Tears at bedtime

Many media companies are going to wish they’d treated the Leveson Inquiry with a sterilised barge pole, says Mark Stephens

Mark Stephens
Mark Stephens

On 6 July 2011, when David Cameron first announced the Leveson Inquiry, like most lawyers, I was inundated with requests for advice from media clients. I told all of them to steer well clear. It would, I predicted, all end in tears at bed time.

All my clients took that advice. Some have engaged with the parliamentary committee on libel reform – to good effect. Sadly, the more that our nation has become engaged in the soap opera that Leveson has become the more that the prediction appears to be coming true. Many media companies are going to wish they’d treated the inquiry with a sterilised barge pole.

As for non-traditional media, I did suggest to Index on Censorship that it had an important contribution to make to Leveson given the organisation’s independent comparative anti-censorship role.

While the media and celebrities battle it out, let’s not forget the police officers who are going to feel very uncomfortable when finally the extent of payments to policemen – often for tips to the media – is exposed in the section on relations between the police and the press.

Whatever recommendations Lord Justice Leveson, aided by his expert advisers, promulgates, I hope that there will be a public policy debate about the merits and not the ad hominem attacks that have begun to emanate from the opposing sides in the debate.

The media is in grave danger of consuming itself with a degree of introspection that puts it in grave danger of missing the important issues of principle that will undoubtedly arise from the recommendations.

Mark Stephens is a partner at Finers Stephens Innocent