Government delays press regulation Royal Charter decision 'to avoid being judicially reviewed'

A Government decision on a press regulation Royal Charter may have been delayed to avoid the threat of judicial review.

This is the view of campaign group Hacked Off, whose celebrity supporters include Hugh Grant, which backs the cross-party Royal Charter rejected by most of the newspaper and magazine industry.

The Charter had been due to be presented to the Queen by the Lord President of the Privy Council, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, for approval on 15 May.

However, a No 10 spokeswoman said that it had been put back in order to give more time for consideration of an alternative charter put forward by the industry.

The alternative version – which has the support of most national, regional and local newspapers – is currently open for comment on the Privy Council website until 23 May.

The spokeswoman said that it "made sense" that both versions should be considered by the Privy Council at the same time.

Responding to news of a delay in the signing of the Royal Charter for self-regulation of the press, Dr Evan Harris, associate irector of Hacked Off said: "All three party leaders promised the victims of press abuse that they would deliver a system which would meet the standards laid down by the Leveson Report.

"Only one of these Royal Charters is compliant and this is the case by a mile. Victims expect all of the parties to stand by their leaders' promises.

"Press reform has been overdue for decades. If there is another delay for a further month, that can be borne."

Hacked Off said in a statement “the Government has received legal advice that, in order to avoid being judicially reviewed, before the cross-party Leveson charter can be signed at Privy Council, they must formally consider the Royal Charter prepared by News International, Associated Newspapers and the Telegraph Group”.

The group noted that a Government briefing published last night said:  "The cross-party Royal Charter meets the Leveson principles, has been agreed by the three main political parties, and has been approved by Parliament. The Government's view on the cross-party Royal Charter has not changed. We believe it would put in place a system of independent self-regulation of the press. It would provide victims of press excesses, like the McCanns and the Dowlers, with real redress while protecting the freedom of the press."

Hacked Off said it is still confident that the original cross-party press regulation Royal Charter will go to the Privy Council for approval some time after 21 June.

The Newspaper Society said last night in a statement: "We welcome the Government's announcement that consultation on the Independent Royal Charter has begun. We have always said the Independent Royal Charter would be open to consultation and are confident it will receive the widespread public support shown in opinion polls. It already has the backing of the vast majority of the newspaper and magazine industry."

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