self same logic underpinned the evidence of the proprietor of Express
Newspapers, Richard Desmond, when he was asked about this topic. Mr Desmond said this:35
not trying to win points here, because we did do wrong, but I could say there were more, if there were 102 articles on the
McCanns, there were 38 bad ones, then one would say – and I'm not trying to justify, please, I'm not trying
to justify anything, but you could argue there were 65 or 70 good ones."
Notwithstanding the language deployed, this was an attempt by Mr Desmond to expiate, or at the very least to mitigate,
his company's conduct, which simply fails to recognise that it is completely misconceived.36 It is additionally
unfortunate that further questions revealed that Mr Desmond's apology was not entirely unqualified:37
once again I do apologise to the McCanns, you know, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, but there are views on – there
are views on the McCanns of what happened. And there are still views on the McCanns of what happened...What I think is free
speech is very important and if we get any more regulation – I mean, what are we trying to do in this country? Are we
trying to kill the whole country with every bit of legislation and every bit of nonsense?"
This was another revealing answer, since by it Mr Desmond revealed what I consider to
be a very disturbing philosophical approach to the concepts of free speech and a free press. For him, at the end of the day,
the issue was all about free speech and the threat of excessive regulation. On this approach, press standards and ethics were
close to being irrelevant. Mr Desmond had made that clear towards the start of his evidence, when he disputed that ethical
lines could be drawn.38 Finally, it should be noted in this context that Mr Desmond was inclined to blame the PCC
for failing to give his paper guidance39 rather than accept that his editor should accept at least some responsibility.
The PCC should have done more, but Express Newspapers could not
reasonably infer from the PCC's inaction that their action was ethical. Mr Desmond, like his Finance Director Paul Ashford,40
also blamed the PCC for acting hypocritically by criticising Mr Hill after the event, particularly in circumstances where
Express Newspapers had behaved no differently from anyone else. There is merit in the argument that an even-handed regulator
should have taken
13-15, Peter Hill, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-12-January-2012.pdf 35p84, lines 18-23, Richard Desmond, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-12-January-2012.pdf 36pp88-89, Richard Desmond, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-12-January-2012.pdf 37p86, lines 3-19, Richard Desmond, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-12-January-2012.pdf 38p64, lines 5-18, Richard Desmond, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-12-January-2012.pdf 39p77, lines 15-17, Richard Desmond, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-12-January-2012.pdf 40pp39-40, lines 15-5, Richard Desmond, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-12-January-2012.pdf
everyone to task and there is force in the
point that criticism of the approach of the press generally could and should have gone wider, but this is not an allegation
of hypocrisy: the PCC were not applauding the conduct of other titles while condemning the Express (which demonstrated the
most egregious failings); they were simply using emotive language borne out of a degree of anger to condemn the Express and
saying nothing about others.41
On the other hand,
the real point is that a regulator, acting in the interests of the public, while respecting free speech, should have taken
much firmer action in relation to the way in which this story was reported, even though the titles affected would have found
unpalatable the criticism that they should have faced. That the PCC did too little too late is not a complaint which it lies
in Mr Desmond’s mouth to make.
One of Mr Hill's journalists
had said in evidence that his editor was 'obsessed' with the story. Mr Hill rejected that description of his state
of mind,42 although in explaining his motives and reasons for persevering over so many months, his revealing answer
was as follows:43
"I've already explained to you the basis for that decision, which had
gone all the way back to my time on the Daily Star when I had realised that it was – that the readers were more –
the readers continued to be interested in the stories far longer than the journalists, and it was my policy to continue the
stories and I followed it with many different stories. It started with Big Brother, it went on to Princess Diana, various
other things, and that had always been my policy. It was nothing to do with an obsession, it was more to do with a method
In other words, Mr Hill's 'method
of working' tended to discern little or no difference between 'Big Brother' and the McCanns: this was all about
similar commodities and what he believed his readers were interested in. The obvious potential link between what Express readers
were apparently interested in and circulation figures was one which the Inquiry explored, but in the end it was not possible
to reach any firm conclusions. Mr Hill testified that he believed that circulation went up as a result of the McCann stories
and that this was a factor in his persisting with them.44 He himself viewed the circulation figures and came to
that empirical conclusion. However, the Inquiry's examination of the data did not disclose any clearly discernible patterns.45
Overall the justifications advanced by Messrs Hill and Desmond
for the frankly appalling treatment of the McCanns were, as has been clearly demonstrated, both self-serving and without foundation.
The PCC's response
3.29 Two days after Madeleine's
disappearance, the PCC contacted the British Embassy in Lisbon and asked the consular service to inform the McCanns that the
services of the PCC were
lines 23-5, Sir Christopher Meyer, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Transcript-of-Morning-Hearing-31-January-2012.pdf 42p26, lines 2-6, Peter Hill, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-12-January-2012.pdf 43p26, lines 12-23, Peter Hill, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-12-January-2012.pdf 44p24 passim, p25, lines 18-23, Peter Hill, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-12-January-2012.pdf 45Exhibit PWH3 to the witness statement of Peter Hill (which included circulation figures for the Daily Express
between 1 January 2007 and 4 January 2009) was provided to the Inquiry on a confidential basis. It has not been published
as it includes commercially sensitive data
to them. Dr Gerry McCann's evidence was that he was unaware of this until 2009 when he gave evidence before the CMS Select
Committee. He told that Committee that he did not recall receiving such a message but, had he done so, it would have been
lost in all the other information the family was bombarded with at the time.46
Dr McCann accepted that the PCC had been extremely helpful in dealing with the unwanted intrusion into the privacy
of the twins.47 The PCC intervened to contact editors and broadcasters reminding them of the Code and, thus, not
to take photographs or similar images of the children; this practice stopped.48 The PCC was also helpful in removing
photographers from outside the McCanns' driveway, although this was only after "what we felt was a very
A meeting took place between
Dr McCann and Sir Christopher Meyer, former PCC Chairman, on 13 July 2007. There is no dispute between them as to what was
said. Sir Christopher's evidence was that he explained to Dr McCann, at a time when there had only been one complaint
to the PCC against a newspaper and that was not proceeded with, that he effectively had a choice: either he could complain
to the PCC, or he could take legal action, but he could not pursue both courses simultaneously.50 When asked what
the PCC did for the McCanns over the most distressing period, which was between September 2007 and January 2008, Sir Christopher
"We were in pretty close contact with the press handlers of the McCanns. By that
time, it was as gentleman called Clarence Mitchell, who I think may have appeared before you, and we stood ready to intervene
if they wanted it. We come again to the question of the first party. You see, you can't be more royalist than the king
on these matters. You cannot wish to stop something more ardently than the first party. But by that time, I think they had
chosen to go to law. I can't say exactly, because it's not for me to say, when they first hired Carter Ruck. So it's
not as if we were sitting there..."
This was a roundabout
way of saying that the PCC did nothing. True, the PCC was on hand if the McCanns had not decided to litigate, but they should
not have been presented with such a choice. Given the options which Sir Christopher had himself explained to Dr McCann, and
given the scale of the defamatory treatment to which he and his wife had been subjected, this was a classic case of Hobson's
choice. Further, as Dr McCann himself pointed out, it was invidious that he and his wife were being asked to contemplate bringing
a complaint against a body on which the editor of the Daily Express sat. A regulator of press standards, worthy of that name,
would not have left the McCanns in such a predicament at the time of their maximum distress. Either the McCanns should not
have been presented with mutually incompatible alternatives and given the option of pursuing both, or the PCC should have
been 'more royalist than the king' (to quote Sir Christopher) and taken unilateral action.
Sir Christopher took the editor of the Daily Express to task for his conduct on the very
day that the McCanns' libel action was settled. This was too little, too late, and even after the facts had been conclusively
established (by admission) the PCC took no formal action. As the CMS
46para 354, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmcumeds/362/362i.pdf 47paragraph
3.4 above 48p17, para 103, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Witness-Statement-of-Gerald-Patrick-McCann.pdf 49para 356, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmcumeds/362/362i.pdf 50pp84-87,
lines 3-15, Sir Christopher Meyer, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Transcript-of-Morning-Hearing-31-January-2012.pdf
Select Committee correctly pointed out, and
as will be discussed in more detail below,52 the PCC was empowered under its Articles of Association to launch
an inquiry in the absence of a complaint. The McCann case ought to have been visualised as a prime candidate for such a course
The Inquiry cannot improve on the conclusions of
the CMS Select Committee in February 2010 when reviewing the McCann case:53
'374. In any other
industry suffering such a collective breakdown – as for example in the banking sector now – any regulator worth
its salt would have instigated an enquiry. The press, indeed, would have been clamouring for it to do so. It is an indictment
on the PCC's record, that it signally failed to do so.
375. The industry's words and actions suggest a
desire to bury the affair without confronting its serious implications – a kind of avoidance which newspapers would
criticise mercilessly, and rightly, if it occurred in any other part of society. The PCC, by failing to take firm action,
let slip an opportunity to prevent or at least mitigate some of the most damaging aspects of this episode, and in doing so
lent credence to the view that it lacks teeth and is slow to challenge the newspaper industry.'
The Kate McCann Diaries
Dr Kate McCann had kept a personal diary recording
her innermost thoughts and feelings following the disappearance of her daughter. It was intensely private, and she did not
share its contents even with her husband. The diary was seized by the PJ in August 2007 pursuant to its investigations, but
the Portuguese court ordered its return to Dr McCann, as well as the destruction of all copies in its possession. The PJ had
translated the diary into Portuguese and unfortunately one of the copies of the translated version found its way into the
hands of a Portuguese journalist.
A former NoTW journalist told
the Inquiry how a copy of the diary was acquired by the paper on payment of a substantial sum and then translated back into
English. As Dr McCann pointed out in her evidence, the re-translated text did not completely match the wording of the actual
diaries, but this is a minor point when set against the scale of the violation to her privacy which came to be perpetrated.
The journalist's understanding was that the news editor, Ian
Edmondson, would 'confirm with the McCann press spokesperson that the diary was genuine', and would obtain
his consent to publish extracts from the diary. However, his written and oral evidence about these matters was somewhat vague,54
not because he was seeking to mislead the Inquiry in any way but for reasons which will soon become apparent.
One piece of evidence given by the journalist was particularly revealing:55
'But I think in terms of considering it being appropriate to publish Mrs McCann's diary and the obvious
considerations over privacy, the view taken by senior executives was that there were all sorts of false allegations being
made about the McCanns and they
really were being pilloried in the press, that this account
gave a true picture of the McCanns and dispelled some of the lies being written about them'
other words, the predominant consideration was not concerns about the McCanns' privacy but rather the newspaper's
own evaluation that this was a sympathetic story which placed them in a good light and was above all else true. This
is exactly the same sort of reasoning process which the Inquiry has so often noted in its review of the critical material
Colin Myler, the editor of the NoTW at the
time, was asked about these matters. He had had previous dealings with the McCanns and had, for example, berated Dr Gerry
McCann for doing an interview with Hello! Magazine in preference to the NoTW.57 His version of events was that
his news editor, Ian Edmondson, obtained consent to the publication of extracts from the diaries from Mr Mitchell:58
"Q. But the obvious question, Mr Myler, is this: why did you not telephone either of the McCanns and
find out whether they consented?
