David Cameron is failing his own "Victim Test"

Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:38 pm

According to David Cameron, the key test of Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations is that they satisfy the ordinary people most seriously harmed by the failed system. From the moment he initiated the Leveson Inquiry, in his testimony during the hearings and in subsequent meetings with victims of press abuse, the PM maintained that the most important measure of the new system was whether it satisfied the victims. Yet it seems he has either forgotten his own qualifications for a new system, or simply failed the test he set for himself.

In his testimony on June 14th 2012, the Prime Minister defined this test.

“I will never forget meeting with the Dowler family in Downing Street to run through the terms of this Inquiry with them and to hear what they had been through and how it had redoubled, trebled the pain and agony they’d been through over losing Milly. I’ll never forget that, and that’s the test of all this. It’s not: do the politicians or the press feel happy with what we get? It’s: are we really protecting people who have been caught up and absolutely thrown to the wolves by this process. That’s what the test is…

“[The current system] doesn’t work for the Dowlers, or the McCanns, [and] that’s the test…

“We should, as I say again, bear in mind who we’re doing this for, why we’re here in the first place, and that’s the real test. 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.”

David Cameron met with victims of press abuse and reiterated this view many times during the course of the Leveson Inquiry. In October 2011, he told a delegation from Hacked Off:

“If it’s not bonkers, we’ll do it.”

Lord Justice Leveson, in his speech announcing the publication of his recommendations made it clear that legislation was vital:

“Guaranteed independence, long-term stability, and genuine benefits for the industry, cannot be realised without legislation.”

A group of 20 victims of press abuse, including Bob Dowler and Kate McCann, released a statement firmly supporting that view: that new laws were necessary:

“We welcome this carefully prepared and thorough report.

The Judge has rightly condemned the outrageous conduct of the press in the recent years….

He has proposed a system of voluntary and independent self-regulation…

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.”

Just an hour after the victims’ statement was released, David Cameron responded to the recommendations himself. He started by recalling his own sympathies with the various victims of press abuse.

“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.”

Yet by the end of his statement he had turned his back on the crucial element of Leveson’s recommendation: the statute the victims immediately publicly backed.

“Now I have some serious concerns and misgivings on this recommendation…. I am not convinced at this stage that statute is necessary to achieve Lord Justice Leveson’s objectives.”

In a press conference following David Cameron’s statement, the victims expressed their discontent at his response. Jane Winter, who had her emails intercepted by News International, said

“His response was ‘as long as it is not bonkers, I’ll do that’. Well I saw the report this morning, it doesn’t look bonkers to me. I think he’s gone back on his word and I feel betrayed.”

Gerry McCann stated, as he launched the Hacked Off petition with Christopher Jefferies the following day

“Full implementation of Lord Justice Leveson’s report is the minimum acceptable compromise for me and I think for many other victims who have suffered at the hands of the press.”

Later, in a rare public statement, J.K. Rowling, whose family suffered greatly from press intrusion, encapsulated the collective spirit of betrayal amongst the victims by stating that she was

“…merely one among many who feel duped and angry by Cameron’s response.”

It seems then, that despite his initial commitment to ensuring justice for those worst affected by the crimes of the press, David Cameron has undoubtedly failed his own test.

Let David Cameron know that, regardless of his actions, you still support the victims of press abuse and want to make sure that no one suffers in the way that they have again. Sign our petition and share it with your friends.

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  1. Martin

    The law is actually sufficient to the task without further addition, all that is needed is a national call-line for complaints that concern illegal activity by journalists or their colleagues or employers. The PCC, was only ever a nanny to the media, and was always run by cronies and yes men, but no matter, because they were/are just another layer of bureaucrats that we don’t need, anything that is short of criminal, must just be endured, such is the inevitable result of a completely free press, which is what we need. Voltaire would be horrified at the fact that there are certain words, phrases, and narratives, that are illegal to air, use, or publish in any format in the public sphere in Britain today ( think ”hate-speech” and other sinister fatuites that have neutered debate and argument), that in itself is a reproach to the public’s twisted sense of what the phrase freedom of expression actually entails in entirey. Majority rule, whether by vote or other means, is not democracy, anyone who thinks it is, needs to read up on the subject.

  2. Peter Watson

    I was touched by the breach of Gordon Brown and his right to a private family life.This right was breached when information which was personal and confidential was made public without their consent for no-other reason than throwing abuse.This behaviour proves Tom Watson was correct when he made the crucial link between the press and the mafia.There must be a legal basis to protect the public.


    Dear Brian Cathcart

    I am world class sales trainer – in 2007 I was jailed for being a con artist, a scammer and a fraudster – the Plaintiff had friends in the newspapers and so I was monstered and today those articles still are posted on the Internet
    You marketing is very poor, rather than using your power to unite you show no initiative to rally more people to your support – Chris Jeffries in the wrong front man – you have J K Rowling, Hugh Grant
    Further Jeffries received a six figure compensation so why are you asking us to donate?
    You are losing momentum, and your efforts are now weak and feeble
    You have accomplished 150,000 signatures and that is it – Hillsborough have accomplished a nice Christmas song, will have to put together £1m to pay a Barrister that will inevitably cut a deal on the side and lose the case and the I P C C will take another three years to re investigate and by that time all the mothers of the Hillsborough will be dead from old age or cancer

    You had it all – but your marketing and strategy is door mouse poor – although you have the whole world wanting to help you and give you ideas

    And the newspapers will win because you are too lazy to meet and think what it is that you could do to REALLY and I mean REALLY crush the newspapers and enforce on the Government much needed change and penalties

    Jeffries is the wrong front man – he is not likeable – neither is Gerry – you are violating every sacred principle of marketing and PR in your campaign

  4. Mr Normal

    Regrettably, Cameron morals only stretch as far as the gain in vote’s he perceives. He will have clearly weighed up the benefits of support for the media barons’ against full support for the protection of the public by Lord Justice Leveson.
    He cannot comprehend having to take the views of members of the public who may be so low earning as a valet, In Camerons mind someone speaking out like “Hugh” would at Eton have got a dam good thrashing.
    On a more serious note, why should people like the Watsons have to continue fighting to legally protect others, when they have lost so much?