Hacked Off publishes the Leveson Bill

Posted: January 6, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Today, Hacked Off publishes the Leveson Bill, a short parliamentary bill to put into law Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations on press regulation. You can read the bill in full here.

Produced in consultation with victims of press abuse and supporters of Hacked Off, the Leveson Bill has been drafted by Hugh Tomlinson QC, the chair of Hacked Off, and legislative expert and specialist Parliamentary Counsel Daniel Greenberg.

Designed to reflect as closely as possible in legislative form the recommendations in the inquiry report, the bill:

  • Enshrines the freedom of the press in statute for the first time, making attempted ministerial or other state interference in the media explicitly illegal,
  • Specifies the standards which the voluntary independent press self-regulator will have to meet to satisfy public demand for a system that is effective and independent of Government, Parliament and the newspaper industry,
  • Proposes a transparent, democratic system to appoint a Recognition Commission to verify on behalf of the public that the press self-regulator is doing its job properly,
  • Gives legal effect to Leveson’s ‘carrots and sticks’, incentivising publishers to join the self regulator through access, under specified circumstances, to reduced costs in court proceedings and protection from exemplary damages,
  • Is a faithful representation of the Leveson Report, sticking so far as possible to the intention, content and language of the Inquiry conclusions, with the bare minimum of wording changes and additions required to meet the requirements of legislation.

The Leveson Bill will now be put forward for public consultation with victims of press abuse, supporters of Hacked Off, civil society groups and other interested parties, with a view to providing the best possible basis for the legislation that Lord Justice Leveson declared essential to underpin a regulatory system that breaks the historic pattern of failure.

From tomorrow, an interactive form of the consultation documents will be available online to anyone who wishes to be involved in the process.

Hacked Off’s inclusive and consultative approach stands in stark contrast to the secretive and opaque activities of ministers, editors and newspaper proprietors in the weeks since the Leveson Report was published.

Professor Brian Cathcart, Director of Hacked Off said:

Lord Justice Leveson conducted a thorough and painstaking inquiry, hearing all the evidence on all sides, and he delivered a thoughtful and balanced report, making clear recommendations on the best way forward. His report was very critical of the press and also of politicians, so neither group is in any position to quibble with his findings.

The right thing to do now is to implement the judge’s recommendations on press regulation in full and without delay. Our draft Bill – the Leveson Bill – offers a plain and straightforward way of doing that. This is not a bill for press regulation as Hacked Off or anyone else would wish it: it is a bill to underpin voluntary press self-regulation in the way Lord Justice Leveson wanted it.

There are other schemes and ideas in the air, including other draft bills and a proposal for a Royal Charter.

None of these complies with the Leveson Report and all are likely to water down or distort his proposals. Only the Leveson Bill can deliver the considered and balanced new scheme designed by the judge to safeguard press freedom while at the same time protecting the public from press abuses.

Hacked Off calls on all MPs, and peers and every group or individual interested in these matters, to read the bill, participate in the consultation and give this process their backing, so that we can put behind us 70 years of editorial unaccountability and abuses. This is the best way to achieve a free and vigorous press that does not wilfully trample on the rights of citizens.

Read Brian Cathcart in the Guardian for more information.

Add your voice to the victims of press abuse, and encourage your friends to do the same. Sign and share the Hacked Off petition to support Leveson’s recommendations.

10 comments

  1. Richard Spurr - reply

    Having scanned this proposed bill I conclude the author and Lord Leveson have missed the whole point that the press and media do not regulate themselves and signing up to a voluntary body means nothing if the codes and ethics they are going to operate under are set by LAW not agreement with each other. The press should not be able to publish the names of people who are merely suspected of doing criminal acts. Articles of a personal nature should be read and approved by the person referred to in the article. There is no such thing as the public having a right to know about anyone’s private life regardless of whether they are a celebrity or not.

  2. Ian Forrest - reply

    A good Bill. I suspect the government is going take a long time to do very little in response to Leveson. I hope Cameron wakes up soon otherwise the public will begin to suspect that he’s still in thrall to the media tycoons. Well done HackedOff for not allowing the politicians to quietly forget about this important issue.

