'There is a personal element, but it’s a much bigger thing than that for me.'
Wants politicians to 'react like statesmen' to Leveson report
Believes Leveson will protect public interest journalism
Actor Hugh Grant has urged Lord Justice Leveson to show “courage” and recommend a “decent code of conduct” for journalists – arguing newspapers should no longer be “marking their own homework”.
Grant wants the Government to act on Leveson’s recommendations “like statesmen”, amid speculation it will veto any move to introduce statute into press regulation.
Grant spoke exclusively to Press Gazette last week after he left the Free Speech Network launch because his film crew were refused entry.
Leveson is expected to release his report this month, with many expecting him to recommend some form of statutory underpinning to press regulation.
Grant has emerged as one of the most high-profile press reform campaigners and is a director of the campaign group Hacked Off.
When he gave evidence to the inquiry last November, he claimed the paparazzi were being recruited from the criminal underworld and that one almost ran over the grandmother of his newborn baby.
He also made a series of allegations against Associated Newspapers.
And he admits these experiences did have a major influence on his decision to join the Hacked Off campaign, which calls for tougher press regulation.
“I think it did start with a personal thing but I’m not really ashamed of that because – not so much of what happened to me, it comes with the territory,” he said.
“But certainly if you’ve seen the children of girlfriends chased in cars down motorways, crying – even after you’ve asked the paparazzi to leave them alone, because they’re really nothing to do with the story.
“Or if you’re seeing your 82-yearold father with a heart condition brought downstairs over and over again even though you asked them not to.
“Or you’ve had your flat broken into sponsored by national British newspapers. You do have a natural instinct to be cross and to protect.
“So, yes, there is a personal element, but it’s a much bigger thing than that for me.
“I then became appalled by what had happened to our democracy, really.
“I like being proud of being British and I am horrified, I was embarrassed, to have emails and calls from all over the world during the Leveson Inquiry with people saying: ‘What the hell is going on over there? I thought you guys were civilised?’”
Grant told Press Gazette he has “hope” and “faith” that Leveson will protect “public interest journalism”.
“But I also hope he’ll have the courage to recommend that we should do something that we have not been able to carry through on for the last 40 years,” he added, “which is to make the newspaper trade obey a decent code of conduct instead of marking their own homework yet again.”
He does appreciate that Leveson can only recommend, and that the Government will have the final say.
He says: “I’d like them to react like statesmen and to see that, according to a recent You Gov poll, 78 per cent of the public would support independent regulation with statutory underpinning.
“And to support what victims certainly want. I’m not talking about celebrity victims – you can kick us around as much as you want – I’m talking about people like the Dowlers who, for instance, have already, as part of the Leveson Inquiry, rejected the so-called Hunt-Black plan, which is another helping of self-regulation.
“So I’m hoping he’ll see that and he’ll do what he thinks is right, what the victims think is right, and what the public thinks is right.
"And not what a largely-discredited section of the press think is right for their business model.”