The purpose of this site is for information and a record of Gerry McCann's Blog Archives. As most people will appreciate GM deleted all past blogs from the official website. Hopefully this Archive will be helpful to anyone who is interested in Justice for Madeleine Beth McCann. Many Thanks, Pamalam

Note: This site does not belong to the McCanns. It belongs to Pamalam. If you wish to contact the McCanns directly, please use the contact/email details campaign@findmadeleine.com    

The Royal Charter - Draft Publication*

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Gerry McCann on his round of interviews, 15 March 2013 (photo from Clarence Mitchell - Twitter)
Gerry McCann on his round of interviews, 15 March 2013 (photo from Clarence Mitchell - Twitter)

 

The Prime Minister announces publication of the draft Royal Charter on press regulation and his intention to submit the charter to the Privy Council for Her Majesty's approval at its May meeting.

Brief background

12 March 2013: A day of talks over implementing the Leveson report on press reform, including a joint meeting between the Hacked Off campaign and the Labour and Liberal Democrat leaderships, fails to achieve a breakthrough.

15 March 2013: Following the collapse of cross-party talks, and ahead of the anticipated vote in the House of Commons on 18 March, Gerry McCann gives a round of interviews to the broadcast media in support of the Labour and Liberal Democrat proposals (included here are transcripts for BBC Radio 4 PM, Sky News, BBC News, ITN (brief clip) and Radio 5 Live).

18 March 2013: With the Prime Minister facing defeat in that night's vote, a deal is struck in the early hours of the morning in Labour leader Ed Miliband's office in the Commons. Four representatives of Hacked Off are present, but none from the media industry.

Talks on implementing Leveson report fail to achieve breakthrough, 12 March 2013
Talks on implementing Leveson report fail to achieve breakthrough The Guardian

Despite a joint meeting between the Hacked Off campaign and the Labour and Lib Dem leaderships, deal yet to be reached

Patrick Wintour
Tuesday 12 March 2013 20.27 GMT

The Leveson inquiry hears from Gerry and Kate McCann, now being represented with other victims of press intrusion by the Hacked Off campaign.

A day of talks over implementing the Leveson report on press reform, including a joint meeting between the Hacked Off campaign and the Labour and Liberal Democrat leaderships, failed to achieve a breakthrough on Tuesday.

Hacked Off, which represents victims of press intrusion such as Kate and Gerry McCann, met with Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband to see if fresh proposals from the Conservatives took the complex negotiations to a conclusion that could satisfy all those involved.

There had been hopes that all three leaders, Clegg, Miliband and David Cameron, would meet to seal a deal on Tuesday evening, but in the end too many disagreements remained for them to come together.

A Hacked Off source said they were "still far apart on vital issues", including whether the press would be able to write its own code of practice, and whether the industry would be able to veto appointments to a revamped Press Complaints Commission. However, the PM's spokesman said progress was being made.

Talks on Monday night between Oliver Letwin, Cameron's policy fixer, the culture secretary, Maria Miller, Labour's shadow culture secretary, Harriet Harman, and Lord Wallace for the Liberal Democrats, led to fresh proposals on how a body enshrined in a royal charter to oversee the work of the PCC would be implemented.

Various ideas have been advanced to make the royal charter permanent, including the suggestion that a law could be introduced that does not refer to the oversight body specifically but says that any royal charter that a future government wants to change cannot be amended by the privy council alone.

"This would not be sector-specific," the source said, but would be a statute about royal charters. The idea has been advanced by the barrister Hugh Tomlinson, one of the lawyers informally advising Hacked Off and an expert on press regulation.

The Conservatives had previously proposed a royal charter as a way of ensuring a permanent body is set up to oversee and verify the new press regulatory body proposed by Leveson. Cameron had resisted Leveson's recommendation that a revamped PCC should be underpinned by a law.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have been concerned the royal charter and the verifying body could be abolished in the future at the whim of a minister, unless they are backed by statute. There has also been disagreement over the extent to which the regulatory body should be chaired by an independent figure not employed by the press.

Cameron is caught between a need to satisfy a divided press industry and a desire to stick to his commitment to implement the principles behind the Leveson report.

The sticking points on Friday were that Conservatives were siding with newspapers such as the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, who wanted a veto over appointments to the new body, control over the code of practice, and restrictions on third-party complaints.

PM 'missing historic opportunity', 15 March 2013
 
PM 'missing historic opportunity' Daily Express

Published: Fri, March 15, 2013

A "historic opportunity" for press reform could be "squandered" following the end of cross-party talks into regulation, the father of missing Madeleine McCann said.

Madeleine McCann's father, Gerry McCann, has warned a 'historic opportunity' for press reform could be 'squandered'

Madeleine McCann's father, Gerry McCann, has warned a 'historic opportunity' for press reform could be 'squandered'

Gerry McCann said David Cameron was faced with a "binary choice" between newspaper barons or the victims of press intrusion.

His comments come after the Prime Minister yesterday pulled the plug on efforts to reach a cross-party consensus, announcing he will bring the matter to a head by forcing a vote in the House of Commons on Monday.

The dramatic move prompted campaigners to accuse Mr Cameron of a "shameless betrayal of victims of press abuse".

Mr McCann and his wife Kate, whose daughter went missing when the family was on holiday in Portugal in 2007, gave moving evidence during the Leveson Inquiry about their experience at the hands of the media, where Mr McCann described how his wife felt "mentally raped" by the News of the World's publication of her intensely-personal diary.

The coverage of the disappearance of Madeleine was given by Lord Justice Leveson as an example of how stories ran "totally out of control".

In the wake of the dramatic end to cross-party talks, Mr McCann told the Press Association: "What concerns me greatly is that an historic opportunity for press reform may be about to be squandered. Lord Justice Leveson's proposals were measured and modest. They didn't go far enough in my view. But I and other victims of gross press misconduct were prepared to regard them as the minimum acceptable compromise.

"We gave evidence to the inquiry so that some lasting good might come out of a horrendous experience. We want our politicians to protect us, to stand up for the ordinary victims instead of siding with the wealthy and powerful. On Monday, it comes down to a binary choice: the newspaper barons or the people they abused in search of profit. Leveson or more of the same. It is as simple as that."

When the Leveson report was published in November, Mr McCann said if its recommendations on press regulation were not implemented, giving evidence to the inquiry would have been "almost useless".

He urged politicians to "do the right thing" and accept in full the suggestions for a new regulatory system, while his wife said she hoped it would mark the start of a new era for the press, urging Mr Cameron to "embrace the report and act swiftly".

Should the British press be regulated [by] statutory law?, 15 March 2013
Should the British press be regulated statutory law? The Independent

Friday 15 March 2013

Gerry McCann and Andreas Whittam Smith debate

Newspaper stand

YES: Gerry McCann

What concerns me greatly is that a historic opportunity for press reform may be about to be squandered.

Lord Justice Leveson's proposals were measured and modest. They didn't go far enough in my view. But I and other victims of gross press misconduct were prepared to regard them as the minimum acceptable compromise.

We gave evidence to the inquiry so that some lasting good might come out of a horrendous experience.

We want our politicians to stand up for the ordinary victims instead of siding with the wealthy and powerful.

On Monday, it comes down to a binary choice: the newspaper barons or the people they abused in search of profit. Leveson or more of the same. It is as simple as that.

NO: Andreas Whittam Smith

In his righteous anger, Gerry McCann, the father of the missing Madeleine, misrepresents what is now at stake in Monday's debate on press regulation in the House of Commons. Mr. McCann says: "On Monday, it comes down to a binary choice: the newspaper barons or the people they abused in search of profit. Leveson or more of the same. It is as simple as that."

This is simplistic, I am afraid. In fact the debate has moved well beyond Mr. McCann's formulation. The choice is now between three models of press regulation.

The first makes no place for legislation that bears on the press alone. The press should be subject to the laws of the land like everybody else – as it is – and should build onto this a tough system of self-regulation. Likewise the second model introduces no special press legislation but instead proposes a Royal Charter that would underpin self-regulation. This is the solution that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, favours. The third model, apparently well regarded by Labour and Lib Dems, would introduce some specific press laws.

But whichever of these models receives approval in Monday's debate, the press finds itself in a significantly different place from where it was when the McCanns were so sorely mistreated by popular newspapers. Dozens of journalists are now facing trial for corrupt practices. This dreadful warning will not be ignored for many years to come. In addition, the new self-regulation body will be infinitely tougher than its predecessors. And as for the proprietors of the popular press, they don't smell of roses, do they? Their rehabilitation in public esteem will also take a long time.

Another media round with Gerry McCann, 15 March 2013
Another media round with Gerry McCann Twitter

 
Clarence Mitchell: Another media round with Gerry McCann, 15 March 2013

1:38 PM - 15 Mar 13

Clarence Mitchell @mitch_1uk
Another media round with Gerry McCann on Leveson ahead of House vote on Mon. BBC News, PM R4, ITN, Sky + R5L #leveson pic.twitter.com/5Jy3317QdS

Gerry McCann: ITN, 15 March 2013
 
Gerry McCann: ITN (source)

 
Gerry McCann speaks to ITN, 15 March 2013

15 March 2013

Transcript

By Nigel Moore

Gerry McCann: [If we don't get full] implementation of Leveson I'll be extremely disappointed and I think more people will suffer, ordinary people will suffer, at the hands of the press unless we have a tough regulatiooo... regulatory system put in place.

------------------

Note: This brief clip appears to have been inserted into a general news item on press regulation. Unable to find any evidence of a fuller interview being broadcast by ITN.

Gerry McCann: BBC Radio 4 PM, 15 March 2013
Gerry McCann: BBC Radio 4 PM

Carolyn Quinn
Carolyn Quinn

First broadcast: Friday 15 March 2013 [audio only available for one week after broadcast]

Transcript

By Nigel Moore

Carolyn Quinn: Well, the Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Maria Miller, has suggested that Labour and the Liberal Democrat plans to enshrine regulation of newspapers in legislation would open the door to state licensing of the press. She's urged MP's of all parties to vote on Monday in support of David Cameron's proposals, which would use incentives to encourage papers to sign up for a new self-regulation system, rather than compelling them to do so by law. She rejected the suggestion that victims of phone hacking were being let down by the Conservatives and that David Cameron's proposals amounted to a watered down system.

Maria Miller: It's really important that we don't go down the path to state licensing of the press, where we have to have compulsion - and that's not the approach that Leveson wanted anybody to take. He clearly wanted it to be a system of incentives; those are the amendments that we're tabling for Monday for debate, to put in place those incentives so that there's a clear need and... errr... for major press organisations to be part of this new self-regulatory body.

Carolyn Quinn: But hers is a view countered by Gerry McCann, and his wife, who were victims of press intrusion and have been campaigning for more controls over the press. I asked him what his advice would be to MP's ahead of that vote on Monday.

Gerry McCann: Well, my advice is very clear. I think they have to vote with their conscience here, errr... we know why the Leveson Inquiry, errr... was brought into being and his recommendations are crystal clear that, errr... ordinary people need protected, errr... from the abuses of the press and we want, errr... Leveson's recommendations implemented in full.

Carolyn Quinn: Mr Cameron believes that his version of the Royal Charter will protect press freedom but at the same time offer rapid redress to victims of inaccurate and intrusive reporting. He says that pressing ahead with his plan would mean that you have got press regulation on the go pretty quickly.

Gerry McCann: I don't see why it shouldn't be in full though. I think, errr... the Conservative plans are watered down, I think they've been influenced by the press, errm... and not in a transparent way and I totally disagree with the fact that we can't have this under, errr... written by statute. I think it's rather archaic that we're talking about a Royal Charter and having influence from a Privy Council, which I believe could then change it in the future.

Carolyn Quinn: The Royal Charter idea, of course, is backed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats but they want it underwritten by law, don't they?

Gerry McCann: Yes, well, the underwriting clearly has to be robust. I think that's the difference. We need a mechanism by which it can't be changed on a whim in the future by a government that has a majority and may be influenced by external... influences.

Carolyn Quinn: That's Gerry McCann. Time now 12 minutes past 5.

McCann Unhappy With Press Plans, 15 March 2013
McCann Unhappy With Press Plans Sky News (video)

 
Jayne Secker interviews Gerry McCann

 

15 March 2013

Gerry McCann, the father of missing Madeleine McCann, tells Sky News he is very disappointed that cross-party talks on press reform broke down.

-------------

Transcript

By Nigel Moore

Gerry McCann: Well, I think it's disappointing, first of all, that the cross-party talks have broken down. You would have hoped that, errr... all of our politicians would have been able to get Leveson implemented, errm... and what I've heard today, errr... obviously not had the full briefing, we would have to urge all MP's to vote for the proposal being put forward by Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Jayne Secker: Have you met David Cameron since the Leveson Report was published? We know that, of course, he's met many newspaper editors over the last, errr... few months.

Gerry McCann: Personally, I haven't met any of the leaders of the... the main parties, errr... since all of this began, that's primarily for... because of work commitments.

Jayne Secker: But do you think that they should have met members of the Hacked... the Hacked Off campaign group that you, of course, are supported by? Do you think that there should have been more dialogue between people like you - the victims of the press that spoke to the Leveson Inquiry - compared to the number of meetings that have been held with editors?

Gerry McCann: I don't actually think that's really, errr... the issue. I think, errr... Hacked Off have been campaigning; have met with, errr... Oliver Letwin on numerous occasions and ultimately what we have got is a sop, errm... being proposed that really favours, errr... the press and not enough protection for the victims, in my opinion, and really Leveson was absolutely clear in his report that he felt it was essential that, errr... the regulator was underpinned in statute.

Jayne Secker: The press, of course, have argued that any such regulation is fundamentally wrong in principle; unworkable in practice, they say. They also say that the industry is ready to move on with speed with its own kind of self regulation. Do you have any confidence that the press is able to regulate itself in a way that does protect victims?

Gerry McCann: No. And I think we've heard it all before. Errr... we need, errr... we need an independent body who really do make sure that, errr... there is protection and it's simply not good enough, errr... that we get apologies which are not prominent, we need deterrents, and that is another key aspect and, of course, we do need speedy resolution to complaints.

Jayne Secker: Of course, David Cameron's argument is that anything more than what he's suggesting will restrict the independence of the press and he argues that his proposal gives quicker redress from victims. Does that not in any way give you confidence in his proposals?

Gerry McCann: I wouldn't agree. I don't understand, errr... why it shouldn't be underwritten and we're also very, very concerned that the proposals have been heavily influenced by the press. They had their opportunity to give their views to Lord Leveson during the Inquiry. He carefully considered them and he's came up with very moderated, errr... recommendations.

-----------------

Jayne Secker Sky 
Twitter

 
Jayne Secker Sky Twitter

15 March 2013

JayneSeckerSky @JayneSeckerSky
Coming up at 5 on Sky News. I'll be talking to Gerry McCann about Leveson, plus Eric Joyce bar barring, HS2, Philpott trial, Syria & Samsung
9:36 AM - 15 Mar 13

JayneSeckerSky @JayneSeckerSky
Gerry McCann tells Sky News he hopes MP's will vote for the LibDem/Lab press regulation proposal on Mon. Lobbying will continue over w/end.
10:37 AM - 15 Mar 13

JayneSeckerSky @JayneSeckerSky
Gerry McCann tells Sky News it was still worthwhile taking part in Leveson Inquiry despite the fact his propsals have not been implemented.
10:39 AM - 15 Mar 13

Retweet:

Harriet Harman @HarrietHarman
Gerry McCann @Skynews makes powerful case for protecting press abuse victims, implementing Leveson and backing Labour/Libdem Royal Charter
Retweeted by JayneSeckerSky

Gerry McCann backs Miliband and Clegg press plan, 15 March 2013
Gerry McCann backs Miliband and Clegg press plan BBC News (video)

 
Martine Croxall interviews Gerry McCann

15 March 2013 Last updated at 17:21

Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg have joined forces to push for a law on press regulation, and published their proposals on press reform.

The leaders of Labour and the Liberal Democrats want to implement the Leveson report's recommendation for a press watchdog backed by legislation.

David Cameron thinks that would harm press freedom and it is not included in his draft royal charter.

MPs will decide which version they prefer on Monday.

Gerry McCann, the father of missing toddler Madeleine told the BBC he agreed with the joint Labour and Lib Dem proposal.

----------------

Transcript

By Nigel Moore

Gerry McCann: Lord Justice Leveson was absolutely clear in this, that he said that statutory underpinning was essential not desirable and, errr.... up until the announcement I'd never really heard of a Royal Charter and it seems something of an archaic system to underwrite something so important and I would much, much prefer that this was, errr... put properly, errr... into the statute.

Martine Croxall: According to the... the changes that the conservatives are making to their proposals though, errr... the arbitration process would become free for anyone who wanted to complain, not just inexpensive. That.... that surely that would appeal to you?

Gerry McCann: Sure, there's no doubt about that, that the system has to be accessible, errm... to everyone who may be, errr... a victim of abuse but I think what's really important is that the new body that comes into force has to be a deterrent, errr... as you know, with our own situation, apologies and anything else don't correct the harm that's done, so we need something that really does have teeth and that the press should think very carefully before they put profit ahead of, errr... creating misery for people, errm...

Martine Croxall: So... so do you... do you think that the bite then would... would be exemplary damages which would, errm... really affect the bottom line for these newspapers?

Gerry McCann: Sure, I think exemplary damages would only be used in very, errr... rare cases, perhaps in our own situation, so that's only going to affect a tiny minority of those who suffer at the hands of the press but there are many more less... perhaps less serious or less sustained examples where people's lives are really, errr... brought, errr... to... [visibly struggles to find words] reeked havoc with, to be addressed and I think we do need a system that is quick and fair and has the ability to impose real penalties.

Martine Croxall: As you watch the politicians from various parties, errr... negotiating, or not negotiating, over this, what's your view?

Gerry McCann: Well, I've only just heard Mr Miliband's clip and I have to say I agree with everything that he said, errr... I think it's been disingenuous, some of the rhetoric that's been coming from the Conservative Party over the last 24 hours, particularly in relation to the aspect of freedom of speech. You know, what... let's be absolutely clear about this. Lord Leveson says that for the first time if his principles were put into place that freedom of speech would be underpinned for the press, errr... so, really what Mr Miliband says today, I actually completely concur with.

Martine Croxall: So if you were to be voting for this, errr... whichever draft, errr... gets put in front of MP's, errr... on Monday, where... who would you vote for... which would you vote for?

Gerry McCann: Well, I think it's very clear that our politicians examine their conscience here. One of the problems has been that they've been too close to the press over many, many years and they do really need to vote to protect ordinary people, and of what I've heard it's very clear that they should be voting for, errr... the proposal from the Labour and Liberal Democrats.

Gerry McCann: BBC Radio 5 Live, 15 March 2013
 
Gerry McCann: BBC Radio 5 Live

Anna Foster and Peter Allen with the day's news and sport

First broadcast: Friday 15 March 2013 17:43 [audio only available for one week after broadcast]

Transcript

By Nigel Moore

Anna Foster: We can speak to Gerry McCann, the father of Madeleine McCann, who's campaigned for Lord Justice Leveson's proposals for press regulation to be implemented in full. Good evening.