A. Because Ian Edmondson had assured me on more than one occasion that Clarence
was aware of what we were intending to do and had said, "Good". I think it was very clear from Mr Edmondson’s
point of view how he'd spelt out what he was doing, and indeed I stressed very clearly by using the phrase that I did
not want Kate to come out of church on Sunday morning and find that the diaries were there without her knowledge.
Q. But you were of course aware that if Dr Kate McCann had not given her consent to the publication of this personal diary,
she would be outraged by the publication. You were aware of that, weren't you?
A. I wouldn't have published
if I'd thought that she hadn't been made aware of it.
Q. And Mr Edmondson was telling you that he'd
obtained consent on what day?
A. Well, it was absolutely clear from the Friday to the Saturday that that assurance
had been given to him and given again to me.
Q. It was going to be a front page story, wasn't it?"
Mr Edmondson's account differed from Mr Myler's. He explained that he tape-recorded
his telephone conversation with Mr Mitchell without the latter's knowledge in the interests of 'accuracy', although
he accepted that this entailed an element of misleading his interlocutor.59 Mr Edmondson was asked to state whether
he made it clear to Mr Mitchell that it was the intention of the NoTW to publish extracts from the diary verbatim. It is worth
setting out his answer in full:60
"A. I didn't make it clear.
Q. And you say
because you were given express instructions by Mr Myler?
------------------------------ 56Part F, Chapter 6 57p14, para 84, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Witness-Statement-of-Gerald-Patrick-McCann.pdf 58pp87-88, lines 12-9, Colin Myler, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Transcript-of-Afternoon-Hearing-14-December-2011.pdf 59pp65-66, lines 20-4, Ian Edmondson, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Transcript-of-Morning-Hearing-9-February-2012.pdf 60pp67-68, lines 8-22, Ian Edmondson, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Transcript-of-Morning-Hearing-9-February-2012.pdf
did he give you those instructions? Can you recall?
A. From memory, at a meeting on Thursday of that week.
Q. Why did he give you those instructions?
A. I attended a meeting with Mr Myler and Tom Crone where we discussed
this story. I think we got the story to a point where I was prepared to present it to Tom and Colin, the editor. Colin gave
– sorry, I beg your pardon, Tom gave his legal view, which I'm told I'm not allowed to repeat, but which dismayed,
shall I say, Mr Myler. So he decided to ask me to make a call to Mr Mitchell, not make it clear what we had, tell him in general
terms, basically make it very woolly. I think someone previously used the word "ambiguous", and that is absolutely
spot on what he wanted.
Q. So the preferred outcome for the end point of the conversation with Mr Mitchell would
A. To give him the impression that we were running a story but not tell him specifically what story, certainly
don't tell him that we were in possession of the complete diaries, as we understood. There had been extracts in the diaries
– of the diaries in Portuguese papers which had been translated into the English papers, but certainly not to the extent
that we had. He was frightened that if Clarence knew what we had, he might take action.
Q. Well, he would do –
was the fear that he would, at the very least, tell his clients, the McCanns, what was going on?
Q. And they would certainly get back to Mr Myler by phone?
Q. Or make an application
for an injunction to stop the News of the World publishing? Is that what it amount to?
A. That's exactly what
This was devastating
evidence. It would be remarkable if Mr Edmondson was seeking to mislead the Inquiry regarding Mr Mitchell being given a 'woolly'
or an 'ambiguous' account of the newspaper's intentions: it was a frank admission of unethical conduct and fits
the transcript of the conversation. Mr Edmondson's version of events was not available when Mr Myler testified some eight
weeks previously, but it has since been put to him for comment. It is inherently more probable that Mr Edmondson would have
been acting on instructions with regard to an issue of this nature rather than making the executive decision himself. In any
event, the frankness and precision of his evidence on this issue, including his reference to Tom Crone and legal advice, renders
it more likely than not61 that his account is correct.
of issues of individual responsibility, this case study is particularly illuminating for this reason. Read in isolation and
out of context, it could be said that the transcript is somewhat ambiguous so that it could be deployed in support of a contention
that, in some way, Mr Mitchell consented on behalf of the McCanns to the publication of extracts from the diaries. Thus, it
was regarded by the paper as important to obtain written evidence which could be used if necessary to justify what happened.
Read in the context of Mr Edmondson's explanation, however, the position is crystal clear. It is equally clear that deliberate
61para 2.54,Part F,
were made within the NoTW to
obtain this evidence by obfuscatory tactics and to deploy to their advantage the fact that a conversation of sorts had occurred
should the need subsequently arise. In the result, there was a letter before action, and the matter was settled without the
necessity of its ventilation in court.
But the impact on Dr
Kate McCann in particular was traumatic. As Dr Gerry McCann explained in his witness statement, 'Kate was distraught
and morally raped.'62
What the McCanns did
not make explicit when giving their evidence, but was or ought to have been entirely obvious to any empathetic observer, is
that the conduct of the press as highlighted in this section of the Report served only to magnify and compound their distress
and upset consequent upon the abduction of their daughter.
it is impossible to disagree with Professor Brian Cathcart, professor of journalism at Kingston University, and his pithy
and trenchant assessment:63
"I draw the analogy with, you know, other areas of life. If there's
a railway accident, there is an inquiry and lessons are learned. In the press, I was very influenced by observing the McCann
case develop over month after month after month like a slow motion crash, and yet there was no introspection in the industry
afterwards. The damages were paid, the books were closed, and they moved on. That is not – you know, we wouldn’t
accept in the railway industry or in, for example, a hospital, we wouldn't accept that nobody went back and assessed what
had happened and tried to identify how things could be changed to prevent it happening again. So I think a mechanism –
a regulator who is prepared to go in and do that is essential."
62p14, para 86, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Witness-Statement-of-Gerald-Patrick-McCann.pdf 63pp73-74, lines 23-12, Professor Brian Cathcart, http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Transcript-of-Morning-Hearing-8-December-20111.pdf
Hacked Off response to Leveson's report:
It's time for action, 29 November 2012
Hacked Off response to Leveson's report: It's time
for action Hacked Off
Posted November 29th, 2012
Lord Justice Leveson has delivered his report
after his 16 month inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press. Jacqui Hames, a former policewoman and Crimewatch
presenter who was placed under surveillance by the News of the World in 2002, has delivered the following statement on behalf
of victims of press abuse and the Hacked Off campaign.
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 Press Complaints Commission.
He has proposed a system of voluntary and independent
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.
David Cameron statement in response to the
Leveson Inquiry report, 29 November 2012
David Cameron statement in response to the Leveson Inquiry
report The Guardian
Prime Minister delivered the statement to the House of Commons on the day that Leveson report was published
Thursday 29 November 2012 16.42 GMT
Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on today's report from Lord Justice Leveson.
As we consider this
report, we should consider the victims. We should remember how the parents of Millie Dowler, at their most vulnerable moment,
had their daughter's phone hacked and were followed and photographed.
How Christopher Jefferies' reputation
was destroyed by false accusations. And how the mother of Madeleine McCann, Kate McCann, had her private diary printed without
her permission and how she and her husband were falsely accused of keeping their daughter's body in their freezer.
These victims – and many other innocent people who have never sought the limelight – have suffered in
a way that we can barely begin to imagine.
That is why last Summer I asked Lord Justice Leveson to lead an independent
It had the power to see any document and summon any witness under oath, to be examined by a barrister,
It has been, as Lord Justice Leveson says, "the most public and the most concentrated look at the
press that this country has seen".
And I would like to thank Lord Justice Leveson and his entire team for
the work they have undertaken.
Mr Speaker, Lord Justice Leveson makes findings and recommendations in three areas:
on the relationship between the press and the police; on the relationship between the press and politicians; and on the relationship
between the press and the public.
Let me take each in turn.
First, the press and the police.
Lord Justice Leveson makes clear that he doesn't find a basis for challenging the integrity of the police.
But he does raise a number of areas which he felt were a cause for public concern such as tip-offs, off-the-record briefings
and more broadly, "excessive proximity" between the press and the police.
He makes a number of recommendations
including national guidance on appropriate gifts and hospitality; record-keeping of contact between very senior police officers
and journalists and a 12-month 'cooling-off' period for senior police officers being employed by the press.
These are designed to break the perception of an excessively cosy relationship between the press and the police and we support
Mr Speaker, when I set up this Inquiry, I also said there would be a second part to investigate
wrongdoing in the press and the police, including the conduct of the first police investigation.
This second stage
cannot go ahead until the current criminal proceedings have concluded – but we remain committed to the Inquiry as it
was first established.
Next, the relationship between politicians and the media.
As Lord Justice Leveson
has found "over the last 30-35 years and probably much longer, the political parties of UK national Government and UK
official Opposition, have had or developed too close a relationship with the press in a way that has not been in the public
I made this point last summer when I set up this Inquiry – and at the same time I set in
train reforms to improve transparency.
This is the first government ever to publish details of meetings between
senior politicians and proprietors, editors or senior executives, as Lord Justice Leveson recommends in his report.
He also recommends disclosing further information on the overall level of interaction between politicians and the press.
This would apply to all parties – and on the Government's behalf I can say that we accept that recommendation.
Mr Speaker, during the course of this Inquiry a number of serious allegations were made and I want to deal with them
First, that my party struck a deal with News International.
This is an allegation that was
repeated again and again on the floor of this House – and at the Inquiry itself.
Lord Justice Leveson looked
at this in detail – and rejects the allegation emphatically.
Let me read his conclusion: "the evidence
does not, of course, establish anything resembling a 'deal' whereby News International's support was traded for
the expectation of policy favours".
Those who repeatedly made these allegations – including Members
of this House and I have to say the former Prime Minister – should now acknowledge they were wrong.
it was alleged that I gave my Rt Hon Friend, the then Culture Secretary, now Health Secretary, the responsibility of handling
the BSkyB bid in order to fix the outcome.
Lord Justice Leveson states clearly "the evidence does not begin
to support a conclusion that the choice of Mr Hunt was the product of improper media pressure still less an attempt to guarantee
a particular outcome to the process".
Another allegation repeatedly made – and again shown to be wrong.
Third, there was the criticism that the then Culture Secretary had rigged the handling of the BSkyB bid.
Again, today's report rejects that as well.
My Rt Hon. Friend "put in place robust systems to ensure
that the remaining stages of the bid would be handled with fairness, impartiality and transparency..."
Lord Justice Leveson goes further, concluding that My Rt Hon Friend's "extensive reliance on external advice... was
a wise and effective means of helping him to keep to the statutory test".
