Victims of press intrusion urge Cameron to reject IPSO regulator ahead of grilling from MPs

A group of victims of press intrusion have alled for Prime Minister David Cameron to “clearly and speedily” reject the press industry’s self-regulation scheme and move on with the cross-party Royal Charter.

The move comes as Cameron appears today before the House of Commons Liaison Committee to answer questions about reform of the Civil Service and the progress of the Royal Charter.

The letter from campaign group Hacked Off, signed by 16 victims of press intrusion, said: "We are dismayed by the attitude of the leaders of much of the press industry.

“They have shown no real regret for the grave failures identified in the report of the Leveson Inquiry, nor have they engaged in sincere dialogue with the public, with Parliament or with us about implementing the careful recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson to remedy these failures.”

The letter said that the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) scheme, backed by publishers, “clearly lacks the key elements of independence and effectiveness that the judge said were essential if the public is to be protected”.

It added: “The Leveson recommendations are generous to the press, they give full protection to freedom of expression and they are workable. All parties in Parliament support them, we support them and opinion poll evidence shows that the public overwhelmingly supports them. We urge you to send a strong message to those who own and run the press that they have nothing to fear and a great deal to gain from embracing the Leveson recommendations as set out in Parliament’s Royal Charter.

“If, on the other hand, they continue to insist that they may regulate themselves in the way that suits them – in Leveson’s terms, that they have the right to go on ‘marking their own homework’ – the result will inevitably be even deeper public distrust and, without any doubt, many more victims of press cruelty and excess of the kind we have experienced."

Here is the letter in full:

Dear Prime Minister,

We are people who have experienced press abuses at first hand. You met most of us about a year ago, shortly before the publication of the Leveson Report. We note that you are due to answer questions on press reform tomorrow at the House of Commons Liaison Committee. In the spirit of your many statements on the importance of the views of victims[1] we want to share with you our perspective on the developments of recent months.

We were grateful to all parties in Parliament for approving the Royal Charter on the press on 18 March. While it contained substantial concessions to news publishers[2], we strongly believe that this provides a workable means of implementing the very reasonable Leveson recommendations on press self-regulation. At the same time it addresses the concerns you expressed about crossing a Rubicon of legislation.

Given that MPs explicitly sent the Charter for sealing by the Privy Council in May, we are extremely disappointed that September has arrived and this has not yet happened. We urge you to do all you can to expedite this, so that the process of implementing the Leveson recommendations may begin.

We are dismayed by the attitude of the leaders of much of the press industry. They have shown no real regret for the grave failures identified in the report of the Leveson Inquiry, nor have they engaged in sincere dialogue with the public, with Parliament or with us about implementing the careful recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson to remedy these failures. 

Instead they have consulted each other and unsurprisingly reached agreement on so-called solutions that are in their interest rather than the public’s. They have engaged in a cynical manoeuvre to delay the approval of Parliament’s Royal Charter, by submitting an alternative non-Leveson compliant Royal Charter of their own. Several papers continue to abuse the power of the press in the attempt to discredit the Leveson Inquiry and those who challenge them, and to seek to bend politicians to their will.

They are also promoting in the pages of their own newspapers a scheme for self-regulation closely based on the ‘Hunt-Black‘ plan they first proposed nearly a year ago – which both you and Lord Justice Leveson rightly found to be inadequate. Their scheme clearly lacks the key elements of independence and effectiveness that the judge said were essential if the public is to be protected from the kinds of abuses we have experienced. It also obviously fails to meet many of the Leveson-based ‘recognition criteria‘ for a worthwhile regulator that are set out in Parliament’s Royal Charter.

We commend you for the firm and historic stand that you, in common with the other main party leaders, took on this issue of press self-regulation on 18th March of this year. We urge you to reaffirm that position this week, and to make clear to leading newspaper publishers that they must change their approach if they are to win back the public’s trust.

The Leveson recommendations are generous to the press, they give full protection to freedom of expression and they are workable. All parties in Parliament support them, we support them and opinion poll evidence shows that the public overwhelmingly supports them. We urge you to send a strong message to those who own and run the press that they have nothing to fear and a great deal to gain from embracing the Leveson recommendations as set out in Parliament’s Royal Charter.

If, on the other hand, they continue to insist that they may regulate themselves in the way that suits them – in Leveson’s terms, that they have the right to go on ‘marking their own homework’ – the result will inevitably be even deeper public distrust and, without any doubt, many more victims of press cruelty and excess of the kind we have experienced.

We look forward to your reply to this letter. 

Yours,

Kate and Gerry McCann
Paul Dadge
Mo George
Jacqui Hames
Baroness Sheila Hollins
Dr Martin Hollins
Mike Hollingsworth
Christopher Jefferies
David Kampfner
Maire Messenger-Davies
Ben Noakes
JK Rowling
Joan Smith
Brian Paddick
Jane Winter

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