Gerry McCann: Good evening.

Anna Foster: Before we get to the.. the details, I'm... I'm interested to know your thoughts or... whether or not you anticipated it being a... a political battle like this, once Lord Justice Leveson had released his reports.

Gerry McCann: It's maybe not surprising given the history involved but it is certainly disappointing that, errr... the politicians couldn't come to a simple agreement to implement, errr... Lord Leveson's In... recommendations in full.

Anna Foster: Mmm... And tell us which of these plans it is that you're hoping to see implemented.

Gerry McCann: Well, certainly on what I've heard today, I would have to strongly back what the Labour and Liberal Democrats are, errr... proposing and I think it... as Lord Leveson says, it's essential that... errr... the regulation body is, errr... written into statute.

Anna Foster: Why is that so important for you?

Gerry McCann: Well, I think, as you know, my own views were that I would have actually like to have seen Lord Leveson's recommendations going further. So, if a Senior Law Lord of the land says it's essential that it's underpinned in statute, then I'll have to bow to his knowledge but I'm certainly concerned that if it isn't then there is the possibility of significant ev... erosion, errm... in the, errr... protection given to victims, or potential victims of the press.

Anna Foster: Mmm... And what do you make of the counter argument about the... about having a free press and how important that is?

Gerry McCann: Well, let's be absolutely clear about this. Leveson said that for the first time, errr... press freedom would be enshrined in his recommendations, so I think the rhetoric that's been coming from the Conservative Party in, errr... the last 24 hours is a smokescreen.

Anna Foster: You're in... in quite a unique position really, aren't you? Because you've seen the very worst of the press but then you've also seen the very best of the press as well...

Gerry McCann: [in background] Yeah.

Anna Foster: ...in helping to get your story out there and... and raise awareness. So you've... you've really seen all facets.

Gerry McCann: I think you... that is something that is sometimes lost. What, errr... we are not, errr... campaigning for is, errr... journalists to be hamstrung or have their hands tied behin... tied behind their back. We really do, errr... want to see the excellent journalism, investigative journalism, cover of stories, errr... carry on and good journalists, good, errr... media organisations and outlets don't have anything to fear from these proposals.

Anna Foster: When you listen to the... to the different arguments at this stage now - Lord Justice Leveson's said what he has to say - and you listen to the newspapers, and you listen to the different political parties, do you have any particular trust in what any of them say, or... or do you feel more like you're finding your own way?

Gerry McCann: Well, I've not given up hope; that's the first thing but I think we should be clear that, errr... the media were all well represented during the Leveson Inquiry. They had their opportunity to present their evidence and Lord Leveson has come up with his recommendations. I think it is very disappointing that the victims of the press, like myself and others, have had to come forward over and over again to say Leveson is the minimal acceptable compromise. Errm... Clearly what we need is a very robust system that protects ordinary, innocent people from the abus... the worst excesses of the press and we need a deterrent to the press, not simply a rapid apology. That, errr... goes some way, but it's not enough.

Anna Foster: Do you still feel included in the process, at this stage, or... or do you think it's turned into a discussion between different political parties, between government and... and the media? Do you feel like... like... like victims, like your voice is still being heard or do you feel like you've almost been slightly sidelined now?

Gerry McCann: Well, I'm very grateful for the opportunity to speak on national radio... radio so that our voices are heard and I still believe that the vast majority, or at least the majority of MP's, will vote with their conscience. They know what the right thing to do is and they've got an opportunity to do it, and to re... redeem themselves, partially, in the eyes of the public here.

Anna Foster: Thank you. That's Gerry McCann...

Gerry McCann: Thank you.

Anna Foster: ...the father of, errr... Madeleine McCann.

The Press is the last bastion of free thinking that the Left has not managed to conquer. Until now..., 18 March 2013
The Press is the last bastion of free thinking that the Left has not managed to conquer. Until now... Daily Mail

By MELANIE PHILLIPS
PUBLISHED: 00:04, 18 March 2013 | UPDATED: 00:04, 18 March 2013

There must surely be many who are mystified by the Prime Minister's pistols-at-dawn challenge to Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband today over the issue of Press freedom.

Last week, David Cameron shocked his colleagues by abruptly ending cross-party negotiations over the implementation of the Leveson proposals for Press regulation.

The sticking point was whether the Royal Charter for such regulation — itself a watered-down compromise on Leveson — should be enshrined in statute or not. Mr Cameron declared that doing so would threaten Press freedom, and so he could not support it.

Doubtless, the great British public is quite baffled by the fuss. Why, many must be thinking, is statutory regulation being made into such a big deal when the newspapers have so often behaved so badly?

To which one can only say — admittedly, as a member of the Press — that this is a very big deal indeed. For Press freedom is the one that guarantees all the rest.

Without it, the corrupt, the criminal and the compromised can get clean away with wrongdoing — and thus uninvigilated, the institutions of a free society would turn rotten and disintegrate.

Yet this crucial freedom is about to be thrown away.

Contempt

For sure, phone hacking was entirely wrong — but this is now (belatedly) being dealt with by dozens of arrests and prosecutions. Other possible Press wrongs, such as breach of privacy, harassment, data theft and so on, are also covered by existing laws.

What is now being proposed, however, takes us onto a quite different plane. For more than half a century, as Professor Tim Luckhurst has informed us in his fine pamphlet Responsibility Without Power: Lord Justice Leveson's Constitutional Dilemma, Parliament has consistently upheld the view that independence from the state is essential to a free Press.

Now the unholy alliance of Labour, the Lib Dems and the unelected campaigners of Hacked Off seek to bring that independence to an end. But as Professor Luckhurst observes, if the Government holds journalism to account, then who will hold the Government to account?

The real agenda of these campaigners is not their specious aim of 'accountability'.

It is rather, as Professor Luckhurst writes, a toxic mix of their desire to control the Press; their elitist contempt for popular newspapers on the grounds that these are fundamentally so trivial that people shouldn't read them; and, most lethal of all, their certainty that there is an unbridgeable chasm between the public interest and what the public is interested in.

To which one might add that they alone claim the power to determine the former, while aiming to suppress the latter altogether.

The Press is caught between the Devil and the deep blue sea. For even if this compromise Royal Charter is not enshrined in statute, what is being proposed will still tie the Press up in knots. And this will sound the death knell for a free society.

Because the essence of a free Press is the ability to publish what someone who has something to hide does not want you to know. And the downside of regulating against Press abuses of innocent folk is that this inescapably hands an armoury of weapons to those who want to prevent the Press from exposing wrongdoing.

The brutal fact is that the more the Press is made accountable to an outside regulator — as opposed to its readers, who can always stop buying papers of which they disapprove — the more freedom dies.

This may be inconvenient, indigestible or intolerable to some, but it is true.

The Press exists to invigilate abuses of power, wherever they are found. And now its ability to discharge that vital duty is being threatened by just such an abuse of power — by the campaigners of Hacked Off.

They claim that statutory regulation is necessary to protect the victims of the Press. But who other than the Press will protect society from the hate-filled humbug and hypocrisy of Hacked Off?

For these people demand full transparency of connections between the Press and politicians — and yet refuse to give details of their own funding or contacts with MPs.

Sabotage

And now, a document leaked at the weekend has revealed how they have secretly targeted Tory MPs 'who want to bring David Cameron down' to get them to sabotage the Prime Minister's intention to block statutory Press regulation.

Their aim, states the document, is to create division by reaching out to these Tory malcontents — who, it says contemptuously, are likely to be people they 'intuitively dislike, distrust and despair of', but who are nevertheless to be used to procure Parliamentary victory.

It also turns out that Hacked Off has been advised by BBM, a lobbyist firm set up by two of Tony Blair's former campaign chiefs.

This strategy document was leaked by a Hacked Off whistleblower who was shocked by their underhand, cynical and manipulative approach. Yet these are the holier-than-thou campaigners who claim to be opposed to secret, underhand deals between politicians and the media! And the humbug-in-chief is surely their front-man, Hugh Grant, whose impassioned tirades against Press errors, rumour-mongering and lies should surely be immortalised on Hollywood celluloid.

Yet after the Prime Minister abandoned cross-party talks, Mr Grant tweeted: 'Rumour in Westminster that editor of Times instructed Cameron to call off talks. And our PM did as he was told. Murdoch rules. Still.'

This was immediately denied in the strongest terms by Downing Street. So who will legislate against Mr Grant for spreading defamatory and malicious rumours he didn't bother even to check?

But then, as he has told us, he is in fact doing 'the will of the people' by levering Press regulation onto the statute book.

Hijacked

Well, last time I looked, the will of the people was expressed through the politicians it elected, not some actor with a Mussolini complex.

It is this most anti-democratic attitude that is now holding the Government's legislative programme to ransom, with Bill after Bill being hijacked by attempts to smuggle Leveson regulation into statute.

Such madness is a kind of legislative terrorism, and bespeaks a total breakdown of both order and proportion in the political class. And if this succeeds, the consequences will be dire.

For hundreds of years, no other country's Press has been more anarchic, muck-raking, scandalous, scabrous and disreputable. No other society has been more free than Britain. The two are intimately connected.

In recent decades, however, this priceless liberty has been progressively eroded by the onslaught from the Left aiming to transform Britain and destroy its characteristics as a nation.

Its powers of self-government have been crippled by the EU. Its unique concept of liberty has been shrunk by European human rights law which makes freedom conditional on what judges say is to be permitted.

The constitution has been dismembered, the House of Lords emasculated. Left-wing ideologues have all but destroyed the education system and the family unit, squashed dissent in the universities and become dominant in the law, medicine and other professions.

And through the BBC, that state-licensed media behemoth dominating public debate with its Guardian 'group think' on every issue under the sun, they have managed to shunt the very centre of political gravity onto their own ground.

The Press is, in fact, the last remaining bastion of free thinking that the Left has not managed to conquer. Until now.

Tamed, regulated, conformist newspapers produce tamed, regulated, conformist societies. If MPs vote to bring that about today, it will be to their undying shame — and it will be the nation’s tragedy.

KAVANAGH: Hugh hysteria puts our freedom at risk, 18 March 2013
KAVANAGH: Hugh hysteria puts our freedom at risk The Sun

By TREVOR KAVANAGH, Sun Columnist
Published: 18 March 2013

THE weapon of first, second and last choice for those who have colonised the moral high ground over press freedom is "The Victims".

The Hacked Off response to all doubts and questions is: "What about The Victims?"

Their raw emotional anguish is the clinching argument for the first major new Press laws since newspapers were licensed in 1695.

Anyone suggesting other issues are important — such as freedom of speech and democratic accountability — is denounced for trampling roughshod over their feelings.

The anger of The Victims is genuine — and it has been vindicated.

But it should no more dictate Government policy than the emotional call to bring back hanging.

Christopher Jefferies, the wholly innocent ex-schoolmaster, has won damages from eight national newspapers including The Sun after being wrongly identified as a murder suspect.

Kate and Gerry McCann, supported by The Sun since the day their daughter Madeleine disappeared, are rightly appalled by grotesque misreporting. It is impossible to dismiss the case they make for reform of the newspaper industry — one the industry itself has entirely conceded.

The Victims have won a remarkable victory. Britain will soon have the world's most heavily regulated newspapers.

But justice is not enough for Hacked Off, a secretive, Left-dominated campaign group led by charismatic actor Hugh Grant. They demand vengeance.

Hacked Off ruthlessly deploy The Victims as emotional stormtroopers. There is nothing the media is able to offer, short of total surrender to political control, that will pass the so-called "Dowler Test".

Nobody watching the Leveson inquiry will forget Sally Dowler's account of the moment her hopes were raised when told her teenage daughter Milly's voicemails had been deleted.

The possibility was that Milly herself had deleted them and was, therefore, alive.

At the time, remember, the schoolgirl was only "missing". Nobody — including the News of the World — knew she had become a murder victim.

But who would not sympathise with distraught parents of a girl whose killer remained at large — and be appalled at hacking journalists for impeding his arrest?

Nobody. Except that the story was not true. The newspaper certainly broke the law by LISTENING to her messages — but it did NOT delete them.

This was known within weeks of the allegation being splashed across page one of the Guardian. But it was barely mentioned by media rivals.

The view was that the News of the World, a troublesome newspaper to the rich and powerful, had it coming.

It is only now, as the full implications of a looming Press law become clear, that the error is being mentioned loud and clear.

The Daily Mail condemns the "cynical way the Dowler family have been exploited" by Hacked Off.

The paper adds: "Ruthlessly they promoted the allegation that News of the World journalists cruelly deleted Milly Dowler's voicemails.

"This was first published in the Guardian, was instantly seized upon by Hacked Off and was the trigger for the Leveson inquiry.

"It was later established the messages were routinely deleted by the phone company — but why let this fact get in the way of demonising News International?"

Ironically, it was Leveson himself who publicly acknowledged the News of the World was free of blame for the deleted messages and placed the cause where it belonged.

So the police inquiry was NEVER impeded, as suggested by the Guardian, a sanctimonious paper which, by the way, dislikes being reminded of its own grubby record of using private detectives to probe the bank records of a wholly innocent victim.

After weeks of intense pressure, the Guardian grudgingly published a correction — on page 32.

By that time the News of the World was closed and a large sum of money had been paid to a charity of the Dowlers' choice and a larger sum to Milly's parents.

None of this will appease the zealots whose ugly hysteria now threatens a centuries-old free Press.

There are plenty of laws protecting the public from an intrusive media.

The industry is tightening them still further with cheap and swift access to independent regulators who can rapidly deal with evidence of abuse.

Yet none of this will satisfy politicians with an axe to grind.

They may not wield it immediately. But love it or hate it, the voice of a truly free Press is a hard-won and much resented safeguard for the public against the powerful.

Once politicians seize control of that voice, whatever their promises and assurances, there is nothing to stop them gagging it altogether.

18 March 2013, 02:30am: A deal is struck ahead of the anticipated vote

Leveson: sustained by Kit Kats, how the parties – and Hacked Off – swallowed their differences and the Sunday night deal was done, 18 March 2013
Leveson: sustained by Kit Kats, how the parties – and Hacked Off – swallowed their differences and the Sunday night deal was done The Independent

ANDREW GRICE | POLITICAL EDITOR | MONDAY 18 MARCH 2013

Oliver Letwin

Oliver Letwin was heavily outnumbered when he entered Ed Miliband's Westminster office at around 10pm on Sunday night. The Conservatives' policy chief, wearing garish mustard-coloured corduroy trousers and a sky blue shirt, looked rather crestfallen to be greeted by such a crowd.

The Cabinet Office minister had been scrambled to the Commons at this unusual hour to seal a deal on how newspapers should be regulated, almost four months after the Leveson inquiry reported. Already in the room were Mr Miliband; Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister; Harriet Harman, Labour's deputy leader; Lord Falconer, Labour's former Lord Chancellor and Rosie Winterton, Labour's chief whip. Also round the table, to Mr Letwin's apparent surprise, were no fewer than four members of the Hacked Off pressure group which has campaigned for a free and accountable press since the phone hacking scandal — Hugh Tomlinson; Brian Cathcart; and Evan Harris. Aides of Mr Miliband, Ms Harman and Mr Clegg were also present.

Mr Letwin was offered a sanctuary so he could consult David Cameron by telephone – the use of the waiting room across the corridor used by visitors to the Labour leader's office. He did have some company – half a dozen civil servants, who provided factual rather than political advice. The absence of Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, raised Labour eyebrows. Cameron aides denied reports he was asleep while the deal was done, saying he received his final text message from Mr Letwin at 3.20am and by 6am today was in a conference call with advisers on the Leveson issue.

Four and a half hours after the talks began, at 2.30am today, an agreement was reached among the three political parties and which Hacked Off could also support. Mr Letwin and the civil servants were fortified by a takeaway pepperoni pizza while Miliband’s team relied on coffee, tea, Kit Kat and chocolate digestive biscuits. "People were scattered in different rooms; it was like a bad party," said one participant.

Unusually, it was Mr Miliband who in effect chaired the talks. Mr Letwin sat next to him when he arrived. Also on their side of the table were Mr Clegg, Ms Harman and Lord Falconer. The four Hacked Off representatives sat opposite. The mood was amicable, as a deal was in sight. Mr Miliband announced at one point: "I have a piece of good news. Hugh Grant [the actor and Hacked Off campaigner] has left the country. He is on a plane to LA!" Everyone cheered.

Mr Letwin, Mr Cameron's fixer-in-chief and a key bridge to the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition, is the architect of the device which enables Labour and the Lib Dems to argue that the new regulatory system is being "legally underpinned" as Lord Justice Leveson proposed, while allowing Mr Cameron to claim he had not crossed his self-imposed Rubicon of creating Britain's first press law in 300 years. The mechanism is a Royal Charter, similar to the one which protects the independence of the BBC.

Hopes of agreement looked remote last Thursday when the Prime Minister, in the words of one insider, "threw his toys out of the pram." He dramatically broke off the cross-party negotiations and said MPs would have to resolve the issue. Surprisingly, over the weekend Mr Cameron had second thoughts. His aides say this was because the joint proposal tabled by Mr Miliband and Mr Clegg last Friday was based on a Royal Charter rather than a "legislative Leveson". Cameron aides claimed Labour demanded such a press law in talks earlier last week after being "spooked" by Hacked Off's intense lobbying but retreated on Friday. The Prime Minister insists his gambit last Thursday "unblocked the logjam" after "hundreds of hours" of cross-party negotiations on Leveson.

Mr Cameron called Mr Clegg to Number 10 on Sunday afternoon to tell him he had a new proposal based on a Charter. That was the basis of the agreement. Labour insists the Cameron plan had only nine minor changes from the plan it issued jointly with the Lib Dems on Friday. "The only thing Cameron changed was the type face," quipped one Labour aide. Labour dismissed as "ridiculous" the Tory claim that Mr Cameron's actions forced Labour to drop its demands.

The Liberal Democrat leader, who has always been keen to secure a consensus so any new system would survive a change of government, was happy to take on the role of go-between. He put the revised Cameron plan to the Labour leader on the telephone and the talks were reconvened. Mr Clegg left the Sunday talks before midnight, citing an early morning engagement in Bristol to launch a £2bn package for the aerospace industry, but spoke on the phone to Mr Letwin at 12.30am.

There was another reason why Mr Cameron changed tack and gave ground. With Labour, the Lib Dems and perhaps 20 Tory MPs lined up against him, reports from Tory whips showed he was heading for a bruising Commons defeat tonight if the issue had been put to the vote as originally planned. "Cameron hoped Clegg would blink but he stood firm, to his credit."

As all three parties claimed credit for the breakthrough, one Lib Dem insider said: "It was a good outcome but a messy and chaotic way to get there. Cameron didn't have to have his tantrum and call off the talks. He handed the initiative to Miliband. If we'd have carried on talking, I think we would have ended up with the same result."