And he concludes "there is
no credible evidence of actual bias".
Of course as My Rt Hon Friend has said himself, there are lessons to
learn about how quasi-judicial decisions are made and we must learn those lessons.
But let me say this: My Rt Hon
Friend has endured a stream of allegations with great dignity.
The Report confirms something that we on this side
of the House knew all along – we were right to stand by him.
And let me also say this Lord Justice Leveson
finds in respect to my Rt Hon Friend the Business Secretary that he "acted with scrupulous care and impartiality".
Next – and most important of all – let me turn to what Lord Justice Leveson says about the relationship
between the press and the public.
As he says very clearly, even after 16 months of this Inquiry, he remains "...firmly
of the belief that the British press – all of it – serves the country very well for the vast majority of the time."
But on the culture, practices and ethics of some in the press, his words are very stark.
He finds that
"…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".
He cites "press behaviour that, at times, can only be described as outrageous".
He catalogues a number of examples of such behaviour, going wider than phone hacking.
He refers to "a
recklessness in prioritising sensational stories, almost irrespective of the harm that the stories may cause and the rights
of those who would be affected".
He finds that "when the story is just too big and the public appetite
too great, there has been significant and reckless disregard for accuracy".
And he reports "a cultural
tendency within parts of the press vigorously to resist or dismiss complainants almost as a matter of course".
Mr Speaker, in a free society, the press are subject to criminal law, civil law and requirements for data protection.
But there should be a proper regulatory system as well to ensure that standards are upheld, complaints are heard and
there is proper redress for those who have been wronged.
That is what the current system should have delivered.
It has not.
And as Lord Justice Leveson says: the Press Complaints Commission is "neither a regulator, nor
fit for purpose to fulfil that responsibility". And that is why changes are urgently needed.
Mr Speaker, we
welcome the fact that the press industry themselves have put forward their own proposals for a new system of regulation.
But we agree with Lord Justice Leveson that these proposals do not yet go far enough.
Mr Speaker, in Volume
IV of the Report, Lord Justice Leveson sets out proposals for independent self-regulation organised by the media.
He details the key "requirements" that an independent self-regulatory body should meet, including: independence
of appointments and funding; a standards code; an arbitration service; and a speedy complaint-handling mechanism – crucially
it must have the power to demand up-front, prominent apologies and impose million-pound fines.
These are the Leveson
They are the central recommendations of the report.
If they can be put in place, we truly
will have a regulatory system that delivers public confidence, justice for the victims, and a step-change in the way the press
is regulated in our country. I accept these principles and I hope the whole House will come behind them and the onus should
now be on the press to implement them and implement them radically.
In support of this, Lord Justice Leveson makes
some important proposals.
First, some changes to the Data Protection Act that would reduce the special treatment
that journalists are afforded when dealing with personal data.
We must consider this very carefully – particularly
the impact this could have on investigative journalism.
While I have only been able to make preliminary investigations
about this since reading the Report, I am instinctively concerned about this proposal.
Second, he proposes changes
to establish a system of incentives for each newspaper to take part in the system of self-regulation.
I agree that
there should be incentives and believe those ones that he sets out – such as the award of costs and exemplary damages
in litigation – could be effective.
He goes on to propose legislation that would help deliver those incentives
and also – crucially – provide: "an independent process to recognise the new self-regulatory body".
This would, he says, "reassure the public that the basic requirements of independence and effectiveness were
met and would continue to be met".
Now I have some serious concerns and misgivings on this recommendation.
They break down into issues of principle, practicality and necessity.
The issue of principle is that for
the first time we would have crossed the rubicon of writing elements of press regulation into the law of the land.
We should I believe be wary of any legislation that has the potential to infringe free speech and a free press.
In this House – which has been a bulwark of democracy for centuries – we should think very, very carefully before
crossing this line.
On the grounds of practicality, no matter how simple the intention of the new law, the legislation
required to underpin the regulatory body would I believe become more complicated.
Paragraphs 71 and 72 in the Executive
Summary begin to set out what would be needed in the legislation if refers to, for instance, validating the standards code
and recognising the powers of the new body, for example.
And if you turn to page 1772 in Volume IV of the full
report, it says this about the new law: it "must identify those legitimate requirements and provide a mechanism to recognise
and certify that a new body meets them".
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, something that Lord Justice Leveson himself
wishes to avoid.
Third, on the grounds of necessity – I am not convinced at this stage that statute is necessary
to achieve Lord Justice Leveson's objectives.
I believe there may be alternative options for putting in place
incentives, providing reassurance to the public and ensuring the Leveson principles of regulation are put in place and these
options must be explored.
Mr Speaker, there are questions, including those on data protection, which are fundamental
questions we must resolve in order to implement Lord Justice Leveson's report.
I have therefore invited the
Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to join me in cross-party talks, starting immediately after this statement.
Let me be clear: a regulatory system that complies with Leveson principles should be put in place rapidly. I favour
giving the press a limited period of time in which to do this. They do not need to wait for all the other elements of Lord
Justice Leveson's Report to be implemented.
While no one wants to see full statutory regulation, let me stress:
the status quo is not an option. Be in no doubt – we should be determined to see Lord Justice Leveson's principles
Mr Speaker, there is much that we in this country can be proud of: the oldest democracy in the world;
the freedom of speech; a free press; frank and healthy public debate.
But this Report lays bare that the system
of press regulation we have is badly broken – and has let down victims badly. Our responsibility is to fix this.
The task for us now is to build this new system of press regulation that supports our great traditions of investigative
journalism and of free speech but that protects the rights of the vulnerable and the innocent and commands the confidence
of the whole country.
And I commend this statement to the House.
Ed Miliband's Commons statement on Leveson,
29 November 2012
Ed Miliband's statement on the Leveson Inquiry to the House of Commons:
I start by thanking the Prime Minister for his statement, and for his co-operative tone and approach on this issue.
I want to echo his tribute and thank Lord Justice Leveson and his team for the painstaking, impartial and comprehensive
way they have conducted this Inquiry.
And I thank Lord Justice Leveson for the clarity with which he has explained
his Report today.
Most of all, I want to pay tribute to the innocent victims who gave evidence to the Inquiry.
People who did not seek to be in the public eye, who suffered deep loss and grief, and then faced further trauma at
the hands of sections of the press.
Bob and Sally Dowler. It is easy to forget now, but without the revelations
last July about what happened to them and to their daughter, and their courage in speaking out, we would simply not be here
Gerry and Kate McCann, who suffered so much and showed such courage.
Kate McCann, whose daughter
remains missing, and who saw her private diary published by the News of the World for the sake of a story.
gave evidence to this Inquiry to serve the wider public interest and we pay tribute to them.
It is they who must
be at the forefront of our minds today.
Much has been written about the reasons for this Inquiry.
free press is essential to a functioning democracy.
The press must be able to hold the powerful, especially politicians,
to account, without fear or favour.
That is part of the character of our country.
At the same time I
do not want to live in a country where innocent families like the McCanns and the Dowlers can see their lives torn apart simply
for the sake of profit.
And where powerful interests in the press know they won't be held to account.
This is about the character of our country.
There never was just one "rogue reporter".
Justice Leveson concludes that a whole range of practices – from phone hacking to covert surveillance, to harassment,
to other wrongful behaviour – were widespread, all in breach of the code by which the press was supposed to abide.
I recognise the many decent people who work in our country's newspapers. And not every newspaper did wrong.
But Lord Justice Leveson concludes, and I quote "...it is argued that these are aberrations and do not reflect
on the culture, practices or ethics of the press as a whole. I wholly reject this analysis."
This will not
come as a surprise to many people.
But as Lord Justice Leveson also concludes, there has been "a persistent
failure [by politicians] to respond... to public concern about the culture, practices and ethics of the press".
We must all take responsibility for that.
The publication of this report is the moment when we must put that
Upholding the freedom of the press, and guaranteeing protection and redress for the citizen.
the Prime Minister himself said at the Leveson Inquiry: "If the families like the Dowlers feel this has really changed
the way they would have been treated, we would have done our job properly."
Let us be
clear about Lord Justice Leveson's proposals and why they are different from the present system.
A genuinely independent regulator, with effective powers to protect and provide redress for the victims of abuse.
He gives the responsibility for establishing the system to the press, as now.
But he provides a crucial
new guarantee which we have never had before. He builds in a role for the media regulator Ofcom, to ensure that the system
that is established passes the test we would all want applied to it: that it is truly independent and provides effective protection
for people like the McCanns and the Dowlers.
And to make this guarantee real, he recommends that both Ofcom's
role and these criteria of independence and effectiveness will be set out in statute, a law of this Parliament.
truly independent regulation of the press, guaranteed by law.
Lord Justice Leveson's proposals are measured,
reasonable and proportionate.
We on this side unequivocally endorse both the principles set out and his central
We support this new system of regulation. Does the Prime Minister agree?
Lord Justice Leveson's view that Ofcom is the right body to carry out the task of recognition of the new regulator.
Does the Prime Minister agree?
We support Lord Justice Leveson's proposal that the House should lay
down in statute the role of Ofcom?
Does the Prime Minister agree?
We endorse Lord Justice Leveson's
proposal that the criteria any new regulatory body must meet should be set out in statute.
Does the Prime Minister
Lord Justice Leveson has, I believe, made every effort to meet the concerns of the industry.
will be some people who say that this will not work because the press will not co-operate.
Does he agree with me
that this arrangement, as Lord Justice Leveson says, will work but only if the press now come forward to sign up to it and
embrace it with genuine commitment?
If we cannot achieve a comprehensive system involving all major newspapers,
Lord Justice Leveson sets out the necessary alternative: direct statutory regulation.
Does the Prime Minister agree
that if the newspapers refuse to adopt the system proposed, this will be necessary and must be implemented?
Justice Leveson has genuinely listened.
He has acted with the utmost responsibility.
and proprietors should now do the same.
Lord Justice Leveson also reaches important conclusions on the need to
prevent too much media influence ending up in one pair of hands. He proposes there should be continuous scrutiny of the degree
of media plurality, and a lower cap than that provided by competition law.
Will the Prime Minister take this forward?
Lord Justice Leveson makes specific suggestions about greater transparency about meetings and contacts between politicians
and the press. He says they should be considered "as an immediate need". I agree, and I hope these can be taken
I welcome the Prime Minister's offer of immediate cross-party talks on the implementation of the
recommendations on press regulation.
These talks must be about implementing these recommendations, not whether
we implement them.
These talks must:
Agree a swift timetable for implementation of these proposals.
Agree to legislate in the next session of Parliament starting in May 2013.
With a new system up and running
at the latest by 2015.
And by the end of January of next year we should have an opportunity for the whole House
to endorse and proceed with the Leveson proposals.
Does the Prime Minister agree?
We should move forward
together, wholeheartedly, now.
After 70 years and 7 reports which have gone nowhere, now is the time to act.
