Can Leveson provide a credible answer to press regulation or a realistic alternative to the court system?, asks Richard Hodge
Leveson LJ’s remit includes providing recommendations for effective regulation to support the integrity and freedom of the press, while encouraging the highest ethical standards. So what should we expect?
It is clear that the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has failed to protect victims from unjustified press intrusion – highlighted, most publicly – by the recent phone-hacking scandal.
With serious failings in the present structure, it seems almost inevitable that Leveson LJ will set out a far more rigorous system of press regulation. He has so far intimated that this is, indeed, his aim; but the priority must be to ensure privacy rights are protected in a real and effectual way.
To this end, we would expect proposals for a new regulator, with greater independence than the PCC, which has been criticised as being run by the press, for the press. Such a new body must also have power to enforce sanctions that protect privacy by deterring breaches in the first place. And, if privacy is violated, power to ensure appropriate redress is available to victims.
But will the report propose a realistic alternative to the court system? That remains to be seen. If a separate mode of redress is established, through which members of the public may submit their complaint to an independent regulator (perhaps compulsorily, before pursuing legal action), will justice be served?
Prime Minister David Cameron is said to be open minded about future regulation, yet he has previously indicated that he intends to implement Leveson LJ’s recommendations provided they are not “bonkers”.
Perhaps the Leveson Inquiry is a step in the right direction, but whether Leveson LJ’s report will provide a credible answer to press regulation we shall find out on Thursday.
Richard Hodge is a solicitor at Carter-Ruck