Press regulation: This shoddy compromise over Leveson leaves no one happy, but will cripple journalism anyway, 18 March 2013
Press regulation: This shoddy compromise over Leveson leaves no one happy, but will cripple journalism anyway The Telegraph

By Dan Hodges Last updated: March 18th, 2013

Clegg, Miliband and Cameron

Who is actually happy with the deal on Leveson? The "victims", who we have been told repeatedly are the only people that really matter in this whole affair, aren't happy. The Dowlers and the McCanns have both made clear their disappointment that Leveson's recommendations will not be enshrined directly in statute. "A compromise of a compromise" was how Gerry McCann described the Royal Charter proposal last month.

David Cameron isn't happy, or at least he shouldn't be. Having rightly stormed out of talks last week when it became clear Hacked Off had vetoed the deal agreed on behalf of the three party leaders, he did an abrupt about-turn and stormed right back in yesterday when it became clear that enough Tory MPs were planning to line up with the Opposition to defeat him in tonight's vote.

Up until that point the Prime Minister had deserved a fair amount of credit: initially for standing firm in the face of Ed Miliband's demands for implementation of every dot and comma of Leveson – even though he, Miliband, hadn't actually read them – and latterly for standing by the principle that any form of statutory underpinning of the Royal Charter would set a dangerous precedent.

But in the end he appears to have conceded what is being described ludicrously as a "dab of statute". That's nice spin, but the crossing of the Rubicon began with a single step, and when it comes to statutory regulation of the press that step has now been taken.

Ed Miliband will claim to be happy, and he'll certainly be delighted by the way his press team have run rings around Downing Street this morning, getting their own perspective on the deal. But as I've written before, in truth Miliband has blown it. Had he taken the win at the point Leveson was published, his triumph would have been complete. As it is, he has been forced to ditch his preferred option of a "limited bill" and sign up to David Cameron's Royal Charter proposals. Even worse, his capitulation in the face of threats from the quintessential English fop Hugh Grant has reinforced the impression that for all the big talk of standing up to the Murdoch press, when faced with concerted pressure – especially from the Left – Miliband folds. "If he acts like this with Hugh Grant, what's going to happen when it's the Chinese on the phone?", one exasperated Labour MP asked me.

Not that Hugh Grant is all that happy either. Whatever you think of Britain's finest whimsical-comic-actor-in-a-romantic-role, you have to take your hat off to him for the way he has almost single-handedly brought the legislative program of the elected government to its knees, and turned the Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Prime Minister into his personal mouthpieces. But as he wrote in the Observer, even he has "reluctantly accepted that a royal charter could just about be effective".

Still, Grant will no doubt take some succour from the fact the group that is unhappiest of all is the press. Regardless of what had happened in tonight's vote, my own view was the damage had already been done. As I wrote a few weeks ago, if you speak to any home affairs journalist or any investigative journalist the impact of Leveson is already being felt, and it's already undermining legitimate journalism. Whether or not we had seen full regulation forced onto the statute book, we would have come perilously close. And the knowledge that sword of Damocles had been unsheathed would of itself have an impact on editorial decision making. Throw in the regime of exemplary fines that the Royal Charter will now enshrine, and it's clear that where we once talked about a "free press", if we're to be honest we must now talk about a "broadly free press".

So among all this unhappiness, what impact will the new Royal Charter actually have? I think it will be twofold. First, the "victims" will obtain a significant measure of the protection they have sought. The practice of phone hacking is over. Newspapers will be wary of the stigma of being first to fall foul of the new regime. And the new penalties will ensure that those that aren't simply can't afford to.

Second, whatever Hacked Off and the politicians may say, some legitimate journalism will now be curtailed. It's obviously impossible to peer into the crystal ball and foretell which stories will not see the light of day. But we can hazard a guess. For example, on Friday Gary Dobson, convicted of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, finally dropped his appeal, and confessed his guilt. It's difficult to see how the Daily Mail's campaign which ultimately led to his conviction could have happened in the present climate. For one, the information from inside the police on the failings of the initial investigation would probably not have been forthcoming. And the Mail would almost certainly not have been able to take the gamble of directly accusing Dobson of being guilty under the new Charter framework.

David Hencke, who broke the cash for questions story, is on record as saying that he doubts that story would have been possible, had the Leveson recommendations been in force. And it's very possible this paper's publication of the record of MPs' expenses may have been deemed too high risk.

But there is also one other problem with the "compromise" that was struck in the early hours of this morning. Over the next few months and years, it will come to be seen as just that: a compromise.

Today it is in the interest of everyone – the press aside – to paint the agreement as a historic one. But by this time next year, I suspect perceptions will be starting to change. As some of the inevitable problems arise with the implementation of the new Royal Charter, the compromise will come to be seen as a "messy" one. Over time the "historic moment" will be viewed – and described – as a missed opportunity. Then one day someone will ask "who is actually happy with the current system?". And given that no one was happy in the first place, not a single hand will be raised. At which point, as sure as night follows day, people will start to say "We need to finish what Leveson started."

Trust me. This is not the end of the affair. No one is happy with the Leveson deal. Not the victims, not the politicians, not the campaigners, not the press. And because of that, nothing, really, has been resolved.

The first foot has been placed on the south bank of the Rubicon. Watch and wait. Others are set to follow.

Editorial: A Leveson deal worth backing, 18 March 2013
Editorial: A Leveson deal worth backing The Independent

It is not credible to claim that the existing form of self-regulation was working

Monday 18 March 2013

After four months of wrangling, agreement has been reached on press regulation – political agreement, at least. Much hysteria attended the debate. Some in the industry sought to defend the status quo and are still cavilling. Some campaigners would have shackled all newspapers for the excesses of just a few. Meanwhile, politicians slugged it out over whether, or to what extent, the new system should be enshrined in law. Less than a week ago, a deal between the main political parties appeared impossible. That one has now been agreed is, therefore, a positive development. Broadly welcome, too, is the extent to which it produces a system in line with the recommendations from Lord Justice Leveson.

There are those in the press who are already crying foul. After all, the industry will no longer be able to veto appointments to the watchdog; nor will it have a majority on the committee that formulates the industry's Code of Conduct. Furthermore, the – voluntary – system will penalise organisations that choose not to participate. Not only will they face the prospect of extra-high damages, but even a successful defence might not be enough to avoid paying the other side's costs. Finally, the new regulator will be able to "direct" newspapers to apologise for any mistakes. Such measures represent a very real shift in the balance of power. So long as they are not scuppered, the ability of the press to act as its own judge and jury is materially broken.

This newspaper laments the necessity of such changes, and we would argue vociferously for a robust fourth estate. With so much evidence of misconduct, however – from the gross illegalities of phone hacking, to the harassment of, say, Kate and Gerry McCann – it is not credible to claim that the existing form of self-regulation was working. A wholly independent watchdog, with real teeth, was required.

But what of the vexed question of legislation? The final outcome is a clever one. The regulatory regime will rest on a Royal Charter, as is already used to oversee, for example, the BBC. There will be statute, but only a single clause – appended to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill – which specifies that the charter can be amended only according to its own provisions, in this case a two-thirds majority of Parliament. Thus, the danger that press supervision would be at the whim of the Privy Council, as is usual with a Royal Charter, is neutered. The result is a regulator that is independent of the press and also, crucially, of ministers.

Politicians on all sides rushed to claim victory yesterday – David Cameron for a deal that avoids a "press law" setting out what the newspapers can and cannot do, and his Labour and Liberal Democrat opponents for a system that has enough legal bite to ensure its effectiveness. Given the behaviour of parts of the press over the past few years, and given the Prime Minister's decision to appoint a judge to shine so unflinching a light on it, something akin to what was agreed yesterday was always the probable outcome. It is not perfect, from the press perspective. But it could have been worse. Now, all the press must put the posturing and face-saving behind it, accept the new system and move on. Most importantly, we must begin to rebuild public trust in journalism.

Commons Debate: Comments relative to the McCanns by David Cameron and Ed Miliband, 18 March 2013
Commons Debate: Comments relative to the McCanns by David Cameron and Ed Miliband parliament.uk

Monday 18 March 2013

Royal Charter on Press Conduct

Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)

Mr Speaker:
I call the Prime Minister to make an application for leave to propose a debate on a specific and important debate that should have urgent consideration under the terms of Standing Order No. 24. The right hon. Gentleman has three minutes in which to make such an application.

4.14 pm

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron):
I seek leave to propose that the House should debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the welcome publication of the draft royal charter by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition today, and the Prime Minister's intention to submit the charter to the Privy Council for Her Majesty's approval at its May meeting.

What happened to the Dowlers, the McCanns, Christopher Jefferies and many other innocent people who had never sought the limelight was utterly despicable. It is right that we put in place a new system of press regulation to ensure that such appalling acts can never happen again. We should do that without further delay. The royal charter, which I would like us to take note of now, will help do exactly that.

(...)

Let me conclude by saying a word about the process by which the agreement has been reached and about the next steps. The royal charter agreed today has benefited hugely from hundreds of hours of detailed negotiations with representatives of victims, all main political parties and the press themselves, and has been further improved by the hours of discussions between the parties this weekend. I am grateful for the spirit of give and take on all sides. We stand here today with a cross-party agreement for a new system of press regulation that supports our great traditions of investigative journalism and free speech and protects the rights of the vulnerable and the innocent. If this system is implemented, the country should have confidence that the terrible suffering of innocent victims, such as the Dowlers, the McCanns and Christopher Jeffries, should never be repeated. My message to the press is now very clear: we have had the debate, now it is time to get on and make this system work.

4.36 pm

Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab):
I second the motion and thank the Prime Minister for calling this debate and for setting up the Leveson inquiry 20 months ago, with cross-party support. We would not be here today without that inquiry, following the appalling revelations about the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone and what her family endured. It is her family's bravery in speaking out and the bravery of all the other victims of abuse—the McCanns, the Watsons and many others—that has brought us here today. They were failed at every turn: by the press, who treated them like commodities simply to sell newspapers; by the Press Complaints Commission, which did nothing about it; and by politicians of all parties who failed to stand up for them because of fear.

(...)

I also want to acknowledge the vast majority of decent, law-abiding journalists, who want to get back to doing their job. But let me end by paying tribute to the victims who have had the courage to stand up and make their voices heard—the McCanns, the Dowlers, the Watsons and, yes, their representatives. Today is the day we stand up for them. Today is above all their day.

Newspapers irritated by exclusion from Leveson talks, 18 March 2013
 
Newspapers irritated by exclusion from Leveson talks The Spectator

Isabel Hardman 18 March 2013 20:02

Newspaper stand

As he summed up today's debate on press regulation, the Prime Minister repeatedly stressed that the new system was a voluntary one, with incentives for journalists to join. It marked a shift in the tone from the leaders at the start of the debate: the Prime Minister was now trying to coax the industry to join the new system leaders had agreed on. Perhaps it was this statement from the Newspaper Society that made him a little more conciliatory:
'We would like to make it clear that, contrary to reports broadcast by the BBC this morning, no representative of the newspaper and magazine industry had any involvement in, or indeed any knowledge of, the cross-party talks on press regulation that took place on Sunday night.

'We have only late this afternoon seen the Royal Charter that the political parties have agreed between themselves and, more pertinently, the Recognition Criteria, early drafts of which contained several deeply contentious issues which have not yet been resolved with the industry.

'In the light of this we are not able to give any response on behalf of the industry to this afternoon’s proposals until we have had time to study them.'
What has irritated the industry is that, even though Cameron has been careful to paint himself as the champion of press freedom, their representatives were not present at the cross-party talks over the weekend when Hacked Off had four people present. If the government can't get the press on side for the new system, then today’s congratulations in the Chamber will seem rather hollow: cross-party talks that failed to implement something workable won’t seem quite so successful at that stage.

It's not a press regulator, it's a web regulator., 18/19 March 2013
It's not a press regulator, it's a web regulator. The Spectator

Nick Cohen 18 March 2013 20:31

Keep on blogging poster

Since the early 1990s, hundreds of millions of words have been produced about the Web. Enthusiasts have told us that it is the greatest communications revolution since Guttenberg invented movable type, and they are probably right. Utopian fantasists have imagined that cyberspace would be beyond the reach of governments – those 'weary giants of flesh and steel', as one particularly giddy theorist put it – and they were certainly wrong.

Their libertarian dreams, as we can see tonight, were an illusion. Those 'weary giants of flesh and steel' are tougher than they look. They are more than capable of using the new technologies to their own advantage, while censoring what their citizens write online. In the past, I would have directed you to China, Iran or Belarus to see web censorship. But now we can get all that at home.

Politicians and broadcasters are talking tonight as if those hundreds of millions of words had never been written, and we are still living in the pre-Berners-Lee age. They keep saying that the party leaders proposed "press regulation" today, when that was barely the start of it. The establishment – and when all three parties and the extra-parliamentary great and good come together, I think I can describe them as such – has emotional reasons for misleading themselves and the public. They see the excesses and alleged crimes of the tabloids and want to say that the legislation before Parliament will stop them. But there is also a strong element of propaganda. By focusing on the brutishness of the tabloids, they make public forget about attacks on fundamental principles and perhaps allow themselves to forget as well. For when people behave dreadfully they normally have to delude themselves before they can delude others.

I can see the propaganda's appeal. Although I believe in freedom of the press in theory, I find the sanctimony, pornography and bullying of much of the press revolting. I don't think the state has the right to control them, but if the tabloids closed tomorrow I wouldn't shed a tear.

"Press regulation" as the BBC News was saying at Six and Channel 4 News is saying as I type, does not sound so bad, not even to me, if all it means is stopping the tabloids. The briefest study of the Royal Charter and the Crime and Courts Bill which carried Leveson proposals, however, shows that the first attempt at press licensing since 1695 does not confine itself to the press. In public, the establishment talks about "press regulation", in the small print, its demands are much broader and very modern: it wants Web regulation.

The regulator will cover 'relevant publishers'. If they do not pay for its services and submit to its fines and rulings, or set up their own regulatory body, they could face exemplary damages in the courts. It is not just the old (and dying) newspapers, which the state defines as 'relevant publishers' but 'websites containing news-related material'.

As Index on Censorship says, 'Bloggers could find themselves subject to exemplary damages in court, due to the fact that they were not part of a regulator that was not intended for them in the first place. This mess of legislation has been thrown together with alarming haste: there's little doubt we'll repent for a while to come.'

What 'news-related' material can get you into trouble? It turns out to be the essential debates of a free society. Dangerous topics to write about include 'news or information about current affairs' and 'opinion about matters relating to the news or current affairs'. Any free country should would want the widest possible discussion of news and allow the largest possible range of opinions about current affairs. As of tonight, Britain does not.

Oh and how could I have forgotten, in homage to the toned and gilded originators of the new authoritarianism, the three main parties are also warning us to be careful about 'gossip about celebrities, other public figures or other persons in the news'.

Is there an upper limit on readership? Is a website that has a few dozen hits a day exempt? Or do the state's plans mean that every website that comments on news and current affairs or gossips about Hugh and Jemima must pay to join the quango, accept its punishments, or face exemplary damages in the courts? The government does not know. Alternatively do John and Joan Smith, blogging from their living room about the plight of the poor or foreign affairs, have to set up their own regulatory body. If so, how the hell are they meant to do that? Again, the government does not know. Do not be surprised by their ignorance. When Nick Clegg, Charlie Falconer, Oliver Letwin and Hacked Off, cook up a plan to change fundamental liberties at 3am in Ed Miliband's office, confusion must follow.

What about Twitter feeds? My editor at the Observer, John Mulholland pulled me up short last year when he pointed out that an approving review Richard Dawkins had written on his website on my last book –on censorship, aptly – had been tweeted hundreds of times after Dawkins put a link on Twitter. 'That's done you more good and been read by more people than anything in the mainstream press,' he said. He was right. Dawkins has 645,000 followers. That's more followers than the Independent has readers. Should his Twitter feed be regulated? Should he face exemplary damages if he tells the state to piss off, as I hope he would? Or should there be some kind of Twitter limit? If you tweet about the news and celebrities and only have 100 followers will you be free to speak your mind within the laws of the land? But if you get 500, 1,000, 10,000 followers should the new rules apply?

Paul Waugh of Politics Home asked Downing Street whether the new quango would cover Twitter. It didn't know. The Crime and Courts Bill says that people who publish about their hobby, trade, business or industry and the authors of online academic journals will be exempt. The government is, of course, exempting itself and all other 'public bodies' as well, for it would never do for the state to abide by the rules its citizen must follow. Everyone else must submit, as far as we can tell.

The anarchist in me is looking forward to sheer bloody mess this half-baked, illiberal, ill-conceived censorship will bring. It will be a perverse delight to see the regulator overwhelmed and the politicians, who applauded themselves so loudly today, mocked tomorrow. But this isn't funny because basic human rights are at stake. I am already getting bloggers contacting me, and asking if they need to tone down what they write or sign up to the quango. If politicians from all parties – and let us not forget that just as in Murder in the Orient Express they are all guilty – do not instead tone down this sweeping legislation a great chill will descend on the free republic of online writing, which until now has been a liberating and democratic force in modern British life.

The chilling effect is the most sinister and pervasive form of censorship, and something no robust, plain-speaking democracy should tolerate.

As I say in You Can't Read This Book , which Dawkins was so kind about.

'You can be a famous poisoner or a successful poisoner,' runs
the old joke, 'but you can't be both.' The same applies to censors.
Ninety-nine per cent of successful censorship is hidden from
view. Even when brave men and women speak out, the chilling
effect of the punishments their opponents inflict on them
silences others. Those who might have added weight to their
arguments and built a campaign for change look at the political
or religious violence, or at the threat of dismissal from work, or
at the penalties overbearing judges impose, and walk away.
Update 10.20 pm Downing Street has now told the Guardian that "personal blogs" like the Guido Fawkes political website would not be covered, but news-related websites like Huffington Post UK would." Still no word on Twitter, I see, but personal political blogs like Guido Fawkes and many another right wing and left wing blog, are hard hitting. They are news blogs, and in the case of Guido Fawkes and some of his left-wing competitors they are large-scale news providers. The distinction makes no sense. More to the point, where is it written into legislation? It's not in the amended Crime and Courts Bill, while the Charter just says the Leveson "Inquiry recommended that for an effective system of self regulation to be established, all those parts of the press which are significant news publishers should become members of an independent regulatory body". It does not say what the government defines as a significant news publisher.

This is all going to end up in the courts. The judges will have to clean up Parliament's mess. I should warn liberal readers that the English judiciary's record on freedom of speech is dire.

Update 8.30am Tuesday 19 March
Downing Street has dropped last night's line about exemptions for "personal blogs" – whatever they may be – and has returned to the old line that it doesn't have a clue what is going on. Be kind, it's only the government, why should it?

Why The Spectator said 'no' to David Cameron's Royal Charter for regulation of the press, 19 March 2013
Why The Spectator said 'no' to David Cameron's Royal Charter for regulation of the press The Spectator

Fraser Nelson 19 March 2013 20:11

The Spectator front cover

After due consideration, we at The Spectator have decided our response to the proposed Royal Charter system of press regulation. Our answer is given on the cover of the new magazine (above). We fully supported David Cameron's response to the Leveson Report and agreed with him that the press regulation needs a major overhaul. But, he said, this ought not to be done by politicians. The press was willing to implement the regulatory changes that Lord Justice Leveson wanted: up-front apologies, £1m damages, everything. Statute would not be necessary. The press would do it themselves, and did not need to be suborned by the politicians. Our ancient press freedom would be protected.