The case is compelling.
The evidence is overwhelming.
This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity
to make change the public can trust.
There can be no more last chance saloons.
And in acting, let us
remember the words of Bob and Sally Dowler at Leveson:
"...There is nothing that can rectify the damage that
has been done to our family... All we can hope for is a positive outcome from this Inquiry so that other families are not
affected in the way we have been..."
On behalf of every decent British citizen who wants protection for people
like the Dowlers.
Who wants a truly free press.
A press that can expose abuse of power without abusing
We must act.
The Leveson Report: Victims of the hunt for
a scoop, 29 November 2012
Madeleine McCann was abducted in Portugal in May 2007.
The press treatment of her parents, particularly by the Daily Star and Express newspapers, is heavily criticised. Leveson
states: "If ever there was an example of a story which ran totally out of control, this is one." The press appetite
for news of Madeleine is described as "insatiable" with the search for the truth "the first principle to be
sacrificed". A number of titles were described as being "guilty of gross libels" with "gross inaccuracy"
in reporting criticised as "bluntly outrageous". The parents became "a news item, a commodity, almost a piece
of public property". And because the McCanns had tried to engage with the media, the press behaved as though "they
had waived their right to privacy."
of newspapers and their supporters today welcomed Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations.
But there were also
many fearing it would bring the traditionally free Press under the control of politicians.
Former Crimewatch presenter
and police officer Jacqui Hames, a victim of phone hacking, read out a statement on behalf of Hacked Off.
"The judge had rightly condemned this outrageous conduct of the press in the recent years.
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."
Meanwhile Labour MP Tom Watson, who had lead
much of the campaign, said he was in Rotherham campaigning in today's by-election.
Tweeting before the report
was officially released he said: "I'm in Rotherham with@fairdealphil. Dylan's Modern Times at 11 on the dial. 'A ruckus in the alley and the sun will be here soon.'"
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 the report went further than he had hoped.
He said: "The Leveson report certainly
is a very thorough document and in many respects better than one could have hoped for.
"It will make the situation
much better than it is now and will give the press what they want, but underpinning it with a statute.
only serious omission is if you want to stop something coming out you would still have to go to court to do that and that
would be very expensive."
Adding he would be "astonished" if politicians did not implement the findings
because "no responsible politician could allow the current situation to continue."
who represented the families of Milly Dowler and Madeleine McCann during the inquiry, spoke of the victims and said: "They
want a better and more responsible press because they recognise its value.
"They are just a small selection
of the hundreds of other people who have been the victims of smears, bullies and attention."
ahead of the Prime Minister's rejection of new laws Mark Lewis, lawyer for the Dowlers, said he had "considered optimism"
about the report.
He said: "We have to see whether the Prime Minister is going to be a statesman and implement
He added that the Dowlers were "going to want to look at this in more detail."
Lewis went on: "They want to ensure that the same sort of thing does not happen to anyone else."
Media law specialist Mark Stephens, a partner with law firm Finers Stephens Innocent, questioned some of Lord Leveson's
He said: "How does Leveson's suggestion of fines up to £1 million square with the cap on
damages to avoid the chilling of free speech?
"It seems Lord Justice Leveson has forgotten the Elton John
decision in the European Court of Human Rights.
"We have a cap on libel and privacy damages of £230,000
so as to avoid fines having a chilling effect on free speech.
"This is clearly yet another area which the
Prime Minister will need to look at more carefully."
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
"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."
But Kirsty Hughes, chief executive of free speech group Index
on Censorship, said: "Index urges that there is a serious, considered debate about Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations.
"We are worried about the statutory-voluntary approach to independent press regulation, which is similar to the
Irish model, even if it is with oversight from Ofcom rather than politicians.
"However, we strongly welcome
the proposal for cheap, effective arbitration, which Index on Censorship has led the way in advocating."
Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, warned that detailed statutory underpinning of regulation could be
He told Sky News: "What there can't be though, in my view, because it would take us back down
that slippery slope, the 350 years back to licensing, is if you let politicians get too involved.
can't have is too much detail in any kind of statutory underpinning, that's where the danger lies.
politicians, once you give them a little nose into something, will try to find a very much wider thing down the line.
"We might have benign politicians now, but 10 years' time? That's the problem."
the PM's stance against legislation Tory MP Nick de Bois said: "I find it hard to believe we are seriously considering
opening the door to state regulation of the press. The proposals look like state regulation with a nice name."
While the Head of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) 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
I welcome Lord Leveson's report today and hope it will
mark the start of a new era for our press in which it treats those in the news responsibly, with care and consideration.
Needless to say, more time will be needed to read, digest and understand all the implications of the report but my
initial impressions are positive (assuming implementation).
Some important points are worth labouring, especially
when there is an element of scaremongering (intentional or otherwise) through the use of misleading language:
and the other core participant victims, are all totally in favour of freedom of speech. Nobody is advocating a loss of this
basic human right. But freedom of speech does not equate to freedom to slander.
None of us want,
or is requesting, a government-controlled press. We want a free press but one which is responsible, accountable and
independently regulated. This is not a big ask. The press can do a lot of good -we've experienced this. But it
can also destroy lives -and we've had a more than a fair share of that too. Any professional organisation or industry
which has the potential to do harm should be accountable for its actions. Why should the media be exempt from this? Ensuring
responsible journalism and accountability is paramount.
It is important to keep in mind what the Leveson Inquiry
is about. We gave evidence to the inquiry last year because we don't want anyone else to suffer as we,
our family and the search for our missing daughter did at the hands of our press. It is this need to prevent such harm to
others in the future that has driven the core participant victims to assist the inquiry. We need a system such as that recommended
by Lord Leveson to have any hope of achieving this.
Legislative underpinning is not statutory regulation
and implementation of such is quite some way from 'crossing the Rubicon'.
I hope the Prime Minister,
like the other party leaders, will embrace Lord Leveson's report and act swiftly to ensure activation of his recommendations
within an acceptable and clearly defined time-scale.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Lord Leveson
and the legal team for their colossal efforts throughout the inquiry to date. I truly hope it will lead to an historic and
more importantly, crucial achievement for all in our society.
Madeleine's mother welcomes report, 29
Kate McCann urged David Cameron to 'embrace the report and act swiftly'
[Press Association] Thursday,
29 November 2012
Madeleine McCann's mother Kate has said she hopes the Leveson report will mark the
start of a new era for the press and urged Prime Minister David Cameron to "embrace the report and act swiftly".
Mrs McCann, whose daughter went missing when the family was on holiday in Portugal in 2007, gave moving evidence during
the Leveson Inquiry about her experience at the hands of the media, and was at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in
Westminster for the publication of the report.
She said: "I welcome Lord (Justice) Leveson's report and
hope it will mark the start of a new era for our press in which it treats those in the news responsibly, with care and consideration."
Mrs McCann went on: "Needless to say, more time will be needed to read, digest and understand all the implications
of the report but initial impressions are positive. I hope the Prime Minister, and all the party leaders, will embrace the
report and act swiftly to ensure activation of Lord (Justice) Leveson's recommendations within an acceptable and clearly
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank Lord (Justice) Leveson and the legal team
for their colossal efforts throughout the inquiry to date. I truly hope it will lead to an historic and, more importantly,
crucial achievement for all in our society."
Giving evidence to the inquiry last November, Mrs McCann said
she felt like "climbing into a hole and not coming out" when the News of the World printed her intensely personal
diary, which she began after Madeleine disappeared. "I felt totally violated. I had written these words at the most desperate
time of my life, and it was my only way of communicating with Madeleine."
The diary, which was so private
Mrs McCann did not even show it to her husband Gerry, was published in the News of the World on Sunday September 14 2008.
The newspaper later apologised.
Mr McCann said his wife felt "mentally raped" by the News of the World's
publication of the journal under the headline: "Kate's diary: in her own words."
The report described
how the McCanns, although originally given favourable coverage in the media, were treated like a commodity, in a similar way
to Milly Dowler's parents.
It added: "If ever there were an example of a story which ran totally out of
control, this is one. The appetite for 'news' became insatiable, and once the original story had run its course the
desire to find new leads and 'angles' began to take over, with their corollary tendencies of sensationalism and scandal.
Not merely was the rigorous search for the truth the first principle to be sacrificed but also was any respect for the dignity,
privacy and wellbeing of the McCanns."
Kate McCann: PM Should Act Swiftly On Leveson,
29 November 2012
Kate McCann: PM Should Act Swiftly On Leveson Sky News
10:20pm UK, Thursday 29 November 2012
Victims of intrusion welcome
the Leveson report but say they are disappointed by the Prime Minister's failure to fully back it.
Madeleine McCann's mother Kate says she hopes the Leveson report
will mark the start of a new era for the press and has urged David Cameron to "embrace the report and act swiftly".
Mrs McCann gave moving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry about the intense media interest after her daughter went missing
during a family holiday in Portugal in 2007 and was at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre for the report's publication.
She said: "I welcome Lord Leveson's report and hope it will mark the start of a new era for our press in
which it treats those in the news responsibly, with care and consideration.
"I hope the Prime Minister and
all the party leaders will embrace the report and act swiftly to ensure activation of Lord Leveson's recommendations within
an acceptable and clearly defined timescale."
The Prime Minister told the Commons he has "serious concerns
and misgivings" about bringing in laws to back a new system of press regulation.
His statement has angered
victims of press intrusion, who have demanded the independent, self-regulatory body underpinned by legislation proposed by
Lord Justice Leveson has "real teeth".
But senior figures from News International and the Telegraph Media
Group have said newspapers will resist any legislation backing up a new regulator.
McCann: Leveson does not go far enough, 30 November
Page last updated at 09:32 GMT, Friday, 30 November 2012
Gerry McCann, father of Madeleine, was a victim of newspaper journalism at its worst.
Speaking to Today presenter
John Humphrys, he explained that "without the statutory underpinning this system will not work."
Justice Leveson's long awaited report recommended a tougher form of press self-regulation, backed by legislation, should
be introduced to uphold press standards.
The report said the press had failed to properly regulate itself in the
past, Sir Brian Leveson said he believed the law could be used to "validate" a new body.
think the report has gone far enough... he has given the press another opportunity of self regulation," Mr McCann said.
"I have concerns that this system is not compulsory."
He went on to concede: "Full implementation
of Lord [Justice] Leveson's report is the is the minimum acceptable compromise for me and I think for many other victims
who have suffered at the hands of the press."
The father described the damage that he and his family continue
to suffer from: "There is still a tremendous amount of vile written about us [on the internet]... and we have to face
that going forward on a daily basis... and our twins who are almost eight will have to deal with that."
on the behaviour of journalists he added that "there were many ridiculous aspects... that were unbelievably damaging".
"The prime minister and our other elected politicians have the opportunity now to do the right thing.
"If they do the right thing for the public then it will restore a little bit of confidence."
