Cameron accused of betrayal over stance


Campaigners for tougher press regulation have accused British prime minister David Cameron of betrayal after he opposed the Leveson Inquiry’s recommendation that independent regulation should be underpinned by legislation.

Members of one of the most vocal groups demanding change, Hacked Off, said Lord Justice Leveson’s proposals were both reasonable and proportionate to ensure that the press was not able to “wreck” more lives in future.

‘Compelling evidence’

Barrister David Sherborne, who represented many of the victims of phone-hacking at the inquiry, said the new regulator should be set up sooner rather than later. “In the face of compelling and often disturbing evidence, which my clients gave to the inquiry about their experiences at the hands of the press over the years, the need for a strong and independent regulator is frankly unarguable.”

The lessons of poor regulation have been learned, he said. There should be a timetable for the press to set up a regulator, and if this is not done the House of Commons should “impose a statutory system upon them”.

“The judge had rightly condemned this outrageous conduct of the press in recent years,” Hacked Off said in a statement, read out by former Crimewatch presenter and police officer Jacqui Hames, who was a victim of phone hacking.She said the offer by the press to set up a regulator who could impose fines of up to £1 million through a system of civil law contracts did “not even come close” to the judge’s recommendations. “The crucial point is the importance he [Lord Justice Leveson] places on the complete independence of regulation from politicians and from the editors and proprietors, who run the wholly discredited Press Complaints Commission,” she said.

Tom Mockridge, chief executive of News International which owns the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times and owned the News of the World before it was closed in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, said: “We wholeheartedly agree that a new regulatory system is essential. As a company we are keen to play our full part, with others in our industry, in creating a new body that commands the confidence of the public.”

Heavy fines

The new system should be independent, have a standards code, a means to resolve disputes, the power to demand prominent apologies and ability to levy fines and “ensure British journalism is both responsible and robust,” he said.