Instead, we have a dog's breakfast of a Royal Charter which actually makes less sense the more you read it. This is what happens when politicians get together: each wants to proclaim victory, so the language is made vague enough for everyone to read whatever they want into it. It's perhaps fitting that the Charter is written in archaic language: that's how they spoke in the 1690s, the last time there was state regulation of the press in England. All together, it's a recipe for disaster and future power grabs.

Even now No10 doesn't seem to know if the Charter's clauses involve, for example, regulating Twitter or not. The freedom (and proper regulation) of the press deserves a better and more workable solution than one cooked up at 2am in Ed Miliband's office with a cabal of politicians in one room and Hacked Off in the other. You don't need to understand the text of the Royal Charter to grasp its key point: this is a clear attempt for politicians to license the press. It's a power grab.

But the press has a choice. It can sign up David Cameron's peculiar Royal Charter press club, with its medieval dress code, or it can decline. I strongly suspect that newspapers will give their own 'no' to the Royal Charter – perhaps in a smaller font size –and then produce their own robust regulation with all the essential components of the Leveson deal. Press freedom is worth fighting for, and I suspect the newspapers will now fight.

Yes, there have been horrific abuses by the press. But this was already illegal: this is why so many journalists have been arrested and why so many will go to jail. No new laws are required. No political oversight is required. The Royal Charter would have done nothing to help the McCanns, Chris Jeffreys – or, indeed, Hugh Grant and Max Mosley. But it would help the ministers who want to speak softly to the press, while carrying a big stick. And anyone who thinks the loss of UK press freedom would not have any international effects should think how often Ireland is being cited as an example for our Press to accept political control.

Debating this on Ch4 News with George Eustace, Cameron's ex-spin doctor, reminded me of a basic point – about what we're all in this game for. The Spectator's readers expect us to hold politicians to account, not dance to their tune. And that's what we'll keep doing. Hopefully under a new press regulatory system which will be the most robust in the Western world – and one set up by newspapers appalled by this attempt to bury England's ancient press freedoms in so shallow a grave.

Press hits back over 'chilling' media crackdown as campaigners warn Internet sites face 'threat to free speech', 19 March 2013
Press hits back over 'chilling' media crackdown as campaigners warn Internet sites face 'threat to free speech' Daily Mail
  • Press watchdog to cover websites even if not connected to newspaper
  • Foreign sites targeting UK audiences could face huge damages for abuses
  • Lawyers say bloggers could also be affected but Government says no
  • Full details on how internet is affected 'still to be confirmed', MPs say
  • Turmoil as Press signals it will not sign up to new regulatory scheme
  • Financial Times Editor Lionel Barber attacks plan as 'unsatisfactory'
  • Hacked Off campaigners were present at talks but newspapers were not
By JAMES CHAPMAN, JAMES SLACK, MARTIN ROBINSON and MATT CHORLEY
PUBLISHED: 08:55, 19 March 2013 | UPDATED: 18:55, 19 March 2013

Compromise: David Cameron told MPs the deal has protected the principle of a free Press from statutory regulation

A Press backlash against the Government's plan for a media watchdog underpinned in law intensified today as it emerged that the internet will be targeted for the first time.

The draft version of the document suggests that foreign-based or owned websites such as Twitter, Huffington Post, Facebook, Holy Moly, the Guido Fawkes political site and even The New York Times will be subject to the stifling controls if their articles are aimed at 'an audience in the UK'.

But as confusion mounted about exactly who would be covered, the government said it would leave it entirely up to the new regulator to decide whether major foreign sites should be made to sign up.

There was also a growing backlash from the Press with Financial Editor Lionel Barber attacking the plans as a 'horse traders' ball'.

The Spectator also formally rejected the scheme, releasing a front pages that said 'No', and The Daily Telegraph's deputy editor called for a breakaway regulator to be launched.

But the greatest confusion surrounded rules governing the internet. The government claimed that 'small bloggers' would not be caught in the plan - but admitted this was still not decided.

Lawyers say large foreign organisations could, like newspapers, be pursued for 'exemplary' damages of up to £1million in defamation and other cases if they failed to abide by its rules - even if they have their business or servers in other countries like America and Ireland.

Even if they won a libel case in the High Court they could also be blocked from claiming back any legal costs under the proposed rules, meaning these huge financial penalties could be an incentive for them to sign up.

The document says: 'The new rules would cover newspapers, magazines and websites containing "news-related material", even if the websites are not connected to a printed paper or journal.

The Royal Charter also states that it will cover 'news-related material' including current affairs news and information, opinion and 'gossip about celebrities, other public figures and other persons in the news'.

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, left, today released a front cover, right, formally refusing to sign up to the deal

Kirsty Hughes, the chief executive of Index on Censorship said: 'This will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on everyday people's web use,' she said.

'Bloggers could find themselves subject to exemplary damages, due to the fact that they were not part of a regulator that was not intended for them in the first place.'

Meanwhile there were clear indications that the many members of Press may not sign up to the scheme.

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson tweeted a picture this week's front page and said he would be facing huge fines rather than sign up to the deal.

Financial Times editor Lionel Barber described the way the plan was agreed in late-night talks between the political parties and Hacked Off as a 'horse traders' ball' and said his newspaper had yet to decide whether it would sign up to the new arrangements.

'This has not been a satisfactory process. We have not decided at the Financial Times whether we are going to join up with the new regulator. We will be looking at the practical implications and, above all, what has been completely lost in this process, the cost,' he told BBC Radio 4's The World At One.

'I am worried about the practical costs of, for example, allowing free access to arbitration, I am worried about claims-farming, vexatious complaints from readers and others who will tie us up in knots. This is a real problem.'

Hacked Off refuses to reveal its rich donors

The Telegraph's Benedict Brogan wrote: 'The biggest newspaper groups put their heads together and agreed to think about it, but you don't need to be Mystic Meg to work out that the drift is towards rejection. For my part – and this is a personal view – I've concluded that we should note the outcome, thank the politicians for their engagement, and quietly but firmly decline to take part'.

On the issue of internet governance, lawyers have said the wording is unclear and very wide-ranging.

Niri Shan, Head of Media Law at Taylor Wessing, said: 'The wording of the Royal Charter is unclear and if I was Facebook or Twitter or Google I would be concerned about the lack of clarity.

‘If they have a website and it includes news then it could capture them. I don't think the intention is to target bloggers, but currently it would.'

Mr Shan, one of the UK's top libel lawyers, said that media organisations based abroad have rarely ignored British libel judgements as damages would only be secured against their assets in the UK, like an office.

'If they did not have a British base they would still probably agree to pay damages and apologise because of the reputational damage it would cause them', he told MailOnline.

This is despite American businesses being able to use the First Amendment - the right to free speech - as a defence. It also is despite U.S. courts will not enforce a UK libel judgment.

It is understood that the same principle will apply, with UK courts left to decide if they have jurisdiction over the website and publication being sued.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: 'The fact that in the proposed regulation all things and all people are covered, is very disturbing.

'That is your blog, your forum, your twitter feed, your Facebook page, in fact almost the whole of contemporary discourse. The only place left to speak out will be in the pub... and they are closing at 10 a week due to a series of ill thought out government measures'.

Carla Buzasi, the editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, which is run by U.S.-based company AOL, told the BBC: 'I can't imagine any politician has had this discussion because they have rushed this through so quickly.

'It does worry me to a certain extent. Someone said this is a carrot and stick approach. There doesn't seem to be too much of a carrot here,' she added.

However, despite the language in the draft Charter, there remained political confusion last night as Downing Street said the regulatory regime was not aimed at bloggers, and giants like Facebook and Twitter.

Adding to this lack of clarity, during an interview on Newsnight last night, Tory part co-chairman Grant Shapps said this was still not confirmed.

Asked by Jeremy Paxman about the inclusion of bloggers in the Charter he said: 'You’ll have to wait until the details are published next week. A little bit of patience and we’ll know the answer.'

The online editions of national and regional newspapers, such as the Guardian, Times, Mail and Sun, and the Dorset Echo, Somerset Standard and Yorkshire Post, would certainly be covered.

Online-only edited 'press-like' content providers, such as the Huffington Post and lifestyle magazines including Heat, Closer and Marie Claire would also be included.

Examples of those who would not fall under the potential remit of the new watchdog would be high profile Tweeters such as Stephen Fry, small publishers of special interest, hobby and trade titles, such as Waitrose magazine, Decanter, Retail Week, and not for profit community newspapers, such as Varsity, Leeds Student, parish magazines, scientific journals and periodicals like the British Medical Journal and the Modern Language Review.

Broadcasters' websites, including the BBC and Sky News, would not be included even though they are not regulated by the broadcast regulator, Ofcom.'

The Prime Minister, pictured leaving Number 10 ahead of his statement, hailed the deal which would secure upfront apologies and million-pound fines

 

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said there were three interlocking tests aimed at protecting 'small scale bloggers'. The tests are:
  • Whether the publication is publishing in the course of business
  • Whether it publishes news related material written by a range of authors
  • Whether it is subject to editorial control
A spokesman said: 'Ultimately, it is a matter for the court to decide on the definition of a relevant publisher based on assessment of the facts, in accordance with the three interlocking tests.

'But if material isn't subject to editorial control shouldn't be caught.'

The spokesman added that the new system was aimed at tackling the 'British Press' and not the wider internet.

'It would be up to the self-regulator to devise their own rules. If they said "we will only accept publications that are based in the UK" that would be OK.

'In the Royal Charter and the exemplary damages that have been tabled there is nothing in there that says "this is only limited to UK publications". However there is nothing in there which says this should apply to overseas bodies.

'The regulator could choose to do that.'

But hinting at the almost-impossible task of a UK body policing everything on online, the spokesman added: 'If we have got a regulator that decides it wants to do everyone, it will be a really big job.

David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg yesterday unveiled a cross-party agreement on Press regulation after 'shambolic' all-night talks – only to see the deal immediately opposed by senior Tories and challenged by key elements of the newspaper industry.

There was wider concern on the Tory benches at the chaotic nature of the discussions at which the deal was brokered.

All three party leaders tried to claim victory after 20 months of wrangling in the wake of the phone hacking scandal ended in an agreement by the Prime Minister to set up a media watchdog.

It would have the power to require front-page apologies and issue £1million fines, under a Royal Charter.

The campaign group Hacked Off, which represents celebrities and other victims of Press intrusion and had four representatives at cross-party talks, warmly welcomed the deal.

By contrast, there was no-one present at the early hours negotiations from the newspaper industry – which was not informed the talks were taking place.

And last night there were doubts over whether major newspaper publishers would agree to recognise the new watchdog, while some Tory MPs warned it constituted a serious threat to three centuries of Press freedom.

Four newspaper groups, the Daily Mail Group, News International, Northern and Shell, publishers of the Express, and the Telegraph Media Group, as well as the Newspaper Society and the Professional Publishers Association, said they had not been consulted over the final package and there were 'deeply contentious issues' to consider.

The Newspaper Society represents 1,100 regional papers.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, a former journalist, telephoned Mr Cameron yesterday and expressed 'serious concern' about a proposal to hit publishers who refuse to sign up to the new watchdog with 'exemplary' damages in libel cases.

'The thing that is really exercising Boris is the idea that if we don't join the club then you get whacked with massive fines,' an ally said.

Former Tory Cabinet minister Peter Lilley went further, telling MPs the new regulator would act as an Orwellian 'Ministry of Truth' and urging media organisations to follow the example of The Spectator magazine, which has indicated it will refuse to recognise the body.

Mr Cameron pulled the plug on cross-party talks on Thursday, claiming Labour had produced fresh demands, apparently prepared in close co-operation with Hacked Off.

But over the weekend, facing a Commons defeat as Labour and the Lib Dems threatened to join forces, the Prime Minister reopened discussions with Mr Clegg.

His chief negotiator, Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin, was then dispatched to talks in Labour leader Ed Miliband's office in the Commons on Sunday night.

Four representatives of Hacked Off, which has campaigned for a draconian crackdown on media excesses, were present. A deal was finally reached at 2.30am yesterday.

Downing Street denied that Mr Cameron had been asleep, insisting he had been in touch with Mr Letwin regularly throughout the night, with their last contact at 3.20am.

Tory MPs expressed private amazement that the Government had allowed talks to take place in Mr Miliband's office, or with Hacked Off present – but no-one from the media industry.

In the Commons later the Prime Minister said a Press law had been avoided – although he conceded there were 'two very important but relatively small legislative changes' needed.

They include a clause allowing more punitive libel damages to be awarded against publishers who refuse to recognise the watchdog.  A separate clause was passed last night to ensure that the Royal Charter for the Press cannot be amended unless two-thirds of MPs and peers and all three main party leaders agree.

Mr Cameron made a number of concessions to secure the deal, dropping an effective veto for the industry over the regulator's membership and agreeing that the regulator should have the power to 'direct' newspapers on the prominence of apologies and corrections.

The Sun's 'unreserved apology'

The regulator was also given the power to appoint the committee which writes the Editor's Code, dismantling the one part of the existing system that is agreed to work well.

Mr Cameron told MPs: 'This system will ensure upfront apologies, million-pound fines, a self-regulatory body with independence of appointments and funding, a robust standards code, an arbitration service that is free for victims and a speedy complaint handling mechanism. We can put all of this in place without the need for statutory regulation.'

Broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby, chairman of the Index on Censorship, warned: 'The two-thirds block on any changes to the Royal Charter could be abused in the future – not least when today's emerging consensus shows that the parties can come together in both Houses to agree on press regulation.'

Mr Lilley said: 'We are giving a body the right to decide what is fact and what is true. At worse, it is going to be establishing a sort of mini self-appointed Ministry of Truth.

'We note that no similar powers are taken with respect to the BBC.'

Mr Lilley added: 'I hope personally that when this is established quite a lot of media organisations will have the courage to follow the Spectator and stand aside from this body and remain free while hopefully adopting the highest standards in the way they publish and treat the public.'

Conservative MP for Clacton Douglas Carswell said: 'Today is a milestone. Press now answer to quangocrats. Awful, awful, awful.'

The fiendishly complex new system, by James Slack

The MPs have produced a Press regulatory regime of fiendish complexity, with layer upon layer of bureaucracy.

The process begins with the political parties themselves who, by devising the terms of yesterday's Royal Charter, have interfered in the workings of the free Press for the first time in 300 years.

As we show in the flowchart, the first step to be taken under the Charter they have produced will be the establishment of a Recognition Appointments Panel (shaded red, on the bottom right-hand side).

Handpicked by ex-Whitehall mandarin Sir David Normington, the current Commissioner for Public Appointments, none of the four members can ever have been a newspaper editor.

In turn, as the arrow on the diagram shows, this panel will then appoint a Recognition Panel. This will contain up to eight members, none of whom, the politicians have decided, can be an editor, publisher or a member of the Commons or Lords.

 
Press regulatory regime

Crucially, it will have sweeping powers to oversee the new independent Press regulator. The Recognition Panel will carry out regular checks on the regulator and will pass judgment on whether or not it is working. A negative verdict could take Westminster back to the drawing board.

This brings us to the regulator itself – which, as we show in the boxes coloured blue, is being established under a separate, hugely complicated process.

The first move in setting this up will be the establishment of a six-strong Foundation Group (bottom left) appointed by the newspaper industry and headed by ex-President of the Supreme Court Lord Phillips.

The group's job is solely to set up a Regulatory Appointments Panel, which will contain five members – an independent chairman, two other independent members, an editor and one other industry member.

This Panel's job is two-fold. First, it must pick the 12 members of the Main Board (coloured purple) of the new Press regulator, which will be independently chaired with six other independent members. The five industry members on the Board – a minority – cannot include serving editors.

The Panel will also establish the Complaints Committee, an off-shoot of the regulator containing the Main Board's chairman, six independent members and five industry figures, none of whom can be a serving editor.

The Complaints Committee will decide if the new Code on journalistic conduct  and ethics has been breached in individual cases – which could lead to the Main Board ordering the publication of prominent apologies and corrections.

Drawing up this new Code will require the establishment of yet another panel – the Code Committee – featuring five independent members, five journalists and five editors. It will be appointed by the Main Board, raising concerns that it will be acting as judge and jury on rules it has itself written. To this galaxy of committees will then be added two other new bodies, which are offshoots of the new regulator's main board.

The first, the Standards and Compliance Arm, will have the power to investigate potentially systemic problems at a newspaper, such as phone hacking, and impose huge fines.

Meanwhile, the Arbitral Arm will set up a panel to adjudicate on civil complaints against newspapers, without the need to go to court. If a member of the public wins a case, the newspaper involved must pick up their costs.

But, if the person loses, newspapers will not be able to recover their own legal fees – potentially leaving regional newspapers, in particular, with crippling bills. There are also concerns about the system being swamped by compensation-seekers.

To get this Byzantine system of regulation off the ground will require countless meetings involving dozens of panel members and independent experts. The danger is that it will collapse under its own complexity.

The Royal Charter, Bloggers and Internet regulation – an extension too far? – Tim Lowles, 21 March 2013
The Royal Charter, Bloggers and Internet regulation – an extension too far? – Tim Lowles Inforrm

Internet reglations

21 March 2013

As one would expect, the subject of applying regulation to the internet, has come under particular scrutiny from the online community as a result of proposals contained in the draft Royal Charter on self-regulation of the press and amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill. On the whole they have been criticised as an unwarranted extension which will have a "chilling effect" on internet publishers. Is this an accurate assessment of the proposals?

The draft Royal Charter flows from the Leveson Report. In is interesting that those who complained that Lord Justice Leveson failed to deal with the internet now appear to complain the measures taken to implement the report do include the internet.

A number of commentators such as Hugo Rifkind in the Times (£) argue that the effect of the draft Royal Charter will be that "anybody with a point to make or an accusation to level" will be subject to the same form of regulation as a newspaper and the possibility of £1 m fines (should they choose to sign up to the proposed regulator) or exemplary damages (if they don't). I have to say I disagree.

Looking at both the draft Royal Charter and the Crime and Courts Bill it is of note that there are differing definitions of "relevant publishers".

The definition of "relevant publisher" as it applies to a website within the draft Royal Charter (at Schedule 4) is:
"a person (other than a broadcaster) who publishes in the United Kingdom a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper or magazine)."
Importantly, a person publishes in the United Kingdom if:
"the publication takes places in the United Kingdom or is targeted primarily at an audience in the United Kingdom"
This definition is deliberately permissive as it allows anyone who wishes to join the regulatory system to do so.

One also needs to look at the definition of a "relevant publisher" as proposed in the amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill (see amendment 18) to see what the situation would be if you are not signed up the regulatory system. Here the definition is as follows:
"a person, who in the course of business (whether or not with a view to profit), publishes news related material-

(a)   Which is written by different authors;

(b)   Which is to any extent subject to editorial control"
This definition is somewhat narrower than that contained within the Royal Charter no doubt as it is specifically dealing with the various 'carrots and sticks' for those who choose not to sign up to the regulator.