Leveson reaction: Madeleine McCann's
father, Gerry, urges David Cameron to 'do the right thing' over press regulation and says report 'didn't go
far enough', 30 November 2012
Leveson reaction: Madeleine McCann's father, Gerry, urges
David Cameron to 'do the right thing' over press regulation and says report 'didn't go far enough' The Independent
McCann says: "without the statutory underpinning system will not work"
Williams Friday 30 November 2012
In his evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, Gerry McCann described how
he and his wife Kate were treated like a commodity, as an "insatiable" hunt for headlines led to the sacrifice,
not only of the search for the truth, but of their "dignity, privacy and well-being".
Following the publication
of Lord Justice Leveson's report into the culture, practices and ethics of the press, Mr McCann urged the Prime Minister
to reconsider his position on the regulation of the press, calling on him to 'do the right thing'.
to the Today programme this morning McCann told presenter John Humphrys that "without the statutory underpinning this
system will not work."
I don't think the report has gone far enough... he has given the press another
opportunity of self regulation," Mr McCann said.
"I have concerns that this system is not compulsory."
He said he opposed the Prime Minister's stance against any statutory underpinning saying: "I would have liked
to have seen a properly independent regulation of the press, whereas I think he has given the press another opportunity of
"The other thing I find a little disappointing from the report is that we don't
have a clear roadmap and timescales for implementation which I would have liked to have seen laid out a bit more clearly."
Although the couple received damages for some of the coverage of them in the national press Mr McCann said that no
one was "brought to task", arguing that there should be more accountability for reporters and photographers.
Mr McCann explained that damaging material can still be found on the internet relating to the family: "There
is still a tremendous amount of vile [sic] written about us [on the internet]... and we have to face that going forward on
a daily basis... and our twins who are almost eight will have to deal with that."
He said that the "ludicrous"
press coverage of the case - which suggested there was evidence to link the couple to their daughter's disappearance -
continued to cast a shadow over their family.
"Thankfully, for us, I would say the vast majority of the British
public did not believe what was written", he continued.
The findings of Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry
into press standards and practices were released yesterday in a document comprising four volumes and over two thousand pages.
Within hours of its publication, however, the Prime Minister had taken to the dispatch box to state his opposition
to its main recommendation: that the press should be regulated by law to prevent further wrongdoing.
said that he had "principled and practical" concerns about "crossing the Rubicon" and legislating to control
the press, while the Labour leader Ed Miliband insisted Parliament should "put its faith" in all Leveson's recommendations.
In an unusual split with his Coalition partner, Nick Clegg came out in favour of the legislaion saying any new regulator
must not just be "independent for a few months".
In response to the publication of the report, and the
comments today from Mr McCann, Culture Secretary Maria Miller told the programme: "The horrific experiences of the McCanns
and others cannot be allowed to happen again and that is why we are absolutely clear that we fully accept the principles of
Leveson but, as you would expect, we would look at the details of implementation.
"We have some grave concerns
about the principle of putting into place statutory underpinning for this new self-regulatory body but we are also not convinced
that it is absolutely necessary to achieve the objectives that both Lord (Justice) Leveson set out and indeed the victims
have set out."
She declined repeatedly to say whether she believed the statutory underpinning recommendation
was "bonkers" - the test previously suggested by Mr Cameron for whether he would implement any proposed reforms.
"What we are absolutely doing is going to move forward with the core recommendation of the Leveson report, which
is an independent self-regulatory body," she said.
"Actually the judge did say that it was a matter of
detail. The prime focus of the judge's report yesterday was the importance of the press themselves to now come forward
with a self-regulatory body framework that can work. That's what the McCanns and others want to see.
he wants to see is effective regulation. What we are saying is that we have grave concerns about making that effective regulation
underpinned with statute.
"What we are concerned about is creating amendable legislation that could in the
future give a framework which could give Parliament the opportunity of stopping reporting on certain areas.
have to consider that carefully before going forwards."
She said the draft legislation was being drawn up
"to look at what that Bill might look like, to demonstrate our concerns"
Gerry McCann calls on Prime Minister to change
laws, 30 November 2012
Gerry McCann calls on Prime Minister to change laws
Gerry McCann has called on the Prime Minister to change his mind on regulating the press
By Alison Mackenzie Last
updated Fri 30 Nov 2012
Gerry McCann has called on the Prime Minister to change his mind and give his backing
for a new law to underpin the recommendations of the Leveson report. The father of the missing Leicestershire schoolgirl has
launched a petition in support of the victims of press intrusion.
David Cameron says parliament should resist bringing
in a law** **to regulate the press but political opponents including his own deputy Nick Clegg disagree.
the Leveson report. He knows the pain of reckless press intrusion. That is why Gerry McCann wants the independent press watchdog
favoured by Lord Leveson to be backed in law . He knows too that David Cameron does not agree. He says it's not a betrayal
but it is not right either.
"The recommendations are very clear. David Cameron
is the Prime Minister and has made a point of principle which personally I disagree with. And I think the majority will, this
isn't about party political politics, let's be clear about this. This has been a review which he ordered, a lot of
money spent, a lot of time a lot of people have come and given evidence which wasn't easy to do. The public expect the
Leveson Inquiry to be implemented in full."
– GERRY MCCANN
draft bill is now being prepared but that's a long way off becoming law. Why is David Cameron resistant? He doesn't
want to be the Prime Minister who introduces state regulation of the press. But victims of press intrusion like Gerry McCann
fear that without a law the press will not behave itself.
He says this is the seventh review of the press conduct.
We keep hearing that the press have learned the lessons . The press keep failing by their own standards. There is nothing
wrong with the editors code of conduct the problem is enforcing it.
The petition will go live on the Hacked Off
campaigners website. Kate and Gerry McCann want it signed to make parliament listen to ordinary people. They say MPs must
help to rein in the press or risk having the Leveson report being kicked into the long grass. Alison Mackenzier Central Tonight.
Press 'need to act' after Leveson,
30 November 2012
Gerry McCann and Chris Jeffries launched the Hacked Off campaign
30 November 2012 Last updated at 14:45
The press have been urged to take action over Leveson Inquiry recommendations to regulate the newspaper
Lord Justice Leveson called for a new independent watchdog - which he said should be underpinned
Culture Secretary Maria Miller told the BBC "the gauntlet has been thrown down" to newspapers
to outline how they would set up tough self-regulation instead.
A campaign has been launched calling on MPs to
implement the proposals in full.
Leveson Inquiry witnesses Gerry McCann, the father of missing Madeleine McCann,
and Christopher Jeffries, who was wrongly arrested for the murder of Joanna Yeates, launched the petition which is on the
campaign group Hacked Off's website.
Lord Justice Leveson's 2,000-page report into press ethics, published
on Thursday, found that press behaviour was "outrageous" and "wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people".
He said the press - having failed to regulate itself in the past - must create a new and tough regulator but it had
to be backed by legislation to ensure it was effective.
The report exposed divisions in the coalition government,
with Prime Minister David Cameron opposing statutory control, unlike his deputy Nick Clegg, who wants a new law introduced
Following cross-party talks on Thursday night - which will resume next week - the Department for
Culture, Media and Sport will begin the process of drawing up a draft bill implementing the Leveson recommendations.
It is thought the draft legislation may be ready within a fortnight.
The prime minister believes this process
will only serve to highlight how difficult it is to try to legislate in a complex and controversial area while Labour and
the Lib Dems think it will demonstrate the opposite.
But the BBC's Norman Smith says Labour sources fear the
government will produce draft legislation written in such a way as to discredit the proposals - "like something the Stasi
[East German secret police] had written".
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mrs Miller said: "Our concern is that we simply don't need to have that legislation
to achieve the end of objectives and in drafting out this piece of legislation what we are going to be demonstrating is that
it wouldn't be a simple two-clause bill."
She said Conservative ministers felt that legislation "would
actually give the opportunity in the future to bring into question the ability of Parliament to stay out of the issue of free
press and difficult for Parliament to not have a statutory framework on which they could hang further bits of legislation".
She went on: "At this point what we should be focusing in on is the fact that the gauntlet has been thrown down
to the industry.
"The press industry need to be coming back with their response to the Leveson report. Their
response to how they're going to put in place a self-regulatory body that adheres to the Leveson principles and that is
what I want to see moving forward swiftly."
Many of Friday's newspapers have praised Mr Cameron's
opposition to law-backed regulation.
But Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger told the BBC "a bit of statute"
was a price worth paying for an effective new system of regulation and that he believed the press could "live with most
of" the Leveson proposals.
Mr Rusbridger, who revealed that he spoke to other editors on Thursday night, said:
"I think about 80% of it is right and can be agreed on.
"It is right that is is open, that it is fair,
that it's got sanctions, that it can investigate... that it's not picked from amongst the old cosy club."
But the father of Madeleine McCann - the young girl who went missing in Portugal in 2007 - said he would have liked
the report to have gone further.
"Clearly the public want it, there's been a judicial review and I think
the recommendations should be implemented.
"There's no good reason why they shouldn't be. That's
my view and I think it's the view of all the victims," he said.
Mr McCann, who was the subject of what
he called "unbelievably damaging" newspaper reports that suggested he and his wife killed Madeleine, added: "The
press has been given enough chances, and in my opinion Lord [Justice] Leveson has given them another chance to put a structure
in place which they are happy with."
Labour leader Ed Miliband has joined Mr Clegg in supporting a new press
He said many of the victims of sections of the press will be feeling "utterly betrayed" by the prime
"I am going to stand up for people like the McCanns and the Dowlers who have been appallingly treated
by sections of the press and who put their faith in David Cameron, put their faith in the Leveson Inquiry, and who are frankly
I think astonished by what the prime minister has done," he said.
Mrs Miller is meeting members of the Hacked
Off campaign on Friday afternoon and will discuss the position taken by Conservative ministers.
Leveson: No 10 claims early drafts prove
Press laws can't work, 30 November 2012
Government lawyers today began drafting newspaper laws in an exercise that Downing Street believes will expose
the system urged by Lord Justice Leveson as unworkable without endangering press freedom.
The battle over the future
of the newspaper industry shifted ground overnight after Labour leader Ed Miliband won a commitment from the Prime Minister
that draft laws will be prepared swiftly for MPs to debate.
Gerry McCann, the father of missing Madeleine McCann,
spoke out on behalf of the campaign for victims this morning, saying legislation was essential to make any new system of press
Mr Miliband upped the pressure, saying victims of press intrusion were "astonished"
by the Prime Minister's stance after they had "put their faith" in him.
And senior Tory MP George
Eustice told the Evening Standard that up to 75 Conservatives agreed with Mr Miliband and Nick Clegg that legislation is required
— enough to defeat the PM in a free vote. But Culture Secretary Maria Miller insisted she was "not convinced"
that laws were necessary to make a new system of independent regulation a success. She instead urged the newspaper industry
to swiftly agree to set up a body along the lines recommended by Lord Justice Leveson.
