Controversial plans which could see newspapers landed with opponents’
legal costs even if they win in court are an attempt to “blackmail” the
press into signing up to a “state-sponsored” regulator, Sun
editor-in-chief Tony Gallagher said.
Ministers are consulting on whether to implement the measure, which Gallagher said was “insane” and went against the principles of natural
- March 1, 2017
- February 24, 2017
- February 23, 2017
But phone-hacking victim and former Crimewatch presenter Jacqui Hames said the public wanted the press to be independently regulated and it would be a betrayal if the full package of reforms introduced after the
Leveson Inquiry was not brought into effect.
Hames has launched a legal challenge to the Government’s
consultation, which will look at whether to press ahead with
implementing Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.
This measure would see newspapers which are not signed up to an
officially-recognised regulator pay their own and the plaintiff’s legal
costs, even if they were successful in court.
The consultation, which ends on 10 January, is also examining whether to
go ahead with the second part of the Leveson Inquiry, which would look
at wrongdoing in the police and press.
Gallagher said yesterday that part two of Leveson would be
“essentially a sideshow” because the media landscape had changed so much since the original inquiry.
“The Government is perfectly at liberty to decide to have it, but I
think it would be a waste of time and money and effort,” he said.
On Section 40, Gallagher said: “Essentially it is an attempt to
blackmail newspapers into joining the government’s regulator, a
state-sponsored regulator, and no self-respecting newspaper worth its
salt wants to be part of a state-sponsored regulator because you are
then on the road to giving MPs power and the whip hand over the press.”
Warning of the impact if the costs provision was implemented, he said:
“A newspaper could report the conduct of a terrible MP, that MP could
then bring a case for libel against a newspaper. He or she could lose
that libel case and yet, because we are not members of the
state-sponsored regulator, we would then be liable for the MP’s costs.
“That offends all principles of natural justice. It’s insane.”
Regulator Impress has received formal approval from the Press
Recognition Panel, which was set up in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry.
It is funded partly by Max Mosley, the former motor racing boss, who was
a victim of a newspaper sting.
But most newspapers have signed up to rival regulator the Independent
Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), the press-funded body which did not
seek official recognition – and would therefore be faced with paying
plaintiffs’ costs under the Section 40 provisions.
Mosley told the Today programme today: “The whole point of section 40 is that it makes possible inexpensive arbitration between a newspaper and an individual.
“Section 40 only applies if [a publisher] doesn’t agree to go to independent arbitration. It is vastly cheaper than going to court. If a newspaper refuses to belong to a recognised regulator then, of course, if it is taken to court it will end out paying both sides. If a newspaper insists on the luxury of a high court hearing they pay both sides. If they go to inexpensive arbitration it costs nobody anything.”
Hames told the BBC Today programme yesterday that the second part of
the Leveson Inquiry was necessary because the original probe could not
examine criminal cases which were yet to come before the courts.
“There were any number of questions which are still waiting to be
asked,” the Hacked Off campaigner said.
She insisted that the Section 40 measures were one part of an overall
package of reforms which came out of the Leveson Inquiry and insisted
that any officially-recognised regulator would remain independent of
Dismissing the concerns of the press, she said: “They do not want to be
independently regulated – and independently is the key word.”
Independent regulation was what the public and victims of press abuse
wanted to see, she added.
If Section 40 was not implemented she said she would be “absolutely
appalled” and she would feel “betrayed” if it did not go ahead.