In light of these definitions individual bloggers are unlikely to be subject to the new proposed regulatory regime. So for example those individual blogs on WordPress or Blogger would remain unregulated and not subject to the adverse costs awards, or possibility of exemplary damages, that can result from not signing up as members of the proposed regulator. On the other hand websites such run by those such as the Huffington Post or Guido Fawkes could be.

Paul Staines's 'Guido Fawkes' website for instance has a number of contributors, is run as a business and despite being off shore is targeted primarily at an audience in the United Kingdom. Whilst he is entitled to protest and refuse to join the regulator one has to ask, from a commercial perspective, why such a website would do so?

If the website continues to publish articles within the law it has nothing to fear. If it was to stray into libellous (or otherwise unlawful) territory it would be able to benefit from the proposed arbitration system which would be considerably cheaper than fighting High Court litigation, in which it would most likely be liable for the costs of in any event given most disputes will be able to be dealt with under the arbitration scheme.

Following the recent decision in Thompson v James [2013] EWHC 515 (QB) (see here for case comment) the claimant, who lost her case and was successfully sued herself, has said that she is unable to pay the £25,000 damages let alone the costs involved with a 6 day High Court trial. Had the new regulatory regime been in place, and Ms Thompson been a member, no doubt she would have benefited from a user friendly, speedy and considerably less costly arbitration process. All this is all the more relevant if the abolition of CFAs (currently on hold for libel and privacy claims) goes ahead.

As to the threat of exemplary damages for those who don't sign up to the proposed regulator, these are only to be awarded "where the defendant's conduct has shown a deliberate or reckless disregard of an outrageous nature for the claimant's rights." Even if this high threshold is met the Courts are likely to consider the offending party's financial circumstances, and ability to pay, when assessing the amount of exemplary damages that should be payable.

Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, appears to support this view as when asked to comment on this issue she said the "publisher would have to meet the three tests of whether the publication is publishing news-related material in the course of a business, whether their material is written by a range of authors – this would exclude a one-man band or a single blogger – and whether that material is subject to editorial control". Miller also highlighted the various bodies excluded from this definition which includes broadcasters, special interest titles, scientific journals, public bodies and charities, company news publications and book publishers.

Whichever way ones look at it the law with regards to the internet remains uncertain; regulating it, even less so.

What of organisations such as Google, Facebook and Twitter? These companies will need to look closely at the draft Royal Charter and the way in which it affects them. Whilst on the face of it they are conduits for others to publish blogs or micro blogs do they in fact exert editorial control, such as to fall within the definition of "relevant publisher" through their use of various algorithms? They will also need to have in mind the recent decision in Tamiz v Google [2013] EWCA Civ 68 (see here for case comment) in which the Court of Appeal held that Google could be liable as a publisher at common law.

It is clear that these companies all make a significant amount of money within the United Kingdom and that they, along with other websites which are run as businesses, should be subject to the same rule of law as everyone else.

Whilst the individual blogger, passionate about his or her subject, should be offered some protection from the 'stick' of the not being a member of the proposed regulator it appears safeguards already exist; perhaps someone just needs to report this fact to them.

That said, there can be no denying that in this day and age individuals still retain the power to cause untold damage through their publications online. One tweet from Justin Bieber can reach 36 million followers in an instant, many more than the daily circulation all of the newspapers in this country (and several others) combined; and therein lies the problem which remains to be addressed.

Tim Lowles is a Senior Associate in the IP and Reputation Management team at Collyer Bristow. He can be followed on Twitter at @timlowles.

The truth about Hacked Off's media coup, 30 March 2013
The truth about Hacked Off's media coup The Telegraph

Andrew Gilligan uncovers the intriguing connections between Leveson and Left-wing ideology

Brian Cathcart is the new director of the Hacked Off campaign

By Andrew Gilligan
10:00PM GMT 30 Mar 2013

Several weeks after the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, one cynical journalist paid tribute to her parents' "great skill" in managing the press.

"To an extraordinary extent, this story has been managed by its central characters," he said. "Alastair Campbell may be nowhere about but this is, if not spin, then highly sophisticated news management." A short time later, this same journalist penned a nuanced defence of the media's right to get things wrong.

"The idea that people must always get their facts right, like almost everything that is labelled common sense, is incomplete and unsatisfactory," he argued. "Life is more complicated than that ... there are grey areas."

In a fast-moving business, readers and lawyers "have to understand that you can't hang around until every detail is perfect."

In the few years since he wrote those words, life for Brian Cathcart has become a lot more black-and-white. In his new role as director of the Hacked Off campaign for a controlled press, he now claims that "most British national newspapers ruthlessly chose to exercise their great power for evil".

Press inaccuracy has become a disease curable only by a state-backed regulator, and the McCann case is Exhibit A in what Hacked Off calls the "atrocities" perpetrated by the press.

"A whole industry has been roundly condemned by an official public inquiry," Cathcart proclaims.

Lord Justice Leveson in fact said that he was "able to state with confidence that the majority of press practice is good, if not very good... Broadly speaking, stories are accurate, informative, well-written and respectful of the rights and interests of others." Cathcart may not approve of tabloid journalists, but he certainly knows how to behave like one.

Who are Hacked Off? And how did Brian Cathcart and a small group of even more obscure allies come from nowhere to write perhaps the most important constitutional change yet of the 21st century?

The royal charter which has just ended 300 years of an unregulated press was, as they boast, "drafted with the help of Hacked Off". The even more controversial "statutory underpinning," with its coercive damages and fines, was, as they boast, "a measure suggested by Hacked Off's chairman".

The bragging is, if anything, underplayed: Lord Justice Leveson all but cut and pasted their suggestions into his report and the Government has adopted them with relatively few changes.

Hacked Off did it by using all the red-top tricks they claim to hate – broad-brush condemnations, simplistic arguments, distorted facts, behind-the-scenes political deal making, celebrity stardust and the emotive deployment of victims.

Their key skill was in presenting the crimes of some newspapers as the responsibility of all, and defining the issue as what Gerry McCann, on the Hacked Off website, called "a binary choice: the newspaper barons or the people they abused in search of profit. It is as simple as that."

It is of course nothing like as simple as that.

But though Hacked Off acts in the name of victims of the press, victims are not its central concern. Unknown to most of the people it lobbies, Hacked Off is a campaign not just to tame the press, but to claim the country for the authoritarian Left. It does want to stop newspapers victimising individuals. But it also wants to force the press to serve defined social and political objectives – at the expense, if necessary, of the right to free expression.

As its key intellectual inspiration, Prof James Curran of Goldsmiths College, put it: "The problem is that the press was the principal cheerleader of the deregulatory politics that landed us in the economic mess we're in.

"Our concerns should be confined not only to individual abuses, but to media moguls who distort the national conversation."

Curran was speaking at a meeting on May 17 last year, one of several jointly organised by Hacked Off and a fascinating body he co-founded, the Co-ordinating Committee for Media Reform.

CCMR, which has received virtually no publicity in the mainstream media, is closely intertwined with Hacked Off, sharing key personnel.

Prof Natalie Fenton, another Goldsmiths academic and a key member of CCMR, is a director of Hacked Off. She co-chaired the meeting with Cathcart and is seen on the platform at most of Hacked Off's events.

Writing on the "New Left Project" website, Fenton attacked the "excessively liberalised press" and the "naive pluralism" of "assuming that the more news we have, the more democratic our societies are".

Curran, whose major book on the media is described as "the Bible" by Brian Cathcart, dismisses any regulatory model based simply on the "social worker mediation of individual grievances" – a sign, perhaps, of where victims really lie in his priorities.

He attacks what he calls the "First Amendment fundamentalism" of British newspapers, saying they should have "an obligation to serve the public good" and that discussion of media reform "should not be limited only to defending freedom of expression". Another Hacked Off supporter, Prof Chris Frost, says: "The right to free expression... cannot be absolute... the key is to allow as much freedom as is concomitant with the rights of others balanced by the public interest."

Frost wants newspapers to be forced to reflect "a fair selection of the day's events"; a regulator, in other words, would decide what stories they covered.

At the May 17 event, numerous Left-wing speakers outlined their view of how the "public good" or the "public interest" as defined by a press regulator, should override freedom of expression.

Jacqui Davis, from Keep our NHS Public, said the media should be obliged to "stand up for the NHS". Jacqui Hunt, from Equality Now, called for the regulator to ban Page 3, impose compulsory training for male journalists and require all reports on domestic violence to be "sensitive".

Other groups described as "partner organisations" by Hacked Off's website include the newly-established Youth Media Agency, which complained that the media's "discriminatory" coverage of the August 2011 riots "singled out children and young people as the rioters" (72 per cent of those arrested were under 25) and Trans Media Watch, which condemns newspapers for "stigmatising" transsexuals. Alleged examples of discrimination, which Trans Media Watch wants to ban, included a reference to the Bois de Boulogne, a park in Paris, as "containing transsexual prostitutes".

Another Hacked Off "partner" is Engage, an "anti-discrimination" group including Islamist sympathisers and whose staff have justified the killing of British soldiers. Engage was exposed by The Sunday Telegraph, in what it would no doubt protest to a regulator was "discriminatory" reporting.

Tim Luckhurst, professor of journalism at the University of Kent and a supporter of the rival Free Speech Network, funded by newspaper publishers, says: "It is not the job of the press to 'support' or 'oppose' the NHS, but to scrutinise it.

"Hacked Off criticise the press for not representing a variety of viewpoints, but that is precisely what they despise about it. Leveson has been persuaded to embrace unquestioningly a profoundly ideological description of the relationship between the British press and democracy, previously held only by a small group of Left-of-centre academics."

Hacked Off's staff does contain at least two token Conservatives – its spokesman, David Hass, is a former adviser to the then justice secretary, Ken Clarke, and its head of campaigns, Ella Mason, was a Tory aide at the 2010 election.

But a briefing memo, written by Mason and leaked to a newspaper last week, makes clear the campaign despises those Tories it has successfully used, saying: "These are likely to be people you intuitively distrust, dislike and despair of. If they are what we need to win, however, we must understand their value and not confuse their values with our intentions."

Most of the organisation's staff and those credited on its website are firmly of the Left. John Dickinson-Lilley, its parliamentary affairs officer, is a former Labour adviser. Julianne Marriott, who handles government relations, is a member of the Labour Party and director of Don't Judge My Family, a campaign against the marriage tax allowance.

Hacked Off's public contact person, Francine Hoenderkamp, is news editor of the "UK Feminista" website, "organiser of the Orgasmotron live music night" and the coordinator of the Turn Your Back on Page 3 campaign.

Jessica Riches, its web coordinator, is a former star of the campus Occupy movement. Cathcart himself is a fervent enthusiast for a united Europe who has described sterling as "nothing to be proud of".

Two powerful lobbying companies with close links to the Labour Party have also supported Hacked Off. They are Sovereign Strategy, a controversial firm run by Labour's former leader in the European Parliament and repeatedly exposed for alleged unethical dealings by the press, and BBM, run by two of Tony Blair's former campaign staff.

Hacked Off sits at the centre of a network of broadly Left-liberal groups who have been campaigning for many years for media regulation but whose efforts were given a massive boost by the hacking scandal.

It grew out of the Media Standards Trust, which as early as 2009, long before the scandal broke, declared the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) unfit for purpose – claiming, without much evidence, that its "ineffectiveness" had reduced trust in the media.

In fact, MORI, which has polled on the question every year since 1999, finds that trust in journalists has risen slightly over that time. The Media Standards Trust's director, Martin Moore, is also a director of Hacked Off.

The Media Standards Trust also launched Full Fact, a purportedly independent fact-checking website into the press and frequent complainant to the PCC, several of whose factchecks contain subtle Left-wing bias and whose complaints to the PCC are almost entirely against Right-wing newspapers.

Full Fact's chief executive, Will Moy, is also a director of Hacked Off.

In 2010 Full Fact was refused charitable status by the Charity Commission on the grounds, according to Moy, that it did not meet "rigorous standards of objectivity and independence".

Full Fact's directors at the time of the Leveson Inquiry were two Labour peers, a Liberal Democrat peer and a former journalist tightly allied to Mr Blair, John Lloyd.

Lloyd, director of journalism at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford, is the author of a book saying media cynicism about politics "undermines democracy" and calling for "intervention" to force news organisations to do more to support public institutions. The book cited the BBC's story about Mr Blair's "sexed-up" Iraq dossier as the key example of media wrongdoing.

In late 2011 Lloyd, the Media Standards Trust and Hacked Off convened the "Media Regulation Round Table," the group which drew up what has now become the royal charter. Two key representatives from the newspaper industry also attended.

One of them, Bob Satchwell, director of the Society of Editors, now says: "I was perhaps naive in going there, thinking that something as grand as the Reuters Institute would have an open mind.

"We were the lone voices pushing for First Amendment purism, but it quickly became obvious that the views of Hugh Tomlinson [chair of Hacked Off] and Martin Moore were gaining all the weight.

"Hugh had his great scheme already half in place, and I said I was not prepared to go along with it."

Hacked Off still, however, cited Satchwell's presence to Lord Justice Leveson as proof that a "diverse and independent group" including the newspaper industry had been involved, though it was careful not to explicitly claim that Satchwell supported the plan. Impressed, Leveson cut and pasted substantial elements of the round table's proposal into his report.

Hacked Off's ultimate triumph was, of course, when its representatives sat round the table to pass its words into law. As its website exulted, "the time for whining is over".

Since then, however, amid a massive backlash against its plan, even Hacked Off itself seems to recognise that it has overreached. "Did we win?" the website now asks.

As the truth – about Hacked Off, and about its "deal" – emerges, we must hope that the answer is no. For all the routine disclaimers that no one wants political interference with the press, it is clear that is precisely what Hacked Off does want.

This was a sort of coup, by people even more unaccountable and unrepresentative than the average newspaper owner.

YouGov/MST poll finds public "utterly reject" press bosses' plan – Gerry McCann, 24 July 2013
YouGov/MST poll finds public "utterly reject" press bosses' plan – Gerry McCann Hacked Off

Posted July 24th, 2013 by Hacked Off

Commenting on the release of a YouGov poll commissioned by the Media Standards Trust, which shows that the public support the parliamentary royal charter over the press bosses' version by a factor of nearly 4-1, Gerry McCann said:

"There is a simple choice before us: the press proprietors' plan or the plan suggested by Leveson and backed by Parliament.

"This poll confirms that the public utterly rejects the proprietors' scheme and wants Leveson instead. They want something effective and independent, something that will protect them from the kinds of abuses we've seen in recent years.

"The poll also shows that people are fed up waiting for this change.

"The Privy Council needs to see these figures and realise that it's time to end the political manoeuvring and put the Leveson plan into action."

Link to poll report

Victims send open letter to PM urging action on press regulation, 09 September 2013
Victims send open letter to PM urging action on press regulation Hacked Off

Posted September 9th, 2013

Victims of press harassment have sent an open letter to the Prime Minister ahead of his appearance at the Commons Liaison Committee on Tuesday, calling on him to clearly and speedily reject the self-regulation scheme put forward by parts of the press and expedite the sealing of the cross-party royal charter, backed by Parliament and the public.

The letter expresses victims' dismay at the attitudes of those fighting against Leveson's reforms and extreme disappointment that the charter agreed by all parties has been subject to nearly six months of delay.

The letter argues that the scheme proposed by News UK, Associated Newspapers and the Telegraph Media Group, known as IPSO, "clearly lacks the key elements of independence and effectiveness that the judge said were essential if the public is to be protected." The letter accuses some press proprietors of only consulting each other, and "unsurprisingly [reaching] agreement on so-called solutions that are in their interest rather than the public's."

Victims of press harassment will be present at the Liaison Committee hearing on Tuesday afternoon to watch the Prime Minister face questioning from MPs on the progress of the self-regulatory system for news publishers.

FULL TEXT AND SIGNATORIES

Dear Prime Minister,

We are people who have experienced press abuses at first hand. You met most of us about a year ago, shortly before the publication of the Leveson Report. We note that you are due to answer questions on press reform tomorrow at the House of Commons Liaison Committee. In the spirit of your many statements on the importance of the views of victims we want to share with you our perspective on the developments of recent months.

We were grateful to all parties in Parliament for approving the Royal Charter on the press on 18 March. While it contained substantial concessions to news publishers, we strongly believe that this provides a workable means of implementing the very reasonable Leveson recommendations on press self-regulation. At the same time it addresses the concerns you expressed about crossing a Rubicon of legislation.

Given that MPs explicitly sent the Charter for sealing by the Privy Council in May, we are extremely disappointed that September has arrived and this has not yet happened. We urge you to do all you can to expedite this, so that the process of implementing the Leveson recommendations may begin.

We are dismayed by the attitude of the leaders of much of the press industry. They have shown no real regret for the grave failures identified in the report of the Leveson Inquiry, nor have they engaged in sincere dialogue with the public, with Parliament or with us about implementing the careful recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson to remedy these failures.

Instead they have consulted each other and unsurprisingly reached agreement on so-called solutions that are in their interest rather than the public’s. They have engaged in a cynical manoeuvre to delay the approval of Parliament’s Royal Charter, by submitting an alternative non-Leveson compliant Royal Charter of their own. Several papers continue to abuse the power of the press in the attempt to discredit the Leveson Inquiry and those who challenge them, and to seek to bend politicians to their will.

They are also promoting in the pages of their own newspapers a scheme for self-regulation closely based on the 'Hunt-Black' plan they first proposed nearly a year ago – which both you and Lord Justice Leveson rightly found to be inadequate. Their scheme clearly lacks the key elements of independence and effectiveness that the judge said were essential if the public is to be protected from the kinds of abuses we have experienced. It also obviously fails to meet many of the Leveson-based 'recognition criteria' for a worthwhile regulator that are set out in Parliament's Royal Charter.

We commend you for the firm and historic stand that you, in common with the other main party leaders, took on this issue of press self-regulation on 18th March of this year. We urge you to reaffirm that position this week, and to make clear to leading newspaper publishers that they must change their approach if they are to win back the public's trust.

The Leveson recommendations are generous to the press, they give full protection to freedom of expression and they are workable. All parties in Parliament support them, we support them and opinion poll evidence shows that the public overwhelmingly supports them. We urge you to send a strong message to those who own and run the press that they have nothing to fear and a great deal to gain from embracing the Leveson recommendations as set out in Parliament's Royal Charter.

If, on the other hand, they continue to insist that they may regulate themselves in the way that suits them – in Leveson's terms, that they have the right to go on 'marking their own homework' – the result will inevitably be even deeper public distrust and, without any doubt, many more victims of press cruelty and excess of the kind we have experienced.

We look forward to your reply to this letter.

Yours,

Kate and Gerry McCann
Paul Dadge
Mo George
Jacqui Hames
Baroness Sheila Hollins
Dr Martin Hollins
Mike Hollingsworth
Christopher Jefferies
David Kampfner
Maire Messenger-Davies
Ben Noakes
JK Rowling
Joan Smith
Brian Paddick
Jane Winter

Cameron under pressure over Leveson, 09 September 2013
Cameron under pressure over Leveson Daily Express

David Cameron has come under fresh pressure to push ahead with a new system of press regulation as he prepares to be grilled by senior MPs about the response to the Leveson Inquiry.