Mr Miliband said watering
down Leveson would "betray" hacking victims. "I appeal to people right across the political spectrum to say
they should support this," he said.
Mr Eustice, a former press secretary to Mr Cameron, said he backed new
laws. "It's very hard to make a regulator stand up without statutory underpinning," he said.
was at least consensus at Westminster that the era of press self-regulation was at an end. However, as the crucial exercise
in drafting possible laws got under way, No 10 sources revealed that secret trials involving government lawyers have
already found major flaws.
The source said: "We did some work in the past few weeks on what statutory underpinning
would look like. As part of that lawyers drafted some clauses and they found that everything became extremely complicated
once you try to write it down in law. They could not draft a simple clause that would safely prevent the law being used in
future to undermine press freedom."
But Mr McCann, whose family's treatment at the hands of the press
following his daughter's disappearance was criticised by Lord Justice Leveson, said legislation was "the minimum"
reform needed. He told BBC radio: "It is a fine distinction but without the statutory underpinning this system will not
"The Prime Minister and our other elected politicians have an opportunity now to do the right thing.
And if they do the right thing, for the public, then it will help restore a little confidence. I clearly respect his opinion
but I personally disagree with [his] viewpoint and Lord [Justice] Leveson, as a senior law judge of our country, has made
clear that what he is proposing is not a state-run press."
Ms Miller urged the newspaper industry to embrace
the rest of the "Leveson principles" and dismissed the question of legislation as "a matter of detail".
"The horrific experiences of the McCanns and others cannot be allowed to happen again and that is why we are
absolutely clear that we fully accept the principles of Leveson," she said.
"We have some grave concerns
about the principle of putting into place statutory underpinning for this new self-regulatory body."
deputy leader Harriet Harman said: "Without some statute guaranteeing that process of independence and ensuring everybody
is included, we will simply remain with that status quo — a status quo which has failed both the press ... and
"We're talking about ensuring that that code is enforced. That's what Leveson has proposed
and for the sake of the victims that does not seem too much to ask."
McCann urges politicians
to accept new regulatory system, 30 November 2012
Madeleine McCann's father says if Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations on press regulation are not implemented,
giving evidence to his inquiry would have been "almost useless".
Leveson report: press victims implore David
Cameron to implement proposed new laws, 30 November 2012
Leveson report: press victims implore David Cameron to implement
proposed new laws The Telegraph
Leveson Inquiry witnesses Gerry McCann and Christopher Jefferies have launched a petition calling on MPs to implement
the Leveson recommendations in full.
5:59PM GMT 30 Nov 2012
McCann, father of missing Madeleine McCann, urged politicians to accept in full the suggestions for a new regulatory system
proposed by Lord Justice Leveson, saying it was "what the British public will expect."
The coverage of
Madeleine disappearance while on a family holiday in Portugal in 2007 was given by Lord Leveson as an example of how stories
ran "totally out of control".
Giving evidence to the inquiry last year, mother Kate McCann said she felt
like "climbing into a hole and not coming out" after the News of the World printed her intensely personal diary,
started after her daughter disappeared.
Speaking today in the wake of the Leveson report, her husband Gerry urged
David Cameron to implement its recommendations for a new regulatory system underpinned by statute.
Leveson didn't go far enough, as I would have liked. I think the press have had enough chances now, but it's a very
considered report. I think it's reasonable, as a minimum, that it's implemented," said Mr McCann.
Jefferies, who won libel damages after his wrongful arrest in relation to the murder of a woman in Bristol, also welcomed
Lord Leveson's proposals and called on politicians to take the opportunity to prevent unethical behaviour by the press.
Leveson Report: victims of press intrusion
too 'angry' to attend meeting with Culture Secretary, 30 November 2012
Leveson Report: victims of press intrusion too 'angry'
to attend meeting with Culture Secretary The Telegraph
Victims of press intrusion refused to attend a planned meeting with Maria Miller to discuss the Leveson Report because
of anger over David Cameron's stance. JK Rowling says she feels "duped".
JK Rowling feels "duped" by the Prime Minister
By Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter 7:25PM GMT 30 Nov 2012
Victims of press intrusion refused to attend a planned meeting with the Culture
Secretary to discuss the Leveson Report today because they were so "angry" at David Cameron's dismissal of its
Gerry and Kate McCann, Bob and Sally Dowler and Christopher Jefferies were among those invited
to attend the meeting with Maria Miller, but they felt so "let down" by Mr Cameron that they stayed away.
JK Rowling, the Harry Potter author, said she felt "duped" and "dismayed" when Mr Cameron announced
he did not intend to impose statutory underpinning of a new press regulator.
Instead of meeting victims, Mrs Miller
met journalism professor Brian Cathcart, one of the founders of the Hacked Off campaign, and the former LibDem MP Evan Harris,
associate director of Hacked Off, to discuss the Government's response to the Leveson Report.
Dr Harris said:
"The victims that we asked along felt too let down to meet her and too angry, so we went on our own.
wanted to know the basis for David Cameron's principled objection to legal backing of an independent regulator when he
had never mentioned this objection to us in previous meetings.
"We left the meeting none the wiser."
Mr Jefferies, who successfully sued several newspapers for libel because of stories written about him during the Joanna
Yeates murder inquiry, met Labour's Harriet Harman and the LibDems' Jo Swinson to thank them for their party leaders'
support for statutory underpinning of regulation.
In a statement, JK Rowling said: "I am alarmed and dismayed
that the Prime Minister appears to be backing away from assurances he made at the outset of the Leveson Inquiry.
"Without statutory underpinning Leveson's recommendations will not work. We will be left with yet another voluntary
system from which the press can walk away.
"If the Prime Minister did not wish to change the regulatory system
even to the moderate, balanced and proportionate extent proposed by Lord Leveson, I am at a loss to understand why so much
public money has been spent and why so many people have been asked to re-live extremely painful episodes on the stand in front
"Having taken David Cameron's assurances in good faith at the outset of the inquiry he set
up, I am merely one among many who feel duped and angry in its wake."
Mr McCann said the process of giving
evidence to the Leveson Inquiry would have been "almost useless" if the report's recommendations are not implemented
Mr McCann, whose daughter Madeleine went missing during a holiday in Portugal five years ago, said: "Our
politicians have now got the ability to do the right thing, and the right thing is to implement in full.
think the only reason we went to Leveson was to affect change and if Leveson's report isn't implemented in full then
I would say that giving evidence for all of the victims has been almost useless.
"If we don't have it
on a statute then the process will fall apart."
Paul Dadge, one of the heroes of the 7/7 terror attacks, who
was a victim of phone hacking, said of Mr Cameron's stance: "There's an opportunity here for this to backfire
on him spectacularly.
"He has either got to side with the public or with the press. There's no halfway
"The press have had their opportunity for the last 70 years. It's now time for the public and for
victims to have their voices heard."
The Hacked Off campaign launched an online petition yesterday calling
on David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband to implement the recommendations of the Leveson Report in full.
far more than 25,000 people have signed it.
Gerry McCann calls on MPs to redeem themselves
by reforming press, 01 December 2012
Gerry McCann calls on MPs to redeem themselves by reforming
press The Independent
Father of missing girl criticises Cameron's rejection
of proposal for legal underpinning
Martin Hickman Saturday 01 December
MPs have a chance to "redeem themselves" by implementing Lord Leveson's recommendations
on the press, a victim of gutter journalism, Gerry McCann, said today as he lamented the response of the Prime Minister to
the judge's proposals.
Urging David Cameron to adopt Lord Leveson's call for law to underpin a new press
regulator, Mr McCann, whose daughter Madeleine went missing in Portugal five years ago, said that politicians should remember
they are accountable to the public.
Lord Leveson's report criticised Labour and Conservative prime ministers
for being too close to editors and proprietors. Within hours of its publication, Mr Cameron sided with newspaper groups by
saying that he feared a new press law could lead to political interference in freedom of expression.
surprised, I suppose, that we had an immediate reaction from the Prime Minister saying that statute crosses some sort of Rubicon,
because I personally quite strongly disagree with that," Mr McCann told The Independent. "I don't think
we're dropping off the end of a cliff by underpinning the regulator.
"Lord Leveson's report is crystal
clear about this: if there isn't legislation to underpin the regulator, then it will fall to pieces. He says it's
essential. He is also crystal clear that this is not statutory regulation of the press, therefore I don't understand why
the Prime Minister has said what he has."
Mr Cameron promised the victims of unethical journalism that he
would implement Lord Leveson's findings providing they were not "bonkers".
"I don't think
anyone has suggested the report is bonkers," Mr McCann, a member of the Hacked Off campaign group, said.
politicians have now actually got a bit of a chance to redeem themselves. It's the public outcry that has led to this
and the Prime Minister and all the other MPs are elected and accountable to the public, and I think they have to consider
them along with the victims of the press."
Following their daughter's disappearance, Mr McCann and his
wife, Kate, were vilified and maligned by false and sensationalist newspaper stories which suggested wrongly that they were
With reluctance, Mr McCann, a cardiologist, talked about the impact of the coverage.
"It feels like you're in the eye of the storm," he said. "You've got all these people coming at you
from all sides. You don't want to show your face anywhere. It's unbelievably stressful.
in her book that it's not just having photographers and media outside your door; it's putting the television on at
night and there are headlines saying things about your daughter as you're about to go to bed.
very difficult unless you've been in that situation. But everybody knows what it's like when you lose a child momentarily
in a supermarket and you think the worst. Most people can imagine being photographed by tens and hundreds of journalists outside
"Our case has probably helped people understand how bad it is; and how it can be for so long, with
so little truth."
Leveson: an elephantine, sloppy exercise
in cut-and-paste, 02 December 2012
Leveson: an elephantine, sloppy exercise in cut-and-paste
Shuffling bundles in his Strand courtroom, Lord Justice Leveson offers surprisingly little original thought or research
The Observer, Sunday
2 December 2012
This Last Chance Saloon, of course, will never close until it runs
out of cash and customers. The idea that politicians (and newspaper proprietors) will suddenly discover a perfect way of regulating
the press is bunk. To see that, turn to the single most depressing part of Brian Leveson's magnum opus and the paragraphs
of chop-logic where he pretends that Twitter, Facebook and the rest don't exist.
Who cares if Prince Harry's
Las Vegas revels and Princess Kate's sunbathing are all over the net? Ethical, regulated newspapers are required to pretend
that US privacy laws, French snappers and international celebrity websites that 90% of the British population can click to
somehow don't exist. It's a ludicrous proposition. But Leveson, safe shuffling bundles in the warmth of his Strand
courtroom, has nothing else useful to say.
And so – by 2016, maybe, which even Ed Miliband reckons is the
earliest an underpinned regulator could be up and running – the whole caravan of possible reform will surely be heading
into the ditch again. Does it matter, now, whether David Cameron is "a leader of press freedom" in Daily Telegraph
eyes? Not so much, except in brute political terms. The big issues of privacy, defamation and the rest will be played out
across cyberspace and require fresh remedies with every passing year's launch of the latest Apple/Samsung gizmos.
