Jack Straw to give evidence at press standards inquiry

Justice secretary Jack Straw is the latest figure to be called before a panel of MPs investigating press standards and the future of privacy and libel law.

Straw will give evidence to the cross-party culture, media and sport select committee, chaired by Tory MP John Whittingdale, next Tuesday.

In the past year, the Ministry of Justice has scrapped a controversial scheme to charge journalists for court lists, opened up family courts to the press and faced opposition from journalism campaign groups about plans to introduce “secret inquests”.

It is also responsible for Freedom of Information, the launch of a new online reporting restrictions database and the opening of the new supreme court, which is expected later this year.

Straw will be joined in parliament next week by Sir Anthony Clarke, the master of the rolls and head of civil justice, and Lord Justice Jackson, who was appointed last October to lead a review of the costs involved in civil legal proceedings, including the “no-win no-fee” system.

Journalists from across the industry have expressed concerns about the conditional fee agreement system used in some libel trials.

Although CFAs were intended to help ordinary people gain access to justice there is concern at their frequent use by wealthy celebrities.

Claimants pay nothing up front but lawyers taking cases on a no-win, no-fee basis can double their money if they win, leading to huge bills for the losing party.

The media select committee began its investigation into the legal issues facing the press earlier this year. It has so far heard from Max Mosley, Gerry McCann, Sir Christopher Meyer, media lawyers and editors including Colin Myler, Alan Rusbridger and Paul Dacre.

The panel of MPs is also carrying out a separate inquiry into the future of local journalism. The deadline for written submissions passed on Wednesday and a series of evidence-giving sessions in parliament is expected in the coming months.

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