Published: Mon, September 9, 2013

David Cameron is under fresh pressure over the response to the Leveson inquiry

Victims of press intrusion have written an open letter to the Prime Minister ahead of his appearance before the Liaison Committee calling on him to reject a proposed scheme put forward by the newspaper industry.

Instead the signatories, including Kate and Gerry McCann - whose three-year-old daughter Madeleine went missing in Portugal six years ago - and Harry Potter author JK Rowling, urged the Prime Minister to make progress on the Royal Charter plan which received cross-party backing in March.

The charter had been due to be presented to the Queen for approval on May 15 but it was put back to give more time for consideration of the alternative charter put forward by the industry.

In July, Mr Cameron said he believed the alternative charter put forward by the press had "some serious shortcomings" and he still supported the document backed by the Commons.

The letter to Mr Cameron, organised by campaign group Hacked Off, claims that the alternative proposal, which would avoid any state underpinning for the new regulatory regime, "clearly lacks the key elements of independence and effectiveness" that Lord Justice Leveson recommended in his report on press standards.

The signatories told the Prime Minister to "do all you can to expedite" the original charter process "so that the process of implementing the Leveson recommendations may begin".

The letter said: "We are dismayed by the attitude of the leaders of much of the press industry. They have shown no real regret for the grave failures identified in the report of the Leveson Inquiry, nor have they engaged in sincere dialogue with the public, with Parliament or with us about implementing the careful recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson to remedy these failures.

"Instead they have consulted each other and unsurprisingly reached agreement on so-called solutions that are in their interest rather than the public's. They have engaged in a cynical manoeuvre to delay the approval of Parliament's Royal Charter, by submitting an alternative non-Leveson-compliant Royal Charter of their own.

"Several papers continue to abuse the power of the press in the attempt to discredit the Leveson Inquiry and those who challenge them, and to seek to bend politicians to their will."

Gerry McCann 'encouraged' by new Madeleine evidence, 07 October 2013
Gerry McCann 'encouraged' by new Madeleine evidence ITV News

12:50pm, Mon 7 Oct 2013
Last updated Mon 7 Oct 2013

Gerry McCann

Gerry McCann says he is "encouraged" by new evidence relating to the disappearance of his daughter Madeleine.

"As parents, we won't accept Madeleine is dead until we see clear evidence that that is the case," he told ITV News.

"Clearly we're encouraged. There is new evidence, and the appeals will hopefully lead to further new evidence."

He said he and his wife were "optimistic that new pieces will be uncovered that will fill in parts of the jigsaw."

---------------------

Transcript

By Nigel Moore

Reporter: Obviously, this last week, we had new, errr... movement in that direction. Do you finally have some hope?

Gerry McCann: I think we've always had hope, and there's been a number of cases over the last few years of children and young women being found after having been taken and held for very long periods of time. So, we've always had hope and, as parents, we won't accept Madeleine is dead until we see evidence, clear evidence, that that is the case. But we've been very pleased with the work of the Metropolitan Police and the review, and they're now moved into an investigative phase. Errm... We are confident that the appeals will hopefully lead to new information and, errr... bring us a step closer to finding Madeleine and those responsible for taking her.

Reporter: Errm... From what you're saying though, that could all have happened far more speedily if we hadn't had the distractions that came about by press excess in the... in the beginning.

Gerry McCann: Yeah, I wouldn't want to mix it up too much. I mean, clearly, my belief is that the damage, errr... for the search for Madeleine occurred, errr... with a lot of, errr... unfounded, errr... stories, errr... whereat [sic: whereas], we have always tried to look forward and not backwards. We are where we are. As parents, we want everything reasonably, errr... that can be done, done, in the search for Madeleine, and I think we're moving in the right direction.

Reporter: And how would you describe the movement forward that the British police have managed to make? I know that you're making a formal appeal but do you think it's exciting, the... the new, errm... strands that they're pulling together?

Gerry McCann: Well, I think it is clearly... we're encouraged. There... there is new evidence and the appeals will hopefully lead to further new evidence and what Kate and I feel - without talking about any details and that is very much in the hands of the Met - but we're optimistic that new pieces will be uncovered that will fill in parts of the jigsaw.

'Progress' Made in Madeleine McCann Inquiry, 07 October 2013
 
'Progress' Made in Madeleine McCann Inquiry Sky News

12:51pm UK, Monday 07 October 2013

Gerry McCann says he is pleased with the progress is being made in Scotland Yard's review of the search for his missing daughter.

He told Sky News: "They've uncovered new evidence and we hope that the appeals that go out next week will lead to further new evidence that helps fill in pieces of the jigsaw and moves at least a step closer to finding Madeleine and those responsible."

More follows...

-------------

Madeleine McCann Inquiry 'Making Progress' Sky News

Madeleine McCann, aged three, went missing in Portugal in May 2007

 

12:58pm UK, Monday 07 October 2013

Gerry McCann says he is pleased with the progress is being made in Scotland Yard's review of the search for his missing daughter.

"They've uncovered new evidence and we hope that the appeals that go out next week will lead to further new evidence that helps fill in pieces of the jigsaw and moves at least a step closer to finding Madeleine and those responsible."

More follows...

---------------------

Madeleine McCann Inquiry 'Making Progress'
Sky News

1:57pm UK, Monday 07 October 2013

As search moves forwards Gerry McCann also calls for tougher, independent regulation of the press to protect ordinary people.

Madeleine McCann, aged three, went missing in Portugal in May 2007

 

Gerry McCann says he is pleased with the progress being made in Scotland Yard's review of the search for his missing daughter.

He told Sky News he and his wife Kate were "very pleased with the work of the Metropolitan Police both during the review process and now that they have moved into an investigatory phrase.

"I think that is all that any parent would want when their child is missing.

"They've uncovered new evidence and we hope that the appeals that go out next week will lead to further new evidence that helps fill in pieces of the jigsaw and moves at least a step closer to finding Madeleine and those responsible."

The disappearance of Madeleine will be the subject of a Crimewatch appeal next Monday.

Scotland Yard assistant commissioner Mark Rowley said it is hoped it will produce new witnesses, but a conclusion to the case "is not imminent".

A reconstruction of the "latest, most detailed understanding" of the events around the time Madeleine went missing will be shown on BBC Crimewatch.
 

Gerry McCann

 

Gerry McCann

It comes after the Metropolitan Police revealed a vast log of mobile phone traffic could be the key to finding out what happened to the-then three-year-old.

Scotland Yard detectives have interviewed 442 people as part of their review-turned-investigation into Madeleine's disappearance. It has identified 41 people of interest, including 15 UK nationals.

They hope to track down as many people present in Praia da Luz, Portugal, on or around May 3, 2007, as possible.

Dr McCann, speaking outside the General Medical Council (GMC) in London, also said the press needed tougher, independent regulation in order to protect the lives of ordinary people.

He talked about need for speedy arbitration for victims of press intrusion and misreporting, in the light of the Leveson Inquiry, at which he gave evidence.

He said "Ordinary peoples lives are being damaged every day of the week by press intrusion, by lies being printed or exaggeration."

It "personally troubles him and his wife" that "stories are published with no regard to Madeleine's safety, to the investigation itself or whether they will be putting Madeleine or others in danger or alerting those responsible".

He highlighted the need for an independent body that could act quickly saying: "We have absolutely no confidence that the press barons can regulate themselves."

-----------------

Madeleine McCann Inquiry 'Making Progress' Sky News - Video

3:04pm UK, Monday 07 October 2013

Madeleine's father, Gerry, says he hopes the inquiry will "fill in pieces of the jigsaw" and help them discover what happened.

Gerry McCann

[Text as per previous article]

--------------------

Transcript

By Nigel Moore

Gerry McCann: Kate and I have been, errr... very pleased with the work of the Metropolitan Police, both during the review process and now that they've moved into an investigative phase and I think that's all that any parents would want when their child's missing. But clearly they've uncovered new evidence and we hope that the appeals, errr... that go out next week, starting with Monday, errr... will lead to further new evidence that helps fill in pieces of the jigsaw and move at least a step closer to finding Madeleine and those responsible.

(...)

Gerry McCann: Ordinary people's lives are being, errm... damaged every day of the week by press intrusion and grief and, errm... lies being printed, or exaggeration, you know, the whole thing about the Miliband situation where, errr... people came to, errr... essentially a private gathering, a morial [sic: memorial]. It's just completely unacceptable and what we do want is a system that does protect ordinary people.

Gerry McCann 'frustrated' by press regulation process, 07 October 2013
Gerry McCann 'frustrated' by press regulation process The Telegraph

The father of missing Madeleine McCann calls for measures to protect "ordinary people" from press intrusion.

4:22PM BST 07 Oct 2013

Gerry McCann, whose three-year-old daughter went missing in 2007, calls for "quick redress" for victims of press intrusion, saying certain reports by the media "damaged the search for Madeleine".

He said of his family's own experience: "We know what it's like to suffer and know how damaging it is. If it wasn't for the most amazing support from family and friends and members of the public, I don't know that we would have survived what we actually went through."

He said the "distortion, lies, sensationalism, really trafficking our personal grief" was simply "unacceptable".

Kate McCann / 'Kate's Diary' headline

Asked what concerns he had over the regulatory measures put forward by the press, he said: "We haven't got long enough, we could be here all day. But the fundamental question really is that it's the PCC (the Press Complaints Commission), it's a gentleman's club agreement, it's not independent enough of the press and we should have no confidence that we would get any improvement over what is currently in place."

The Privy Council is expected to announce its decision on Wednesday, followed by Lord Justice Leveson speaking publicly for the first time since his inquiry, with an evidence session at the Commons Media Select Committee on Thursday.

-----------------------

Transcript

By Nigel Moore

[Note: This video does not contain the interviewer's questions]

Gerry McCann: I am quite frustrated because it's almost a year since we had the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry and it's almost 7 months since we had, errr... agreement of the Royal Charter, errr... agreed by all, errr... political parties and still it hasn't been implemented and as a victim of the press, you know, we really want to get this moving forwards.

(...)

Gerry McCann: Clearly, errr... the media barons... press barons are putting a lot of pressure on our politicians, errr... to try and go back to what we... we have in place currently, which is the PCC, or Son of PCC, which is totally unacceptable to those of us who gave evidence at the Inquiry.

(...)

Gerry McCann: I feel it has been drifting. I'm still optimistic that they will deliver and really I'm here today to give them a reminder of what ordinary victims of the press want and need, and this really should be done and dusted.

(...)

Gerry McCann: I'm no expert on the actual process of which it goes through but certainly from the information I've seen, errr... of the Press Charter, it is not acceptable to us, it is not Leveson compliant and it nowhere near meets Leveson's recommendations and on that basis it should be, errr... discounted.

(...)

Gerry McCann: I wouldn't like to get sidetracked on that whole, errm... Miliband issue but at the very least I thought it was distasteful and something really that come out of it, which many of us as victims of the press, including the Mail Group, have found extremely difficult, is trying to get an apology out of them when they've clearly done something wrong, and that is something that I would hope, for ordinary people - not for politicians - but for ordinary people who suffer. That's what they want. It's very quick redress and, for most people, an apology.

(...)

Gerry McCann: The damage that was caused, and the widespread international pick-up of, errm... UK media has damaged us and damaged the search for Madeleine, which is more important. Now, I hope we've reversed it but we shouldn't have to have gone through it and despite, and I want to make this clear, and it's something we have talked about, you know, we had letters from the chief constable of Leicestershire asking the media to show some restraint and telling them that many of the stories were simply not true. We had our own legal representatives going to see editors with our media representative and it still carried on, months and months later. And we need a much quicker, errr... form of redress and a system that really rewards newspapers and editors who stay within the code and actually punishes, and has a proper deterrent, for those who are repeat offenders. Currently the PCC slaps people on the wrist and that's it.

(...)

Gerry McCann: There were widespread headlines, errr... not only suggesting that we were involved but suggesting that there was strong evidence that Madeleine was dead, and no such evidence exists. If people believe a missing child is dead they're not going to look for her, or they're not going to come forward with information which might be important.

Reject papers' plan for regulation, says Gerry McCann, 07 October 2013
Reject papers' plan for regulation, says Gerry McCann BBC News

The Privy Council is expected to announce its decision later this week

7 October 2013 Last updated at 18:09

The newspaper industry's plans for press regulation are "a gentlemen's club agreement" and should be rejected by politicians, Gerry McCann has urged.

The father of missing girl Madeleine McCann said the recommendations of the Leveson inquiry into press ethics were the "minimum acceptable".

The Privy Council is due to announce its decision on a royal charter.

It is also considering a government-led plan, which has been supported by campaigners against press intrusion.

Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry was set up in July 2011 after it emerged journalists working for the now-defunct News of the World had hacked the mobile phone of murdered Surrey schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Politicians and the press have been at odds over the details of a royal charter - a formal document used to establish and lay out the terms of a body such as universities or the BBC - to underpin the regulator.

The government's proposals published on 18 March have cross-party backing and the support of the Hacked Off campaign.

Mr McCann and his family were subject to intense press attention after Madeleine went missing while they were on holiday in Portugal in May 2007.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's The World At One, he said: "I have been disappointed at the speed of progress - almost a year on from Leveson, seven months on from the approval by all parties of the royal charter.

"But I think this is a key week, really, for our politicians and hopefully they will reject the press charter which has been proposed, because from my point of view, as a victim and representing others, it will be inadequate."

He supported the government proposals as he had been "assured that essentially it delivers Leveson by another means".

On the rival press plans, Mr McCann said "it's not independent enough of the press and we should have no confidence that we would get any improvement over what is currently in place".

Mr McCann said the press "does a lot of good" but there needed to be protections in place for ordinary people.

He said: "Certainly, from the point of view of going through Leveson and testifying, certainly the key thing for us was to have Leveson implemented. For me, it was the minimum acceptable recommendations."

There are a series of key differences between the industry's plan for press regulation and that agreed by politicians and campaigners.

The newspapers' proposals would:
  • Remove a ban on peers and former editors serving on the newly created "recognition panel", which will decide in future whether newspapers are being regulated properly
  • Remove Parliament's power to block or approve future changes to regulation. Instead the regulator, trade bodies and the recognition panel would have to agree to changes
  • Make it more difficult to bring group complaints
  • Give the regulator the power to "require", rather than "direct", the nature, extent and placement of corrections, and abandon the idea of giving it the power to force newspapers to publish apologies
Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, told the BBC his magazine would not take part in a system of regulation "mandated by politicians".

He told the BBC it "would in effect end the principle of free press that we've had in this country for three centuries or more".

"What happened to the McCanns was terrible, a lot of what has been revealed in the phone hacking scandal has been deplorable as well... Current laws are sufficient to deal with this."

On Thursday - the day after the Privy Council is due to make its announcement - Lord Justice Leveson will appear before the Commons Media Select Committee.

Politicians 'reject' press plan for regulation, 08 October 2013
Politicians 'reject' press plan for regulation BBC News

Media commentator Steve Hewlett said people in the newspaper industry were "furious"

8 October 2013 Last updated at 10:03

Senior politicians have rejected the newspaper industry's version of a royal charter setting up a press regulator, the BBC's Newsnight has reported.

A source said a sub-committee of the Privy Council, containing Lib Dem and Tory cabinet ministers, thought the proposals were "flawed".

But sub-committee chair Danny Alexander insisted no decision had been made.

The full Privy Council is also looking at an alternative plan backed by politicians and campaigners.

It is due to announce its decision on the press proposals on Wednesday and the alternative plan on 30 October.

Press regulation options are being considered in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry, which was set up in July 2011 after it emerged journalists working for the now-closed News of the World had hacked into the mobile phone of murdered Surrey schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Politicians and the press have been at odds over the details of a royal charter - a formal document used to establish and lay out the terms of a body - to underpin the regulator.

The government's proposals published in March have cross-party backing and the support of campaign group Hacked Off.

There are a series of key differences between the industry's plan for press regulation and that agreed by politicians and campaigners.

Rejection 'likely'

Newsnight's political editor Allegra Stratton was told Privy Council members felt proposals for self-regulation put forward by newspapers did not meet the requirements of Lord Justice Leveson's report.

Mr Alexander, who told the BBC the sub-committee met on Monday and the full Privy Council will meet on Wednesday to consider the press proposal, said there were a "few remaining" details to be decided - but insisted "no final decision has been made".

But ministers "do look set to reject" the form of regulation put forward by newspapers, BBC political editor Nick Robinson said.

The Privy Council sub-committee consists of four Tories and two Lib Dems - and both parties have been critical of the press proposals - he added.

The full Privy Council is expected to endorse the recommendation of the sub-committee when it meets on Wednesday.

Steve Hewlett, presenter of BBC Radio 4's The Media Show, told Newsnight that newspaper publishers felt the process had been far from transparent.

He said: "People I have spoken to are furious and are now considering whether there might be a legal challenge to this decision by the Privy Council."

The newspapers' proposals would:

  • Omit a ban on peers and former editors serving on the newly created "recognition panel", which will decide in future whether newspapers are being regulated properly
  • Deny Parliament the power to block or approve future changes to regulation. Instead the regulator, trade bodies and the recognition panel would have to agree to changes
  • Give the regulator the power to "require" - rather than "direct" - the nature, extent and placement of corrections.
Trevor Kavanagh, associate editor of the Sun, said the news was not a shock.

"It's what we'd been given fairly clear clues would happen," he said.

The Sun's Trevor Kavanagh said the news was not a shock

"I think it has to be seen as a great victory for the forces of oppression of a free press - Hacked Off in particular - and the politicians who have gone along for the ride."

Brian Cathcart, executive director of Hacked Off, said the press's plan had been a "delaying manoeuvre" by the big national newspapers.

"The problem with the papers is that they do not want to deal fairly with complaints," he said.

Mr Cathcart said there was a "rare unanimity" in Parliament on this issue, and the press was refusing to compromise "like an errant child on the naughty step with his fingers in his ears".

He said only the press stood against the consensus in politics and the public which said: "We want Parliament's royal charter - Leveson's royal charter - and we want it now."

Earlier, Gerry McCann said the newspaper industry's plans for press regulation were "a gentlemen's club agreement" and should be rejected by politicians.

The father of missing Madeleine McCann said the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry were the "minimum acceptable".

Mr McCann and his family were subject to intense press attention after Madeleine went missing while they were on holiday in Portugal in 2007.

Celebrities ask press to accept charter regulation plan, 18 March 2014
Celebrities ask press to accept charter regulation plan BBC News

18 March 2014 Last updated at 10:18

John Cleese, Sir David Attenborough, JK Rowling, and Victoria Wood

John Cleese, Sir David Attenborough, JK Rowling, and Victoria Wood are among 200 performers, writers and academics calling on newspapers to agree to the Royal Charter on press regulation.

They have added their names to an advert from campaign group Hacked Off.

Its declaration says the charter, published a year ago, safeguards newspapers from political interference.

But the industry is setting up its own regulator. It says it fears the charter may allow outside control of the press.

Proposals to change the existing system of press regulation emerged following the phone-hacking affair and subsequent Leveson Inquiry into the ethics and practices of newspapers.

