Before opening the public consultation on the draft Leveson Bill, Hacked Off consulted with victims of press abuse. Here’s why they’ve chosen to sponsor it.
The Leveson Inquiry took place against a background of public outrage at the state of the press and the way it treated ordinary, innocent people. It was a long, thorough and fair process, and many who have experienced cruel treatment by newspapers gave public evidence in the hope that others would not suffer in the same way in the future.
When the Report was published many of us were, in one sense, disappointed. We had hoped that the judge would go further than he did in providing protection for people, and in making journalists, editors and proprietors accountable.
What he recommended could be considered yet another experiment in self-regulation by the industry. But his well-crafted Report contained one important break with past failures: he said that any press self-regulator should be subject to inspection and approval by a body empowered under statute to protect the interests of ordinary people. And he said that this body and this process of inspection were “essential.”
This offered us some hope, and so we gave the Report our backing and called for it to be implemented. As Gerry McCann has said: “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.”
Because we want full implementation, we have joined with Hacked Off and some specialist advisers to prepare this draft Parliamentary Bill, which would deliver all that the judge called for in statute. We are publishing it as a basis for consultation with all interested individuals and groups.
It is as true to the Report as we can make it, using Lord Justice Leveson’s language as far as possible and distilling his recommendations into a short form that is appropriate for legislation. We hope it makes clear how modest and reasonable the judge’s proposals are.
We have benefited from having seen other approaches and we believe this draft Bill more faithfully, more effectively and more fully incorporates the requirements the judge lays out to ensure the independence and effectiveness of future self-regulatory bodies. We would be grateful for your help in refining this work and in particular your responses to the questions we have raised. We would welcome similar openness and transparency from the press and politicians about their discussions and plans. Such openness was explicitly called for by Lord Justice Leveson in recommendation 84 of his Report.
The suggestions that I have made in the direction of greater transparency about meetings and contacts should be considered not just as a future project but as an immediate need, not least in relation to interactions relevant to any consideration of this Report.
We now find ourselves – as victims of the press – in the position of urging politicians to remember the words of the Prime Minister himself when he said in his sworn evidence that any solution needs to meet the needs of those who have suffered at the hands of the
press, and not be merely for the convenience of the politicians and the press.
Many of us had to re-live what we suffered at the hands of the press when giving evidence at the Inquiry, and face the serried ranks of newspaper lawyers and the editors and executives they represented. Several of us found ourselves attacked once again by the press as they tried to undermine our credibility. While we note that in every relevant case the judge made findings in our favour we would be appalled if the politicians yet again allowed the press to escape the accountability that the Report called for.
We agree with the judge that Sir John Major put it well when he said “on this occasion, it is politicians who are in the last chance saloon”.
That is why we are proud to sponsor this draft Bill and the consultation on it.
Patricia and Phil Bernal
Kate and Gerry McCann
Prof John Tulloch
Margaret and James Watson