Gerry McCann (pictured right, Reuters), the father of Madeleine McCann, has claimed “absolutely nothing” has changed in the newspaper industry since the Leveson Report was published nearly two years ago.
And McCann has also criticised the newspaper publishers’ new regulator, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, describing it as “sham”.
Last month, Press Gazette revealed that McCann, and his wife Kate, had won a libel settlement from The Sunday Times over a front page Insight story last year which claimed that they had withheld important information from police investigating the disappearance of their daughter.
Writing in The Guardian, McCann described the £55,000 payout – which was donated to charity – as “peanuts” for the paper. “[T]he fee for a single advertisement will probably cover it,” he wrote. “And there will be no consequences for anyone working there.
“Nothing will be done to ensure that in future reporters and editors try harder to get things right. And so the same people will do something similar, soon, to some other unfortunate family – who will probably not have our hard-earned experience of dealing with these things and who will probably never succeed in getting a correction or an apology.”
McCann, a supporter of press reform campaign group Hacked Off, claimed newspapers “treat the people they write about as if they don’t exist” and warned readers: “Next time it could be you.”
He said: “They hide behind talk about the rights of the press while they routinely trash the rights of ordinary people. They constantly claim to stand up to the powerful, but they are the ones with the power, and they use it ruthlessly.”
McCann said that his experience has shown that a “cheap, quick arbitration service so that ordinary people did not need to resort to the law” is a “vital reform”.
“Parliament backed Leveson’s plan,” he wrote. “The public backs it. So do we, and almost all the other victims who gave evidence to Leveson. Only one group of people is opposing this change – the perpetrators themselves, the same editors and newspaper owners who were responsible for all that cruelty. Instead of accepting the Leveson plan, these people, including the owner of the Sunday Times, have set up another sham regulator called Ipso, which is designed to do their bidding just like the old, disgraced Press Complaints Commission.
“If in another year’s time the press still rejects the royal charter – itself already a compromise – then it will be time for parliament to deliver on the promises the party leaders made, and ensure that what Leveson recommended is actually delivered. Otherwise elements of the press will go on treating people with total contempt.”