The Royal Charter was finally agreed by all three main political parties last October. It follows many of the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry and proposes the Press Complaints Commission be replaced by a regulator with greater powers.

The tycoon Sir Richard Branson; actors Peter Capaldi, Michael Palin and Stephen Fry; comedians Rory Bremner and Miranda Hart; Professor Richard Dawkins; writer Salman Rushdie; film director Danny Boyle; playwrights Sir David Hare and Sir Tom Stoppard, and the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams are among the other signatories to the advertisement backing the charter.

'Nothing to lose'

It appears in several newspapers and magazines and says a "free press is a cornerstone of democracy.

"It has nothing to lose, and can only be enhanced, by acknowledging unethical practice in its midst and acting firmly to ensure it is not repeated."

The declaration signed by the celebrities adds that "editors and journalists will rise in public esteem when they accept a form of self-regulation that is independently audited on the lines recommended by Lord Justice Leveson.

"It is our view that this Charter safeguards the press from political interference while also giving vital protection to the vulnerable."

Hacked Off has carried out a high-profile campaign, led by actors Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan, to reform the press in the wake of the Leveson report.

The group, which says it relies on donations from supporters for its funding, has been pressing for the Royal Charter to be adopted.

Meanwhile, a new regulatory body, called the Independent Press Standards Organisation, is being set up by most of the national newspapers.

It will have similar powers of imposing fines on newspapers for breaches of a standards code to those being proposed by the Royal Charter.

'Stand with victims'

But it has been criticised by groups such as the Media Standards Trust for not being sufficiently independent of the big newspaper groups.

However, the BBC's media correspondent David Sillito says the newspapers are unlikely to agree to any oversight by the committee proposed by the Royal Charter that seeks to ensure the standards laid out in the Leveson Report.

Gerry McCann, father of missing Madeleine McCann, has been one of Hacked Off's most prominent supporters.

Mr McCann said it was "not a surprise" that so many public figures had put their names to the campaign.

He went on: "But it is very gratifying that they are prepared to stand publicly with the victims of press abuse and call on the newspapers to comply with the Royal Charter."

The Leveson Royal Charter Declaration, 18 March 2014
The Leveson Royal Charter Declaration Hacked Off

 
The Leveson Royal Charter Declaration, 18 March 2014

18 March 2014

- Extract -

'Kate & Gerry McCann victims of press abuse'

Press victims' letter tells Rupert Murdoch of 'regret' over regulation, 23 April 2014
Press victims' letter tells Rupert Murdoch of 'regret' over regulation The Guardian

Madeleine McCann's parents and Hugh Grant among those expressing concern at News UK opposition to royal charter

Jason Deans
Wednesday 23 April 2014 14.30 BST

Victims of press intrusion have written to Rupert Murdoch voicing concern at News UK's stance on press regulation. Photograph: Noah Berger/AP

Victims of press intrusion, including the parents of Madeleine McCann, Christopher Jefferies and Hugh Grant, have written to Rupert Murdoch expressing their "deep regret" that his UK newspapers are rejecting "meaningful reform" of industry regulation.

In a letter to Murdoch, executive chairman of News UK parent News Corp, and the rest of the company's board, they accused the Sun, Times and Sunday Times publisher of attempting to "preserve the failed [press regulation] arrangements of the past".

They also accused News UK of "leading a disreputable campaign of scaremongering" about the government-backed proposals for a new press self-regulator underpinned by royal charter, while failing to reflect the views of the majority of the British public, who they claimed back this system.

"We write now to express our deep regret that the management of News UK is turning its back on an important opportunity to restore trust," the letter states.

"In defiance of an exceptionally broad consensus of opinion in the UK about the best way for the press to proceed, News UK is rejecting meaningful reform of the UK self-regulatory system and attempting to preserve the failed arrangements of the past.

"Worse, News UK is leading a disreputable campaign of scaremongering while failing to reflect the majority view in its papers. You once said, Mr Murdoch, that newspapers had 'a great power for evil' – the power to withhold important information from the public. News UK papers are currently exercising that power."

News UK, along with most other newspaper and magazine publishers, is backing a rival self-regulator, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, which is expected to be up and running by June. However, the royal charter-backed alternative system endorsed by the three main political parties only exists on paper.

The letter was sent to the News Corp board in New York on Tuesday by Jefferies, the man wrongly linked to the murder of Joanna Yeates who won libel damages from eight papers, on behalf of 20 signatories, with the backing of Hacked Off, the group campaigning on behalf of victims of press intrusion for stricter industry regulation.

Other signatories include Kate and Gerry McCann, Grant, Steve Coogan and former Formula One governing body president Max Mosley.

The letter has also been sent to a number of US politicians.

A spokesperson for News Corp said: "Not one UK publisher has agreed to seek recognition under a royal charter for a new regulator of the press. More than 94% of the industry, left and right, tabloid and broadsheet, local and national have signed up to Ipso (the Independent Press Standards Organisation) which will come into being this June."

------------------

Press victims' letter to Rupert Murdoch - full text The Guardian

Letter sent by Christopher Jefferies, Steve Coogan and others voicing 'deep regret' over News UK's stance on regulation

Wednesday 23 April 2014 14.36 BST

Victims of press intrusion have written an open letter to Rupert Murdoch on press regulation. Photograph: Ian West/PA

17 April 2014

Dear Rupert Murdoch,

We are victims of unlawful actions by employees of the News of the World or the Sun, papers published by a News Corporation company.

As you know, the total cost to News Corporation of governance failure in the UK, including the opportunity cost and the damage to reputation, is incalculable, not least because prosecutions and litigation are likely to continue for years. We assume that everyone with an interest in the future of News Corp and its subsidiaries wants to ensure such failure cannot happen again, and that all appropriate steps are taken to restore the trust of the British public in the company and its papers.

We write now to express our deep regret that the management of News UK is turning its back on an important opportunity to restore trust. In defiance of an exceptionally broad consensus of opinion in the UK about the best way for the press to proceed, News UK is rejecting meaningful reform of the UK self-regulatory system and attempting to preserve the failed arrangements of the past.

Worse, News UK is leading a disreputable campaign of scaremongering while failing to reflect the majority view in its papers. You once said, Mr Murdoch, that newspapers had "a great power for evil" – the power to withhold important information from the public. News UK papers are currently exercising that power.

The arrangements set out in the UK royal charter on press self-regulation that was endorsed by all parties in the British parliament last March pose no threat to freedom of expression. If they did we would not endorse them. Nor would Britain's National Union of Journalists. Nor would the many prominent writers, directors, broadcasters and lawyers who have expressed their support. Nor would the vast majority of the British public.

Instead of embracing reform and so demonstrating that it has changed, News UK is digging itself into a hole of untrustworthiness and denial. Instead of making a break with a shameful past, it is clinging to that past. Unless there is a change of heart, News UK is again on course for governance failure, disastrous costs, harm to British citizens and public disgrace. We urge you to use your influence to ensure that the management of News UK embraces a change that is necessary, safe and good for both the company and the British public.

Yours,

Christopher Jefferies
Kate McCann
Gerry McCann
Hugh Grant
Steve Coogan
HJK
John Tulloch
Max Mosley
Mark Cann
Tom Rowland
Ben Noakes
Ed Blum
Charlotte Harris
Chris Bryant
Joan Smith
JRS Davies
Jacqui Hames
Jane Winter
Paul Dadge
Máire M Davies

Phone-hacking trial was officially about crime; but in reality, it was about power, 25 June 2014
Phone-hacking trial was officially about crime; but in reality, it was about power The Guardian

Rupert Murdoch's money washed through the 'trial of the century' like a Rolls-Royce. The story behind the News of the World scandal was not about journalists behaving badly, but the power of money and its abuses

 
Rebekah and Charlie Brooks: Rupert Murdoch funded their heavyweight defence team. Photograph: Mark Thomas/Rex Features
Rebekah and Charlie Brooks: Rupert Murdoch funded their heavyweight defence team. Photograph: Mark Thomas/Rex Features

 

Nick Davies
Wednesday 25 June 2014 18.42 BST

This was no ordinary trial.

It was unusual in its sheer scale: more than three years of police work; 42,000 pages of crown evidence; seven months of hearings; up to 18 barristers in court at any one time; 12 defendants facing allegations of crime spreading back over a decade.

But what made it most unusual was what it represented. First, this was a long-delayed showdown between the criminal justice system and parts of Fleet Street, in which the reputations of both was at stake. Beyond that, however, this was a trial by proxy, in which Rebekah Brooks stood in the dock on behalf of a media mogul and Andy Coulson acted as avatar for the prime minister, with the reputations of Rupert Murdoch and David Cameron equally in jeopardy. Officially, the trial was all about crime; in reality, it was all about power.

And just as the main players were absent from the court, so the real issues which for years had inflamed public opinion were not mentioned on the indictment – the perception that some news organisations were all too happy to invade privacy and ruin lives in order to sell more papers; that they regarded themselves as not only above the law but above the government, which would do their will or suffer for it; that they had poisoned the mainstream of public debate with a daily drip-feed of falsehood and distortion.

On the afternoon of 30 October 2013, as the prosecuting counsel, Andrew Edis QC, first rose to his feet, I looked across at the 12 jurors who had just been empanelled – mixed gender, mixed race, mixed age – and thought that they represented arguably the most ancient form of democracy (centuries older than the idea of voting); that this was the moment when all the wealth and influence of the Murdoch network finally confronted a form of popular will which they could not compromise. It was not as simple as that.

Somebody called it the trial of the century. That worked well enough as an indication of its scale and of the highly unusual status of some of those in the dock. But it was more accurate in another sense, that, as the weeks went by, this trial came to embody the peculiar values of this particular century – its materialism and the inequality which goes with it, the dominance of corporation over state.

The judge, Mr Justice Saunders, was outstanding – clever, considerate, surprisingly funny, displaying never a flicker of fear or favour towards the ambassadors of the power elite who sat before him in the dock. The jurors were a tribute to the jury system. Their facial reactions each day showed that their concentration scarcely wavered during the marathon (though one had the initially alarming habit of listening with her eyes shut). Often, they sent written notes to the judge which were extraordinarily astute, spotting glitches in the evidence which had been missed by every single one of the highly paid counsel in front of them. But ...

Rolls-Royce defence

Rupert Murdoch's money flooded that courtroom. It flowed into the defence of Rebekah Brooks, because he backed her; and to the defence of Andy Coulson, because Coulson had sued and forced him to pay. Lawyers and court reporters who spend their working lives at the Old Bailey agreed they had never seen anything like it, this multimillion-pound Rolls-Royce engine purring through the proceedings. Soon we found ourselves watching the power of the private purse knocking six bells out of the underfunded public sector.

 
Rupert Murdoch: the Sun and ex-News of the World owner's money flooded the courtroom. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA
Rupert Murdoch: the Sun and ex-News of the World owner's money flooded the courtroom. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

 

In the background, for sure, there was a huge publicly funded police inquiry, forced by the stench of past failure to investigate thoroughly the crime which had been ignored and concealed for so long. But when it came to handling the police evidence in court, Brooks and Coulson had squads of senior partners, junior solicitors and paralegals, as well as a highly efficient team monitoring all news and social media. The cost to Murdoch ran into millions. Against that, the Crown Prosecution Service had only one full-time solicitor attached to the trial and one admin assistant. They worked assiduously. One prosecution source said it was surprising they had not simply collapsed under the strain. The effect was clear.

Defence barristers would pause, turn and find a solicitor to feed them information while crown counsel often found an empty seat. The defence produced neatly laminated bundles of evidence, while the crown hastily photocopied material into files which sometimes proved to be incomplete.

Towards the end of the trial, Edis decided the jurors needed an electronic index to be installed on a computer in the jury room to help them find their way through the avalanche of paperwork which had descended on them. With the CPS struggling for cash, Edis offered to pay for it out of his own pocket, and, in the absence of CPS manpower, two junior crown counsels had to create the index themselves. Over and again, the defence teams had the resources to find some helpful stick with which to beat a potentially dangerous witness – a misremembered date, a forgotten detail, even on one occasion the fact that the witness had once had coffee with Nick Davies from the Guardian. So they were able to create complication, confusion, doubt.

An expert witness claimed to be able to track the movements of defendants by analysing their use of mobile phones: the prosecution failed to notice that his conclusions were contradicted by his own data; he was chopped to pieces by the defence and admonished by the judge. The jury was told that the News of the World had hacked phones to obtain a story about Paul McCartney having a row with his then wife Heather Mills and throwing their engagement ring out of a hotel window: the prosecution failed to take account of evidence in the possession of the police which indicated the paper had bought the story from someone who worked in the hotel.

These weaknesses were exploited by the kind of high-octane cross-examination which could raise reasonable doubt about whether the witness is breathing. ("When did you start this breathing? ... You can't remember?! ... How often do you breathe? ... You don't know?!"). Here the disparity in funding was striking but not so important. There were masterclasses in the skills of advocacy from Edis as well as from some of those acting for those in the dock. It simply stuck in the craw that Edis was earning less than 10% of the daily fees enjoyed by some of his opponents.

 
Andrew Edis QC: the lead prosecutor earned less than 10% of some defence barristers' daily fees. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA
Andrew Edis QC: the lead prosecutor earned less than 10% of some defence barristers' daily fees. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

 

Finally, the crown was hampered by the rules of court that allow it to make an opening statement but require it then to present items of evidence without any comment as to why they matter, a rule policed with ferocious efficiency by the Rolls-Royce defence teams. In a normal case, where the prosecution might spend only three or four days presenting its case, that would not matter: the evidence would be relatively simple; it would be clear how each piece fitted into a picture. In a seven-month trial, the rule combined with the crown's scarce resources to produce a kind of chaos.

When Brooks's barrister, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, rose to open her defence after nearly four months of prosecution evidence, he told the jury with his trademark combination of gentle delivery and vicious effect, that it had not been "the easiest case to follow". The crown had jumped from topic to topic, he said. It had made "something of a mess" of timelines for the key hacking victims, which were incomplete and potentially misleading. It had flashed up documents on the courtroom screens and forgotten to give them to the jury: "If there is a sense of confusion about the evidence and what it is supposed to relate to, that would be entirely understandable ... There are categories where we simply don't know or understand the point that is being made."

Unpredictable contest

It may have been patronising, but he had a point. The crown had spent months effectively throwing random bricks at the jury with little or no explanation as to how they fitted together. Laidlaw set about building the prosecution's house for them, attempting to persuade the jurors that, when they saw it in its final form, they would see it was full of holes.

This is not to say that the defendants had no problems. In pre-trial hearings, Brooks lost her lead barrister, John Kelsey-Fry QC, because the former royal editor, Clive Goodman, said he wanted to call him as a witness to the cover-up at his own trial for hacking in 2007. The judge agreed to delay the trial for seven weeks while she instructed Laidlaw – and that meant Coulson lost his barrister, Clare Montgomery QC, because the new timing overlapped with a case she had to conduct in Hong Kong. The trial opened against a backdrop of public hostility to Brooks and Coulson, not only because of the high-profile hacking saga, but also because of their careers. Brooks's lawyers tried and failed to persuade the judge to ban all trade union members from the jury on the grounds that they were bound to be antagonistic.

Throughout the trial, the defendants were thrown off-course as the crown, struggling to keep up, served new evidence that should have been presented before the trial started. Even as the final evidence was being put to the jury in April, the prosecution suddenly announced it had 48,000 email messages which the FBI had obtained from News Corp in New York; they had been with police in London for 16 months.

 
Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson arrive at the Old Bailey to begin their defence
Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson arrive at the Old Bailey to begin their defence

 

All this made the trial a peculiarly unpredictable contest. From the start, the crown case was weak, particularly against Rebekah Brooks. There was no direct evidence at all to implicate her in phone hacking. Indeed, there was simply a lack of any direct evidence about her of any kind. That was partly because of the passage of time: she stopped being editor of the News of the World in January 2003, so naturally paperwork and other evidence had been lost. Some had been destroyed. Over the years, News International had deleted some 300m emails from their systems, only 90m of which were retrieved, including only a handful from Brooks’ editorship. The hard drive had been removed from her computer for safe keeping then lost.

But there was no doubt at all that the News of the World had been involved in crime on a massive scale. Before the trial opened, three former news editors and the specialist phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire had pleaded guilty to conspiring to intercept voicemails. By the time it finished, News International had paid compensation to 718 victims of the hacking – an average of nearly three agreed victims for every week during the five years for which patchy evidence of Mulcaire's work has survived. Hundreds more alleged victims were still being identified by police.

Platform of inference

The hacking case against Brooks and Coulson was based on a platform of inference. How could they not have known about the beehive of offending around them, the crown asked. How could they not have known about Mulcaire's speciality when he was one of only two outside contributors with a full-time contract and was being paid more than any reporter, at one point more even than the news editor? How could they not have known the origin of all those stories whose accuracy they had to test? How could they have been ignorant when a humble sports writer described Mulcaire, a former footballer, as "part of our special investigations team" in a story published by the News of the World when Brooks was editor? Brooks and Coulson insisted they had known nothing of Mulcaire's criminality. They had not even heard his name until he was arrested in August 2006, they told the jury.

The attack on this platform of inference included a striking example of the impact of Murdoch’s money. The evidence which lies at the core of the hacking scandal is the collection of notes found by detectives when they first arrested Mulcaire in August 2006: 11,000 pages of his barely legible scribble and scrawl and doodle. The original police inquiry took one look at it and decided it simply did not have the resources to go through it all. When Operation Weeting in 2011 finally did the job properly, it took it the best part of a year. Brooks's Rolls-Royce did it in three months and then had the resources to produce a brilliant analysis.

 
Glenn Mulcaire: the phone hacker was tasked 2,255 times in five years by the News of the World. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images
Glenn Mulcaire: the phone hacker was tasked 2,255 times in five years by the News of the World. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

 

The notes showed that Mulcaire was tasked some 5,600 times during the five years that he worked on contract for the News of the World, an average of more than four for every working day. As a crude average, that would imply that between September 2001, when he was contracted to work for the paper, and January 2003, when Brooks left, he was commissioned around 1,400 times. But Brooks's legal team set aside all those notes where it was not 100% certain they had been written during that time; and all those where it was not 100% certain that Mulcaire had been tasked to intercept voicemail as opposed to "blagging" confidential data. Since a considerable mass of his notes were incomplete and/or ambiguous on either date or task, this allowed Laidlaw to tell the jury that there were only 12 occasions when it was 100% certain that Mulcaire had hacked a phone while she was editor – an eye-catching point to be able to deliver in answer to the crown's inference.

Where Brooks was concerned on the hacking charge, there was very little extra evidence to add to that platform of inference. Three witnesses came to court and recalled social occasions when she had discussed hacking with apparent familiarity. Brooks told the jury that she had read about hacking in newspaper stories; she had talked about it casually because she had not realised it was illegal; but she would never have sanctioned it because it was such a severe breach of privacy. One of these three witnesses – the former wife of the golfer Colin Montgomerie, Eimear Cook – was cut to pieces by a particularly destructive cross-examination.

