Evidence press 'ignored responsibilities'
Evidence given to the Leveson inquiry “demonstrated beyond any doubt” that there had been too many cases over the last decade and more where the press simply ignored its responsibilities.
"There have been too many times when, chasing the story, parts of the press have acted as if its own code, which it made, simply did not exist,” Lord Justice Leveson declared in his report, published today.
Rejecting charges made over the last 16 months, he said press freedom “hard won over 300 years” should not be jeopardised or that the press should be delivered into the arms of the state.
"I remain as I started, firmly of the belief that the British press - all of it - serves the country very well for the vast majority of the time," he wrote in the opening to a four-volume report.
However, the press must be properly regulated: "There is no organised profession, trade or industry in which the serious failings of the few are overlooked because of the good done by the many."
Despite complaints by the press that some Leveson witnesses want it to be smothered, Lord Justice Leveson said 'not a single witness' had ever said that the government should have power to stop publication of anything.
Hundreds of reaches of data protection legislation by newspapers unearthed by the Information Commissioner were never investigated subsequently by the newspapers found to have been involved, he found.
On phone-hacking, he said: "Without making findings against anyone individually, the evidence drives me to conclude that this was far more than a covert, secret activity known to nobody save one or two practitioners of the dark arts.
"Yet it was illegal. And after the prosecution in 2007 of News of the World journalist Clive Goodman and private detective Glenn Mulcaire there was no in-depth look to examine who had been paid for what," he wrote.
The phone-hacking would never have been discovered if Mulcaire had “been less assiduous with record-keeping” and it emerged only because of a complaint made by the Royal family.
Critical of press standards generally in the UK, Mr Justice Leveson said: "Although errors and inaccuracies will always follow in a fast-moving and healthy Press when the story is just too big and the public appetite too great, there has been significant and reckless disregard for accuracy."
Apologies and corrections have been too slowly offered: "A general defensive approach has led to some newspapers resorting to high volume, extremely personal attacks on those who challenge them: it is not enough simply to disagree."
People badly treated by the Press are often afraid of taking legal action “because they do not have the energy for the inevitable fight, or because they are unwilling to expose their friends and families to hurt.”
He acknowledged that the press must be persistent: "Unfortunately, the virtue of persistence has sometimes been pursued - whether by door-stepping, chase by photographers, persistent telephone calls and the like - to the point of vice, where it has become, (or at the very least, verges on) harassment."