Politics: PCC can be sued over privacy

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The Press Complaints Commission is to lobby the Government to exclude newspapers from provisions of the Bill to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into British law.

It follows confirmation yesterday from Lord Irvine, the Lord Chancellor, that the Bill, as drafted, will allow individuals to take the PCC to court to protect their privacy.

Lord Irvine said new legal opinion had changed his previous assumption that the organisation would not be covered by the Bill as a public authority.

"It is possible that the PCC will be held to be a `public authority' under the Human Rights Bill when it becomes law," he said in a statement.

"I had earlier thought that it probably would not, but an opinion given to the PCC by David Pannick QC persuaded me that it probably will be."

This means that claimants who believe that their right to privacy has been breached by the press will be able to take the PCC to court for failing to protect them.

Lord Irvine said that it should be welcomed by the press - although he warned that the PCC would have to develop tougher powers to curb newspapers that infringed the Convention.

In particular, he suggested that could include the power to order payment of compensation to claimants whose privacy was breached. "This is good news for the press, because the courts will regard the PCC as the primary body to provide effective protection to people who suffer from press abuses," he said.

"Provided, therefore, that self regulation is strong and effective the courts will not intervene with injunctions."