Cook told the jury she recalled a conversation at lunch in September 2005, when Brooks had not only warned her that her own phone might be hacked but had described the ease with which it could be done. Cook added that during the same lunch, she thought Brooks had discussed the famous incident when she had been arrested for assaulting her then partner, the actor Ross Kemp. Laidlaw gently pawed her into position, confirming without doubt the date of the lunch, challenging the strength of her memory until she insisted she was absolutely certain and then, like Hannibal Lecter in a horsehair wig, softly and courteously, he cut out her heart: the incident with Kemp had happened six weeks after the lunch. Her story could not possibly be right.

Then there was Milly Dowler. This was almost spooky. It was the Guardian's disclosure of the hacking of the missing Surrey schoolgirl's phone that finally broke open the scandal. That was purely about the emotional impact of the story – that this was no celebrity victim, but an ordinary civilian, a child, and one who had been abducted and murdered by a predatory paedophile. Now, in court, once more, it was Dowler who presented the threat, not because of any emotional impact, but because it just so happened that this was the one example of hacking under Brooks's editorship where there was some hard evidence. This was, as the judge said in a ruling, "the high point of the prosecution case".

 
Milly Dowler investigation: the News of the World hid information from police. Photograph: John Stillwell/PA
Milly Dowler investigation: the News of the World hid information from police. Photograph: John Stillwell/PA

 

Having picked up a voicemail which seemed to suggest that Dowler was alive and working in a factory in Telford, the News of the World not only hid that information from police but later, when they had failed to find her, they contacted Surrey police and demanded that they confirm the story for them – and quoted the voicemail, in phone calls and even in email. The records of those calls and messages survived in the Surrey police archive. Brooks must have been consulted about the high-risk decision to hide information from the police, the crown argued.

She must have been told about this potentially huge scoop – and about its origin, they said. She must have known that seven journalists were working on it, including her news editor, Neville Thurlbeck, and her managing editor, Stuart Kuttner, who had both personally contacted Surrey police and quoted the intercepted voicemail. If it was not secret from the police, why would it be a secret from the editor? From the editor who was running a national campaign to protect children from predatory paedophiles?

Brooks's answer was that she had been on holiday that week, in Dubai, and simply had not been told about any of this. Even here, the Dowler case proved special. She had been using a News International phone, and the itemised bill had survived in the company’s vaults. If she had been in London, there would have been no record of her conversations, but the phone bill showed she had called the desk occupied by her deputy, Coulson, for 38 minutes on the Friday of that week, as reporters crawled over the big story, and again for 20 minutes on the Saturday, as they pressed the police to confirm it. She had texted him too. However, the prosecution had failed to realise that the records of some of those calls and texts were linked to the time in Dubai, not London, a three-hour difference which allowed Laidlaw to pour justifiable confusion over the evidence.

In addition, she and Kemp had been joined on the holiday by a British tourist, William Hennessy, who told the jury that she had spent a lot of time on the phone, explaining on one occasion that she had to make a call "about the missing Surrey girl". Hennessy was sure of the timing: he had bought a watch in Dubai and kept the receipt, which was dated. Brooks said she had no memory of that. She had remained oblivious to the whole saga, she said, even when she returned to the office the following week, never reading the story which the paper had published quoting the voicemail verbatim, never knowing that managing editor Stuart Kuttner was still hectoring Surrey police to confirm the tale. Kuttner, also on trial, was himself found not guilty of conspiring to hack phones.

Close to the action

Coulson always had more to deal with. While evidence of his three years as Brooks's deputy was hard to find, there was a wealth of phone records, emails, voicemail recordings and Mulcaire notes about the hacking that happened when he was in charge, from January 2003 to January 2007. And Coulson had got himself dangerously close to the action.

Searching Mulcaire's home and the News of the World office, police found hundreds of voicemails left by David Blunkett for his lover, Kimberley Quinn. Coulson startled the court by admitting that his chief reporter, Thurlbeck, had played some of them to him. He had then personally confronted the then home secretary with the allegation of his affair, telling him: "I am certainly very confident of the information ... It is based on an extremely reliable source." Blunkett taped that meeting, and the tape survived. Coulson argued that this might show that he was aware of one instance of hacking but not that he was part of the conspiracy to make it happen.

 
David Blunkett was confronted by Andy Coulson over his affair after the News of the World hacked his phone. Photograph: PA
David Blunkett was confronted by Andy Coulson over his affair after the News of the World hacked his phone. Photograph: PA

 

Mulcaire then hacked the voicemail of a Labour special adviser, Hannah Pawlby, attempting to prove a false allegation that she was having an affair with the next home secretary, Charles Clarke. Coulson personally called Pawlby, saying he needed to talk to Clarke about "quite a serious story". Mulcaire actually hacked his own editor's message from Pawlby's phone, and the recording was found by police when they searched his home. Coulson said simply that he wanted to talk to Clarke about a different story which was also serious; he had known nothing about the hacking of Pawlby's phone.

When they were investigating Calum Best, News of the World executives feared that one of their journalists might be leaking information to him, warning him about what they were planning. Coulson sent an email: "Do his phone." Mulcaire's notes showed that he did then target Best, though it was not clear whether he succeeded in hacking his messages. Coulson said his email was an order to pull the itemised phone bills of the journalist who was suspected of leaking, to see if he had been calling Best.

Unlike Brooks, Coulson also faced two live witnesses who claimed he had known about the hacking. A showbusiness writer, Dan Evans, who had become a specialist hacker, told the jury that Coulson had hired him from the Sunday Mirror explicitly because of his hacking skill. He claimed that one day in the newsroom, he had played Coulson a tape of a voicemail hacked from the phone of the actor Daniel Craig in which Sienna Miller said she was in the Groucho club with Jude Law.

Coulson's counsel, Timothy Langdale QC, a model of old-school courtesy built around a core of steel, released a swarm of questions around Evans. He stung him into describing his own criminality, his deal with the police, his history of cocaine abuse, finally pushing him into claiming to be sure of the date when he had played the Craig voicemail to Coulson – and then revealed that the editor had not been in the office on that day. When Langdale went on to query whether Miller and Law had been in the Groucho during that timeframe, the prosecution was left floundering: it had failed to get evidence from the club to prove their point.

 
Timothy Langdale: old-school courtesy built around a core of steel. Photograph: Mark Thomas/Rex Features
Timothy Langdale: old-school courtesy built around a core of steel. Photograph: Mark Thomas/Rex Features

 

Similarly, Coulson's former friend and royal editor, Goodman, went into the witness box and told the jury that Coulson had personally approved his hacking of royal phones, for which Mulcaire was paid in cash with a false name and address on internal paperwork. He added that hacking was going on on "an industrial scale" at the time and was often discussed in meetings with Coulson until he banned any further open mention of it. Langdale pushed back hard, confronting him with evidence to suggest he had lied about the extent of his own involvement in the royal hacking.

Unheard evidence

A trial deals with only a limited amount of information, considering only the evidence which is available and also admissible and which relates directly to the charges on the indictment. As in any case, there was a great deal which the jury did not hear information which could have tipped their judgment for or against the defendants.

Some 30 News of the World journalists provided information which helped the Guardian uncover the scandal. But almost without exception, they spoke off the record. One of them – Sean Hoare – spoke openly, but he died in July 2011. A senior former executive and two of those who had pleaded guilty before the trial – Mulcaire and Thurlbeck – had discussions with the police about giving evidence for the prosecution. All three negotiations failed. Evans and Goodman were alone.

The jury heard nothing about earlier police inquiries into allegations of the News of the World's involvement in blagging confidential records and bribing corrupt police for information, which occurred in the late 1980s and 90s. They heard nothing of the 3,000-word feature in the Guardian that described in detail the alleged involvement in this blagging and bribing of a senior executive from the paper. Similarly, they were told very little of the paper's use of Steve Whittamore, who blagged information illegally, culminating in his conviction in court in April 2005.

The jury was told in detail about the information which Brooks said she had been given by an officer from the original inquiry, DCI Keith Surtees, who met her in September 2006 to tell her that her own phone had been hacked by Mulcaire. An internal email written at the time reported that, according to Brooks, police had found "numerous voice recordings and verbatim notes of his accesses to voicemails" and that they had a list of more than 100 hacking victims (as distinct from the eight who were later named in court) and that they came from "different areas of public life – politics, showbiz etc" (as distinct from the royal victims who were of interest to the only News of the World journalist they had arrested). This information was shared with Andy Coulson.

 
Rebekah Brooks told MPs in 2009 that the Guardian had 'substantially and likely deliberately misled the British public' over phone hacking. Photograph: Rex Features
Rebekah Brooks told MPs in 2009 that the Guardian had 'substantially and likely deliberately misled the British public' over phone hacking. Photograph: Rex Features

 

However, the jury was not then told of the letter which Brooks wrote to the media select committee in July 2009, after the Guardian first reported the true scale of the hacking, in which she said that the Guardian had "substantially and likely deliberately misled the British public". Nor were they shown Brooks's famous evidence to that committee in March 2003 when she said that her journalists had paid police for information in the past. Select committee evidence is not admissible in court because of rules around parliamentary privilege.

Beyond all that, the jury was specifically not invited to consider behaviour which may not be criminal but have most offended public opinion.

Breaking boundaries

As tabloid newspaper bosses, Brooks and Coulson ruined lives. They did it to sell newspapers, to please Murdoch, to advance their own careers. One flick of their editorial pen was enough to break the boundaries of privacy and of compassion. The singer's mother suffering from depression; the actor stricken by the collapse of her marriage; the DJ in agony over his wife's affair: none of their pain was anything more than human raw material to be processed and packaged and sold for profit. Especially, obsessively if it involved their sexual activity.

With all the intellectual focus of a masturbatory adolescent, their papers spied in the bedrooms of their targets, dragging out and humiliating anybody who dared to be gay or to have an affair or to engage in any kind of sexual activity beyond that approved by a Victorian missionary. They did it to friends – like Blunkett, for example, sharing drinks and private chats with him and then ripping the heart out of his private life, sprinkling their story with fiction as they did so. And to Sara Payne: befriended by Brooks in her campaign to change the law about publication of the home addresses of sex offenders; investigated by her paper on the false suspicion that she was having an affair with a detective.

But above all, they did it to their enemies. Among the politicians who they exposed for being gay or for having affairs, the leftwingers easily outnumbered the occasional stray rightwinger. In among them were the special enemies who dared to challenge News International. In the early stages of the hacking story, there was only one frontbench politician from any party who was willing to attack the News of the World – the Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne. In June 2010, when Brooks was chief executive of News International, it was her News of the World which exposed Huhne's affair.

 
Chris Huhne was targeted by the News of the World. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
Chris Huhne was targeted by the News of the World. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

 

The News of the World also targeted the private life of its most outspoken critic in parliament – Tom Watson. Brooks had loathed Watson since he took part in the "curry house" plot in 2006, attempting to engineer Gordon Brown into Downing Street at the expense of her favourite, Tony Blair. News International reporters say that during the hacking saga, she called in reporters to ask if they had any dirt on Watson. The News of the World put a private investigator on his tail, hoping to catch him having an affair.

They did all this with breathtaking hypocrisy. While Coulson and Brooks were using their front pages to expose public figures for having affairs, they were themselves having an affair and keeping that information very private. Behind the scenes at the trial Brooks took the hypocrisy a step further. Although her newspapers had frequently attacked the Human Rights Act, she tried to use Article 6 – on the right to a fair hearing – to prevent her "affair" letter to Coulson being put before the jury.

Before the trial started, Laidlaw attempted to get the whole case against Brooks thrown out on the grounds that prejudicial newspaper coverage meant she could not get a fair trial. The crown replied by citing the case of Abu Hamza, who tried and failed to stop his own trial in 2006 because of prejudicial publicity in the Sun, then edited by Brooks. Laidlaw went on to complain about the scrum of press photographers waiting to pounce outside the Old Bailey door.

Power games

Their willingness to ruin lives was directly linked to their political power. MPs feared that they might find their own private behaviour being monstered on News International's front pages. This is the power of the playground bully: he has only to beat up one or two children for all of them to start trying to placate him. Beyond that, government collectively feared having its agenda destroyed, its daily activity destabilised, its future terminated if Murdoch's editors turned against it. Former ministers and senior Whitehall officials all tell the same tale – that as Murdoch increased the size of his empire, governments became obsessed with newspaper coverage, particularly that of the Sun.

The power which Coulson and Brooks enjoyed delivered the kind of access for which unscrupulous lobbyists will pay large bundles of cash. A tabloid editors she was courted by ministers. At the Leveson inquiry, Brooks disclosed 185 meetings with prime ministers, ministers and party leaders while apologising that her records were incomplete. At the News of the World, Coulson showed little enthusiasm for politics, according to former Downing Street officials, one of whom remembers him being invited for breakfast with Gordon Brown and showing so little interest in policy that the two men ended up talking about newspaper circulations. Brooks, however, was a different story.

Far more than Coulson, she played the game of power, exploiting her extraordinary social skills to build an unrivalled network of connections.

Backed by fear of what her journalists could do, Brooks used her access to get her way. She could do it over small things: "If she was going to the US and she realised she had no visa, all she had to do was to make a phone call to a minister, and they'd sort it out for her," according to one former official. She used it to get stories. An adviser from the Ministry of Defence recalls the government being under pressure about British soldiers being killed and maimed by roadside bombs in Afghanistan: "We were told we couldn't release all we were doing for opsec reasons, yet the MoD went ahead and gave the information to the Sun."

 
Sharon Shoesmith was unlawfully sacked from Haringey council after a campaign by the Sun and others
Sharon Shoesmith was unlawfully sacked from Haringey council after a campaign by the Sun and others

More than that, she used her influence to try to change government policy, not simply and legitimately by publishing stories but privately with ministers by cajoling, insisting, playing on their fear. This might be aimed at scoring a victory for her newspapers – persuading the government to order a police review of the Madeleine McCann case as part of her strategy to encourage the toddler's parents to let her newspapers serialise their book; pushing hard to end the career of Sharon Shoesmith, head of children's services in Haringey, whom the Sun blamed for the death of Baby P. Shoesmith was sacked, a decision which was later described by the court of appeal as "intrinsically unlawful." Or Brooks aimed at larger policy which suited the ideology of the Sun and of its owner – over crime, immigration, public spending and notoriously over Britain's membership of the European Union and its potential involvement in the euro.

This exercise of power reached a peak with the sequence of events surrounding Murdoch's attempt to buy BSkyB: the Sun turning on Gordon Brown in September 2009; the sustained campaign of hostile reporting apparently calculated to ensure that the electorate would force him out of office; the parallel campaign in all the Murdoch titles attacking the BBC and Ofcom; the announcement of the BSkyB bid within a month of David Cameron's election; the Cameron government imposing drastic cuts on the BBC and Ofcom; Cameron's culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, allowing his special adviser to act as a back channel to the Murdochs while he considered the bid. Hunt duly gave a green light to the deal, which was within days of being confirmed in July 2011 when the hacking scandal erupted and moved parliament to denounce it.

Political distortion

And in all of this, Brooks consistently injected a highly contentious political ideology into the arteries of public debate, a toxic cocktail of crude populism and intellectual confusion. They demanded lower taxes and then damned public services for the failures inflicted on them by lack of funding. She led the cheers for stripping regulation out of the financial sector and then blamed Brussels for the ensuing crisis in the eurozone. She attacked the state when it inhibited corporate power and then promoted it when it engaged in military violence. She insisted on wars and then dared to claim to be the protectors of the soldiers who died in them (while Mulcaire, without her knowledge, hacked the phones of some of their families). She was a leader of opinion who had thought no further than the bland and self-serving simplicity of James Murdoch's theory about free media, that the only guide to independence is profit.

As a single example of the distorting impact of their work, YouGov in December 2012, working for the TUC, found that the average public perception was that 41% of the welfare budget was spent on the unemployed. The reality is 3%. And that 27% of that budget was eaten up by fraud. The reality, as far as official figures can detect, is 0.7%. So the simple, beautiful idea of all citizens voting for government became an exercise in the bland leading the blind.

And while Operation Weeting succeeded in bringing cases to court, these "crimes" remain unchallenged. The power remains. Leveson's attempt at independent media regulation was throttled at birth, not simply by the genuine concerns of those who care about a free press but also by a Fleet Street campaign of aggressive falsehood and distortion of precisely the kind that had made the Leveson inquiry necessary in the first place. Police officers resigned and politicians were embarrassed as the scandal erupted, but Scotland Yard – with dazzling cynicism – has reacted by trying to silence the kind of police whistleblowers who helped to expose the failures of their leaders; and ambitious politicians continue to dine with Rupert Murdoch. How long before News Corp's famous summer party is revived as a compulsory opportunity for political genuflection?

It seems to have become forgotten, conveniently by some, that before the Old Bailey trial two former newsdesk executives, Greg Miskiw and James Weatherup, pleaded guilty, as did the phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire and a former reporter, Dan Evans, who confessed to hacking Sienna Miller's messages on Daniel Craig's phone.

Neville Thurlbeck, the News of the World’s former chief reporter and news editor, pleaded guilty after the police found the tapes he had of Blunkett's messages in a News International safe.

In the trial, Coulson was convicted of conspiring to hack phones while he was editor of the News of the World. The jury was discharged after failing to reach unanimous verdicts on two further charges of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office faced by Coulson and Goodman.

But Brooks was found not guilty of four charges including conspiring to hack phones when she was editor of the News of the World and making corrupt payments to public officials when she was editor of the Sun. She was also cleared of two charges that she conspired with her former secretary and her husband to conceal evidence from police investigating phone hacking in 2011.

The jury at the Old Bailey returned true verdicts according to the evidence. They were not asked to do more.

Phone-hacking jury considers final verdicts, 25 June 2014
Phone-hacking jury considers final verdicts BBC News

25 June 2014 Last updated at 10:27

Andy Coulson was found guilty of a charge of conspiracy to intercept voicemails

Andy Coulson was found guilty of a charge of conspiracy to intercept voicemails

The jury in the phone-hacking trial is considering more charges against Andy Coulson as the PM faces questions about why he was appointed to a No 10 role.

The former News of the World editor has been found guilty of conspiracy to hack phones. Ex-News International chief Rebekah Brooks was cleared.

(...)

Harriet Harman, Labour's deputy leader, said Mr Cameron still had questions to answer about why he ignored advice not to appoint Coulson.

She said the plight of hacking victims, including murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and the parents of missing Madeleine McCann, was already "known about" when Coulson worked in Downing Street.

(...)

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Newsnight BBC iPlayer

Andy Coulson was found guilty of a charge of conspiracy to intercept voicemails

24/06/2014

Transcript

- Extract -

Laura Kuenssberg: Harriet Harman, David Cameron said he would apologise, if this is what happened. He's done that; he's been very clear about that - he didn't stint in his apology. Shouldn't this be the end of the story, for him?

Harriet Harman: Well, no, I don't think so. I don't think that makes it okay, at all. I mean, in the first place, why did he place so little concern on what had happened to those victims - The Dowlers, the McCanns - who'd been victims of crime and then had their lives even more turned upside down, and their privacy invaded, and their pain and suffering made worse by abuse of the press. I mean, that already was known about, and that was accepted. And he swept that aside because he wanted to have Andy Coulson by his side in No. 10.

With thanks to Nigel at McCann Files

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