Leveson - Results and Recommendations
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  • 1. William Young The Leveson Report MediaAn independent regulatory body for the press should be established.Findings• Phone hackingLeveson makes no findings on any individual but says he is not convinced hacking was confined toone or two people. "The evidence drives me to conclude that this was far more than a covert, secretactivity, known to nobody save one or two practitioners of the dark arts."• Newspapers have recklessly pursued sensational stories"There has been a recklessness in prioritising sensational stories, almost irrespective of the harm thestories may cause and the rights of those who would be affected." The damage to people like theDowlers, the McCanns and Elle Macphersons former adviser has been "devastating".• Families of actors and footballers also have rights to privacyFamilies of famous people have had some of their lives destroyed by the relentless pursuit of thepress. Leveson says he found "ample evidence" that parts of the press decided actors, footballers,writers and pop stars were "fair game, public property with little if any entitlement to any sort ofprivate life or respect for dignity". He adds: "Their families, including their children, are pursued andimportant personal moments are destroyed."• Condemns covert surveillanceLeveson finds that there has been "a willingness to deploy covert surveillance, blagging anddeception in circumstances where it is extremely difficult to see any public interest justification". Henotes the News of the World was even prepared to put a surveillance team on two lawyers, MarkLewis and Charlotte Harris, acting for phone-hacking victims.• Failure of compliance and governance at the News of the WorldFew would subscribe to the view of Paul McMullan, the former feature writer who told the inquirythat "privacy is for paedos", says Leveson, but he says the papers "casual attitude to privacy and thelip service it paid to consent demonstrated a far more general loss of direction".• Complainants not taken seriously enoughLeveson finds there is "a cultural tendency within parts of the press vigorously to resist or dismisscomplainants almost as a matter of course". He says some papers are defensive, and even when anapology is agreed they get their own back by resorting to "high-volume, extremely personal attackson those who challenge them".Recommendations• New watchdog independent of MPs and newspapers, with statutory underpinningAn independent self-regulatory body underpinned by statute. It should be free of "any influencefrom industry and government". Leveson says: "It should be governed by an independent board. The
  • 2. William Young The Leveson Report Mediachair and the members of the board must be appointed in a genuinely open, transparent andindependent way."• The possibility of a first amendment-style lawLeveson says the legislation should allow for an independent regulator to be organised by theindustry, but it "should also place an explicit duty on the government to uphold and protect thefreedom of the press".• Powers, remedies and sanctions of the new watchdogFines of 1% of turnover, with a maximum of £1m. The watchdog should have "sufficient powers tocarry out investigations both into suspected serious or systemic breaches of the code". Had thePress Complaints Commission had this power it could have gone into the News of the Worldnewsroom to investigate allegations of widespread phone hacking.• Libel resolution unitThe new watchdog should have an arbitration process in relation to civil legal claims againstsubscribers. The process should be fair, quick and inexpensive. "Frivolous or vexatious claims" couldbe struck out at an early stage.• MembershipThis is not legally obligatory, which means the likes of Richard Desmond, owner of the Express, couldcontinue to opt out of the regulatory body. But Leveson recommends that if they do not join theindependent regulator, they should be policed by the broadcast watchdog, Ofcom.The DowlersThe Guardians revelation that messages had been deleted from 13-year-old Milly Dowlers phonewhen it was hacked turned out to be an error that "was significant enough". But had it been couchedin "more cautious terms or less certain terms may not have been capable of criticism at all". Levesonsays the fact remains that the News of the World hacked the phone of a dead schoolgirl. "Therevelation of that story rightly shocked the public conscience in a way that other stories of phonehacking may not have, but it also gave momentum to growing calls for light to be shed on anunethical and unlawful practice of which there were literally thousands of victims. In that context,whether or not News of the World journalists had caused the false hope moment is almostirrelevant."The McCannsLeveson devotes almost 12 pages to the McCann family. Some of the reporting of the disappearanceof three-year-old Madeleine McCann from Praia da Luz in Portugal in May 2007 was, Leveson says,"outrageous". A number of newspapers were "guilty of gross libels", with the Daily Star singled outfor its headline claiming the McCanns sold their child: "Maddie sold by hard up McCanns".
  • 3. William Young The Leveson Report MediaPress lobbyingOn the press lobbying for self-regulation, Leveson is withering, saying he does not find "the self-interested lobbying of the press to be an appropriate matter for press regulation". He says he hassome sympathy for politicians who are lobbied. "Not only are the press powerful lobbyists in theirown interests, but they wield a powerful megaphone with considerable influence."The Police• There is a perception that senior Met officers were "too close" to News International, which was"entirely understandable" given police actions and decision-making. "Poor decisions, poorlyexecuted, all came together to contribute to the perception."• Hospitality police received from media, lavish restaurant meals and champagne, did not enhancethe Mets reputation.• The Mets decision not to reopen the criminal inquiry into hacking was "incredibly swift" andresulted in a "defensive mind-set".• Some police decisions from 2006-10 were "insufficiently thought through … wrong and undulydefensive (and not merely with the benefit of hindsight)".• The Mets hacking review, led by John Yates, failed in its strategy to inform potential victims ofhacking, including Lord Prescott.• Given his friendship with a senior News International executive, Yates should have recused himselffrom the inquiry.• No evidence that decisions to limit the hacking inquiry were due to undue influence or corruption.Integrity of police not challenged.• It should be mandatory for chief police officers to record all their contact with the media, and forthat record to be available publicly for transparency and audit purposes.• Chief Officers should also be the subject of regular independent scrutiny by Her MajestysInspectorate of Constabulary, including through unannounced inspections.