Forcing newspapers under state control would be illegal, says Leveson adviser as it's revealed three warned him not to consider compulsory regulationShami Chakrabati says law forcing papers to sign up to regulator is illegalEx-Channel Four News political editor Elinor Goodman
and former Daily Telegraph political editor George Jones both said law was unnecessaryThe two advisors to Leveson believe editors will sign up voluntarily
10:28 GMT, 3 December 2012
Three of the six independent advisers to Lord Justice Leveson warned him not to consider compulsory state regulation of the Press, it emerged last night.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty, said she had serious concerns about the idea floated by the judge to force newspapers to sign up to a new regulator by law if they refused to do so voluntarily.
Miss Chakrabarti, one of six
independent ‘assessors’ advising Lord Justice Leveson on the inquiry,
warned that the proposal would be illegal under human rights laws.
Warnings: Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti say imposing statutory regulations of the media would be illegal
Last night it emerged that two other advisers had also urged against even considering the route of compulsory regulation.
A footnote to the 2,000-page report
reveals that former Channel Four News political editor Elinor Goodman
and former Daily Telegraph political editor George Jones both told the
judge it was unnecessary to consider compulsory state regulation of the
Press, as editors would sign up voluntarily to a tough new independent
Justice Leveson did not formally recommend compulsory regulation, but
suggested it should be considered if newspapers refused to sign up to
Chakrabarti said she accepted his main findings but warned the
nuclear option of compulsory regulation could breach the Human Rights
She told the Mail on Sunday: ‘A
compulsory statute to regulate media ethics in the way the report
suggests would violate the Act, and I cannot support it. It would mean
the Press was being coerced in being held to higher standards than
anyone else, and this would be unlawful.’
Unnecessary law: Two of Lord Justice Leveson's advisors – George Jones, far left, and Elinor Goodman, far right, said the press would sign up willingly, eliminating the need for a law
Not recommended: Lord Justice Leveson did not advise compulsory regulation, but suggested it should be considered if media outlets would not sign up on their own accord
In a separate interview with the BBC
Miss Chakrabarti said she did not want to go beyond the ‘carrots and
sticks’ proposed in the report that meant newspapers which signed up to a
new watchdog would be subject to lower penalties when they got things
wrong compared with those that did not.
bombshell, or the difference, is what do you do if people don’t join
the club or don’t set up a club Leveson doesn’t want compulsory
regulation of the Press, but he says if they don’t play ball,
politicians may have to consider it. That is where I get off the bus,’
Chancellor George Osborne said Miss
Chakrabarti ‘spoke very powerfully about the risks of legislation’ and
urged the Press to ‘get on’ with setting up a new watchdog. But shadow
culture secretary Harriet Harman claimed Miss Chakrabarti was ‘wrong’ to
suggest that compulsory regulation would be illegal.
Head to head: Labour's Harriet Harman wants
compulsory regulation of the press whilst Chancellor George Osborne supported Miss Chakrabarti and urged the
Press to set up its own independent regulator
In a footnote to his report, Lord Justice Leveson recorded: ‘Shami Chakrabarti advised against the contemplation of any element of compulsory backstop standards regulation of the press in the event of the inability or unwillingness of the press to implement the recommendations.
'She would prefer in that event to see a strengthening of the financial assistance available to those who feel their rights have been abused by the press in order to help them defend those rights in court.’
Lord Justice Leveson’s proposals would involve a major change in the law which would give the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom a legal duty to oversee the activity of a new ‘independent’ Press regulator.
Critics fear this could lead to state interference by the back door as Ofcom’s chairman is appointed by ministers and the watchdog has sweeping powers to revoke the licences of errant broadcasters.
In a statement last night, Liberty confirmed that it had concerns about the role proposed for Ofcom, adding: ‘Liberty would rather leave the question of whether the tests are met to the courts and not involve a quango which is ultimately appointed by politicians.’