It would be far, far better if newspapers – led by some mythical "substantial figure"if the Guardian
can find one – could come up with an answer that requires no legislation, because its flexible remit will be easier
to alter as technology demands fresh responses. See how successive Communications Acts rot and silt on the statute book! But,
for the rest, none of the real problems here is even addressed.
Of course, everyone has been very nice to Lord
Justice Leveson. Well, they would be, wouldn't they, as Baroness Rice-Davies might add. But, in truth, this report is
a sloppy, elephantine piece of work that relies on nobody having the time to read it before taking sides.
history and the seven supposed attempts to regulate newspapers in 70 years of last chancery? Leveson does what seems suspiciously
like a scissors and paste job on the Media Standards Trust's own version of history, which in turn draws heavily on a
12-year-old volume from Tom O'Malley and Clive Soley called Regulating the Press (what it says on the tin). No
original thought or research required. You want an international perspective? Here comes another load of paint and clippings
from the Reuters Foundation's own look at press self-regulation around the western world – without any attempt to
create a relevant UK context. No thought at all.
You want to denounce "injudicious, sensationalist and intemperate"
behaviour on an industrial scale? In fact, the relatively few "ordinary" victims paraded here are exactly the same
as those (pretty non-transparently) called to testify before the full inquiry – and none of their stories, except perhaps
for non-ordinary Gordon Brown's, is interrogated or assessed in any proper judicial fashion. Do I feel sorry for Chris
Jefferies after the police wrongly arrested him? Of course: but this is Section 2(2) of the Contempt of Court Act territory,
handled far faster by the law than any regulator could possibly contrive. Do I warm to the sad Watsons from Glasgow who want
libel protection for the recently dead? Ask Cyril Smith's grieving relatives. Did I feel for the Dowlers? Yes, for a brief,
horrible ordeal: but not so much when they're dragged from platform to platform as some kind of legal exhibits. Hacked
Off would do well to balance the millions in settlements paid out against victimhood (and in lawyers' fees) before turning
the volume too high.
What we're given here is the Strand equivalent of pages 2-97 in any full-rant edition
of the Daily Mail: a pre-digested charge sheet, not a proper inquiry. Leveson's 1,987 pages add nothing that
his nine months of hearings didn't already rehearse. How is the public supposed to trust something they won't remotely
have time to read and an outcome they won't understand? Jeremy Hunt, David Cameron and sundry police officers may be cleared
in a miraculous instant, but the racket of a debate rigged on both sides rumbles on.
Those who say that statutory
underpinning is the lightest touch on the tiller compared with what already exists – say the recognition of PCC verdicts
in subsequent legal cases – have an argument, sure enough. There's heavy fog over the precise location of this Rubicon.
But there's an even heavier fog over the meaning of the word "independent" in a world when you examine the relatively
narrow legions of the great and good who actually sit on our regulatory quangos, from Ofcom to the BBC Trust – all government-approved
or government-appointed. This debate, for those with the dedication to endure it, tells you more than you want to know about
the introverted, self-loathing state of British political society – and journalism. But – as Leveson himself might
redolently conclude – we are where we are.
There will now be redoubled efforts to set up a press regulatory
framework that works. It won't endure, at least for very long. You can't make that happen in an instantly interlinked
world where the dominant player, the US, has none of your laws and none of your posited regulators. It matters, for the moment,
what messages the process sends to foreign states where democracy has frailer roots. It matters that whatever emerges is done
by agreement, because imposed solutions on a problem so various and ephemeral are bound to implode. And it matters that, as
we soldier hoarsely on, we don't deceive ourselves.
I was attached to the now doomed PCC because I helped in
small ways to construct it: and I don't recognise many of the outside attacks by those who were not and have never been
there, whose opinions Brian Leveson merely parrots. We know that some journalists and some editors (not, please, "the
press") let it down. We ought to know that that is one inevitable price of freedom. We'll be trying once more to
make something that works while upmarket journalists sniff at tabloid journalists and broadcast journalists sniff at both,
unless they're being sniffed at themselves.
But we have to travel with due humility all round. Some reporters,
however regulated, will always get something wrong. Some governments will always want to curry favour with, or intimidate,
the press. Some learned academics will always believe that supervising the press is as simple and low-profile as running the
Judicial Appointments Board.
And we'll all forget that freedom of information – on the web as well as
via Caxton – is a struggle, not a hot bath of sanctimonious baloney. Or, as even the wholly partial history of seven
decades of last chances recited by Leveson reminds us, that the demand for the 1947 royal commission "reflected understandable
public disquiet over a return to business as usual after the war years" (which entailed strict government control). Ah!
Those were the days. How about one more round?
Labour Using Milly Dowler to Harvest Election
Data, 03 December 2012
Tom Watson used the Labour Party mailing list to send out a characteristically dramatic
email over the weekend, calling for the government to "implement the core recommendations" of the Leveson
"We will bring to bear every resource, call in every promise, rattle every skeleton in every
cupboard. This is a step too far by Cameron. The whole country knows he doesn't have the moral legitimacy to do it. We're
going to do everything we can to make sure we implement the core recommendations of the Leveson report. Cameron wants to sell-out
to Rupert Murdoch and powerful press interests because he is scared, and he is weak. But that is why he cannot succeed –
because he is weak. And he is wrong."
Despite the celebrity astroturf group calling for full implementation,
Watson is using Labour Party resources to direct people to the Hacked Off petition, where you can sign up as many times as
you like, with as many fake names and watch the supporter count grow.
Guido signed as Divine Brown.
Team Miliband have rowed back slightly from their hook, line and sinker swallowing of Leveson last week.
Apparently there are some data protection worries to deal with. Talking of data, Labour HQ are using Leveson as an opportunity
to cynically harvest voter data for the next election. A section of the party website features Maddie McCann and Milly Dowler,
asking people to pledge their support. Except the small print reveals the postcode and email data will be used for Labour
MPs to contact you.
Written by Larry Neild. Published
on Monday at 11:28 AM.
PEOPLE scurrying to handcuff, blindfold and gag the press ought to
take a step back and be careful what they wish for.
Yes, a small number of journalists have been men (and women)
behaving badly, and it may well turn out some will end up behind bars.
a simple way of avoiding media exposure: if you don't do it, nobody can write about it'
the restraints and controls on the press being demanded by actor Hugh Grant, the parents of Madeleine McCann and others, pose
a serious threat to a free and democratic society.
The anguish faced by the parents of Madeleine and other victims
of the worse excesses of the media are understandable. Yet it is hard to see how legislation will help. A proposed regulator
or successor to the Press Complaints Commission will only become involved in individual stories after publication, perhaps
with powers to impose 'fines' of up to £1m.
In almost five decades of working as a journalist I have
seen the impact of newspapers being hauled before the PCC .... No editor, no management and no journalist wants to be hauled
before such a body for the equivalent of being publicly pilloried.
Not so long ago a local councillor in Liverpool
approached me and said .... Watch us carefully, keep an eye on everything we do, You are the opposition.
I think not, but the point being made was that in Liverpool, with a powerful administration and a weak opposition, the local
media must share the job of watching and monitoring decision makers.
The vast majority of journalists read in horror
some of the extreme activities of some sections of the profession, activities alien to all but a few.
Exposure of such deeds has led to the closure of the world’s
biggest selling paper, the News of the World, and the arrest of a number of journalists.
So for the worse excesses
of 'news gathering' the system already works, and there are existing laws to control it.
The Leveson report
says newspapers can continue to report if their stories are in the public interest. Then it suggests a proposed Press Regulator
will have responsibility for decreeing what is in the public interest. So who will regulate or monitor the regulator?
Editors, and indeed journalists will not be allowed to serve on any new regulatory body. If people were aware of the level
of training journalists have to undergo in law, ethics, code of conduct etc, they would expect, if not demand, the involvement
Despite recent examples, it is rare for newspapers to be sued for defamation.
figures and celebs are at times embarrassed by revelations of some of their activities. There is a simple way of avoiding
such media exposure .... if you don't do it, nobody can write about it.
There are people in power and influential
celebrities eager to shackle and even silence newspapers.
We live in a new frontier age where social media sites
are awash with information, often rumour, speculation or lies. Who can we believe?
Newspapers and on-line publications such as Liverpool Confidential
are rarely wrong ... because we already know we are subject to the laws of libel, a code of conduct and ethics and censure....
And the law.
People who have lived or worked in countries where there is state control of the media will be aware
of the dangers and the risks.
The UK media has been given a bloody nose, shock waves have been sent through every
newsroom. Lessons have been learned. Does anybody think for one moment the media is unaware it is on trial. But if the media
is itself 'imprisoned' everybody suffers the punishment.
Press victims could stand in next election
against Leveson deniers, 04 December 2012
The Mole: Press victims could stand in next election against
Charlotte Church and Gerry McCann mooted as candidates to stand against Cameron, Gove & Co
COLUMN LAST UPDATED AT 09:58 ON TUE 4 DEC 2012
SPECULATION is growing among Labour MPs that some of the victims
of press abuse who gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry - and who are now demanding statutory backing for the judge's
proposals - could stand against Cabinet ministers at the next election.
Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, will
sit down with press barons and editors today to hear how they plan to introduce a new voluntary independent press watchdog
to replace the discredited Press Complaints Commission.
Yesterday she threatened: "If action is not taken
as requested in terms of putting together a self-regulatory approach", the government response "would include legislation".
But after yesterday's Commons debate on Leveson, rumours were running around Labour MPs that the Hacked Off campaigners
could keep up the pressure into the next general election by fielding candidates against the Cabinet ministers who are holding
out against public opinion - including David Cameron (Witney, majority 22,740).
Barry Sheerman, the Labour MP and
former select committee chairman, picked up the rumours when he tweeted this morning: "Wouldn't be surprised if some
of the victims of press harassment stood against opponents of #Leveson at Election."
Miller would be one of
the key Cabinet targets for the campaigners, if she fails to act on her threat to editors. She had a majority of 13,176 in
Basingstoke in 2010.
Another possible target is Education Secretary Michael Gove, the former Times journalist,
who will be defending a majority of 17,289 in Surrey Heath in 2015 and has been one of the most vociferous opponents of statutory
codes - he even had a row in public with Lord Leveson while giving evidence.
The likes of rom-com actor Hugh Grant
and TV comedian Steve Coogan may not be up for standing for Parliament, but Charlotte Church came over as a budding politico
when she appeared on Question Time recently, and Gerry McCann, father of the still missing Madeleine, is seen as another possible
candidate. McCann believes strongly that MPs owe it to the general public to back statutory measures.
got the best newspaper headlines since coming to power by rejecting Leveson's key proposal, there is no sign that Cameron
is going to "redeem himself" by embracing the entire Leveson report, statutory underpinning included, and setting
Fleet Street against him at the next election. Unless, perhaps, he risks seeing the vote split in key Tory seats.