  3. David Pain - reply

    Why isn’t the draft bill available as a PDF – can’t download from Google Docs.

    No professional organisation uses Google Docs!!!

  4. DAVID BALDWIN - reply

    PROFESSOR BRIAN CATHCART

    Form an alliance with Hillsborough so you can act as one front
    You have J K Rowling that alone could topple Cameron
    FIGHT dirty

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  6. Robert Reynolds - reply

    In the opposition to Leveson, the need for Leveson-plus is made plain.

    Between the status quo and the Leveson proposal, Lord Hunt of Wirral, PCC Chair, sees “no third way”, but he backs some such variant as his own – to which Maria Miller, Culture Secretary, is “committed” – a Leveson statute to be treated as a “last resort”, one in which David Cameron, Prime Minister, “does not believe”.

    There is little doubt that against a coalition of ordinary citizens and more vulnerable politicians, assertion of such “right” thinking as frightened People and Parliament into AV rejection, an offered extension of democratic freedom in expression of real preferences alongside tactical votes, might easily lift any affected siege against ‘the freedom of the press’.

    Energy in cross-party talks has been diverted into discussion of a Royal Charter, with some awareness perhaps of how easily in time the upholding of ‘fundamental principles of democracy’ was removed from the BBC Charter & Agreement. Press oversight by the Privy Council would effectively be by the Old Guard of government, worthy perhaps but uncertain.

    It is of course only because we do not enjoy the operation of genuine democracy, with every citizen high and low free to operate in conscience, that arrangements for press regulation matter so much. Leveson, in leaving it to People and Parliament to define and defend democracy, has left many of ‘those who should know better’ free to crusade – alongside ‘press barons’ and their employees – ‘for democracy’ against democracy.

    For others who would pick up the baton so gently laid down by the judge, the wisdom of statute-drafting hinges not so much on negative injunction, but on recognising a positive duty for the media, to help build national understanding of democracy, towards eventual agreement on equal partnership, towards rational and moral preference over any and every variant of the alternative, the rule of fear and greed, exclusion and corruption, riot and war.

    Impressive as a Leveson translation, the Media Freedom and Regulatory Standards Bill, drafted for Hacked Off, needs to be taken a little further, to be more than vaguely instructive and permissive with respect to media support for “democracy” and “the public interest”.

    Ideally, at the top of the Bill, “freedom of the press” would be recognised as coming best from “the freedom of every individual”; the aim of “democracy” would be stated as best fulfilled with “equal partnership”, with representativeness rather than conflict of interest; and “the public interest” would be explained as emergent from the sum of the pursuits of a free people, all judgements best crystallised in or as if in that context.

    At the least, the statute must enjoin the media to play a proper role, alongside all others with cultural influence, in ensuring public understanding of the spectrum of ‘representative democracy’ and of ‘news’ as signalling either democratic function or democratic deficit. With a million born innocent into the UK each year, and a million joining the electorate fresh from quite variable education, it is vital that all press titles should include cycles of basic advice, and all articles should include relevant democratic perspectives.

    Part 1 Media Freedom
    1. Guarantee of Media Freedom
    (2) ADD: (e) the role of the media in fostering democracy
    (3) INSERT: “…necessary in AND FOR a democratic society…”
    “…media freedom AND DUTY in a democracy”

    Part 3 Consequences of Subscription to Register
    6. Costs of Legal Proceedings
    (is there sufficient clarity here for public understanding, as well as legal:
    “irrespective of the outcome”, on what bases “could not have been resolved”)

    Schedule 1 Minimum Requirements for Recognised Regulators
    14. ADD: (e) Ensuring public awareness of meaning and conditions of
    democracy
    15. TO “…that justifies conduct that would otherwise be a breach of the Code”
    ADD: overwhelmingly the pursuit and disclosure of information relevant to
    the protection and promotion of democracy, the emulation of democ
    racy, and the consistent protection of the individual.

    Thank you.

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