Impact statement

It would be easy for Lord Justice Leveson to overreact after such a long, emotional and expensive inquiry, but it would not be the right course says Harvey Kass

Harvey Kass
Harvey Kass

Spare a thought for Lady Lynne Leveson. One minute enjoying a low-profile life and the next married to arguably the most controversial person in the land, who is faced with a task the outcome of which will one way or another be pilloried and praised, depending on who she’s talking to.

And what if Lady L is a dedicated Daily Mail reader? Will a policy decision have been made to cancel the order? Will she be resorting to popping in to see a sympathetic neighbour for a quick read over coffee. There’s always MailOnline.

“We have to choose between what is right, and what is easy” to quote inquiry witness JK Rowling. There you are your lordship, problem solved.

For my part I hope that her ladyship and the Leveson offspring are passionate believers in high standards of journalism firmly outside the control of the legislature. For all we know the arguments that prevail may not be from politicians, newspaper editors and QCs, but over the breakfast table and Friday night dinner.

The stakes are very high. This should not be a party political issue. At its heart is the sacred right of every member of the public to be informed by a viable and opinionated press. Well regulated but regulated independently with sanctions that have teeth. Alongside this we need police that enforce the raft of criminal laws that fully cover most of what has gone wrong.

We have newspapers that are the envy of the world. Across the political spectrum they share the view that legislation is not the way forward.

I believe that the events of the last couple of years have led to a massive ethical and cultural change for the better and that rigorously enforced self regulation is the way forward. The press has moved from David Mellor’s ‘last-chance saloon’ to the last chance courtroom and potentially jail cells. Quite a difference.

The Leveson Inquiry has had a huge impact and it is my hope that his lordship does not allow our society to suffer by overreacting to some terrible and untypical breaches of the law and editorial ethics. The easy course would be to overreact, particularly after such a long, emotional and expensive inquiry, but in my view it would not be the right course. JK Rowling may disagree.

Harvey Kass is consultant at Finers Stephens Innocent and former legal director of Associated Newspapers