Corporate power, lies about Leveson, and
why the royals don't deserve privacy, 06 December 2012
Corporate power, lies about Leveson, and why the royals don't
deserve privacy New Statesman
Peter Wilby's First Thoughts.
BY PETER WILBY | PUBLISHED 06 DECEMBER 2012
The newspapers' response to the Leveson report illustrates perfectly
what is wrong with them. Quoting Milton, Wilkes and the US founding fathers, they frame the story as an argument over freedom
of the press and its role in protecting us from tyranny. What Leveson proposes, however, has no bearing on newspapers'
capacity to call power to account. His remedies are designed to limit the extent to which the press can harass, mock, insult,
bully, threaten, intrude upon, lie about and generally ruin the lives of the weak and powerless, including not only the McCanns,
the Dowlers, Christopher Jefferies, victims of terrorism, families of dead soldiers and so on, but also the relatives, employees
and friends of those loosely described as celebrities.
The apposite quotation is not from Jefferson or Wilkes –
who had no conception that the press existed to do anything other than annoy governments – but from the Chicago journalist
F P Dunne: "The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." The British press
today often does the reverse, training far more scrutiny on, for example, benefit claimants, asylum seekers and gypsies than
it does on cheating corporations. It is an instrument of corporate power, and the citizenry needs protection from its excesses
as well as from the government’s.
Newspaper executives say they don't want government stooges going into
newsrooms telling journalists what they can and cannot write. No, indeed. Journalists already have instructions from the stooges
of Rupert Murdoch, Lord Rothermere, David and Frederick Barclay and Richard Desmond.
Not that Leveson proposes any role for a government stooge. His recommended legislation (his report says)
"would not give any rights to parliament, to the government, or to any regulatory (or other) body to prevent newspapers
from publishing any material whatsoever". Nor would it require them to publish anything except corrections and apologies.
This is one of several misconceptions about the report deliberately propagated by newspapers. Leveson doesn't
want a quango; he wants a regulatory body set up by the press. Legislation would merely give it official recognition. This
would allow publications that join it and thus participate in its arbitration procedures to apply for reduced legal costs
when those who allege libel or invasion of privacy insist on going to court. As the former editor of two cashstrapped publications,
I can assure you that the cheap arbitration provision will be of priceless value to small newspapers and magazines. On at
least one occasion, I had to abandon a libel defence because legal costs became prohibitive. Such considerations are of little
consequence to a Murdoch or Rothermere. A million in costs and another in damages is just a snip to them, comfortably outweighed
by enhanced circulation revenues from their scandal-mongering.
the press taken so calmly the news that the late Cyril Smith, a Liberal (and then Liberal Democrat) MP for 20 years, ought
to have faced charges of child abuse? It is, if anything, a more scandalous case than Jimmy Savile's. Smith was a significant
political figure who chaired Rochdale's education committee for six years and later became Liberal chief whip when Labour
governed with an overall majority of three.
We are told the director of public prosecutions decided in March 1970
that allegations of assaults between 1961 and 1966 were "somewhat stale" and based on statements from young men
whose "characters . . . render their evidence suspect". But Tony Robinson, a retired Lancashire special branch sergeant,
tells me that he recalls "NFA: not in the public interest" being on the front of the file when he saw it in 1974.
Moreover, he says he received a telephone call from MI5 in 1977 (when the Liberals made a pact with Labour to keep the latter
in power) asking for the file to be sent immediately to London. He never saw it again.
How did a criminal case
find its way into special branch files? Why did MI5 want Smith's file? To ensure that it stayed secret? Or to use it as
a blackmail weapon? The fearless reporters of our still-free (but not, we are warned, for long) newspapers should strain every
sinew to find answers. But there is no BBC angle. So they won't.
As I expected, the first child of Mr and Mrs William Windsor, who married in 2011, will arrive in 2013. The pregnancy announcement
(advanced because severe morning sickness required hospitalisation) was probably scheduled for the Queen's Christmas broadcast
or New Year's Day. Thus the young royals avoided overshadowing this year's jubilee. They will also wish to avoid upstaging
the monarch's 90th birthday in 2016. Expect Harry Windsor to marry in 2014, and a second child for William and Kate in
2015. Even fertility is organised according to the family's public relations requirements. That is why royals are not
entitled to privacy and, whatever else it does, legislation on the press should specifically bar them from protection
Fleet Street Fox on the Leveson Report: The
devil is in the detail, 21 December 2012
Fleet Street Fox on the Leveson Report: The devil is in the
detail Press Gazette
Fleet Street Fox 21 December 2012
Newsrooms everywhere breathed out.
"We can live with
that," said the optimists. "Could have been worse," said the execs. And the hacks who remember the other times
when last orders were threatened at the Last Chance Saloon cynically waited for the long grass to make its usual appearance.
But then we hadn't read it, and nor had Hugh. Nor had Ed, who immediately demanded the whole thing be made law
yesterday. Only Dave, who had read it or at least had someone read it for him, seemed to be reluctant.
days someone had read it for Ed, too, and he changed his mind to back the "central recommendations" while admitting
some of the small print was impossible.
So as a hack who's watched for 18 months as our trade gets its face
stamped into the gutter we're otherwise quite used to while hoping it would all go away, it's probably time I read
And it's as you'd expect. All that evidence written down in as a boring a way as possible, creating
an image of a trade I can't recognise even if I squint and turn it upside down.
And we don't need to rehearse
it because we all remember it – Sally Dowler reliving the moment she thought Milly was alive, Kate McCann saying there
was no thought for her as a mother, Paul McMullan sneering that privacy was for paedos.
It was wonderful theatre,
full of pathos, and well conducted by barristers who questioned the editors who came before them far more thoroughly than
they did the accusers, and didn't seem to mind Jonathan King lecturing anyone on morality.
It was hard, amidst
all that, to remember most papers bent over backwards to make it plain the McCanns being named suspects in their daughters'
disappearance was a travesty, and helped raised six figure sums to search for her.
Hard to ask, publicly, if even
without phone-hacking when Milly's voicemails deleted themselves automatically Sally might not have had the same mistaken
belief her daughter was safe.
And harder still to make anyone believe that Paul McMullan's not been seen in
Fleet Street the whole time I've worked in it, and that half the evidence was so dated it should have been given in Latin.
Most of the report is an extended telling-off, and to the extent that is deserved then it's fair enough. The PCC
had become a toothless old auntie and a tougher, bitier regulator must be found. There's not a single journalist I know
But the devil is in the detail, and the detail of Leveson is the bit which will muzzle the
Press as effectively as Hannibal Lecter strapped to a luggage trolley.
Leveson wants this backed up by law which
is plain wrong, because there's no bill ever passed by Parliament that wasn't tinkered with later. Hacked Off and
other campaigners may feel the suggested law is fine, but it's the law it may mutate into which is why it should never
He calls for the Press to have the regulation of the BBC, without the rights it enjoys of being publicly
chartered, publicly-funded and publicly-beloved. And just as well, because if that model were to be followed with newspapers
we'd end up with Pravda. If I am to be answerable to Ofcom which is answerable to the government the only answer I have
for them is unprintable.
When Leveson toured newsrooms before the inquiry began he sat, at one point, on a newsdesk
as a junior executive scrolled through the news wires. He said to her: "Aren't you worried other papers will publish
the same thing?" She tried to explain, but he couldn't grasp it.
He seems to have got no further in understanding
how newspapers work since then, as his report also calls for the Data Protection Act to apply to all information gathered
by journalists for their stories.
Firstly, that information is held by the individual journos and not the newspaper
so it's unworkable, and secondly if anyone made a request under that law to see inside my contacts book I'd tell them
to foxtrot oscar on principle.
Elsewhere, Leveson wants journalists to be compelled by law to reveal their sources
(get knotted!) and says police should stop all off-the-record briefings. It's not been outlawed yet but it's already
happening, and in practice means the internet filling with misinformation about the latest Savile inquiry arrest without any
correction or guidance which can be invaluable to the public good.
For example I was told yesterday about a child
abuse investigation where police think a relative is responsible, but could not give guidance to a newspaper asking questions
about another possibility. The paper therefore printed things which, had it known more of the background, it would never have
Leveson's suggestion means crime reporters can't take a DI for a pint, something which has never
corrupted a single sensible soul, and it will also mean that next time a senior officer is in the pocket of someone they refuse
to investigate, we don't get the low-level leaks by disgruntled underlings which, for example, led to the phone hacking
Leveson ignores the obvious risk of journalists being corrupted by their contacts, which is just as serious
an issue as when it happens the other way around.
He also ignores the fact that, PCC aside, it is the old system
and laws under which journalists are being arrested and prosecuted. So thoroughly that I heard this week old school friends
who happen to have a public sector job are being treated as fellow suspects.
There is one reasonable bit, the introduction
of a conscience clause giving journalists the right to refuse a newsdesk instruction if they think it’s unethical. It
means you can't be sacked for saying no, but in an industry increasingly reliant upon freelancers, contract staff and
casuals it's hard to see what practical difference it will make.
There is no call for regular law refreshers.
No explanation of why 30,000 print journalists need to be curtailed when only a few dozen face charges. No talk of reform
to 13th century defamation. No suggestion for formal ethics training – I learned my ethics from chief reporters
on local papers, something which works only if they're ethical themselves.
In all, aside from a better PCC
there's not a lot to be said for Leveson beyond some great TV moments and bringing us the word 'pellucid'.
The fact is that in this country we have a Press that is only as free as our laws allow. We are kettled by the state
in all directions, while those who can afford it abuse the laws and PCC to bully and intimidate journalists into silence.
That creates a mindset of the law being something journalists learn to navigate and distrust, with the obvious result
that when the rules are broken it can be seen, by some, as a badge of honour. Complaints become a game of cowboys and Indians,
with innocent bystanders getting caught in the crossfire.
There is only one way to overcome that, and it is for
the law to start working for the Press rather than against us, allowing people like ex Home Secretary David Blunkett to accuse
The Observer of harassment for asking him questions he didn't like.
If there must be any statute for the Press
it should be a cast-iron guarantee of our freedoms, alongside the definition of our responsibilities. Free from being corrupted
by others, free from proprietorial meddling and political schmoozing, and free to do the job we need to without fear or favour.
And I'll say this because no-one else did in 600 witness statements: Journalists aren't psychopaths. None
of us do this job for the money or glory, because there's little of either, and still less because we thought it would
make the world a worse place.
We do it, principally, because we think someone ought to. We are the custodians of
freedoms not just for newspapers but everyone else too, and if it is the journalists who came before us who got us into this
mess then it is up to us to get us out.
Underpinning the good we do is a far better option than legislating against
us, which will leave us with no option but to find a workable business plan to annoy people online, where we'd have more
readers and fewer restrictions and... hang on...