Christopher Meyer: Newspapers should beware of wishing for a privacy law

Share
Related Topics

Privacy has been much in the news lately because of a series of celebrity cases that have come before the courts. The Press Complaints Commisssion has just received a bunch of complaints from Heather Mills. Let's be clear about one thing. There will never be an absolutely definitive ruling either by the judges or by the PCC that draws a universally-applicable line between the private space and the public interest. Of course, the courts and the PCC make their decisions within the framework of their respective case law. But in the end it comes down to case by case; and a degree of subjectivity is unavoidable. That is why privacy cases, whether judged by the courts or the PCC, will be controversial till the end of time.

The Human Rights Act, of course, gets up the noses of a lot of people, and often rightly so. But it's a fact of life. It is the basis on which the courts rule when the principles of privacy collide with those of press freedom. Even if the Act were abolished tomorrow, there would remain a corpus of decisions based on it that would remain in force. That includes decisions made by judges which, taken together, have changed the legal landscape and are seen by some as tantamount to a privacy law. That too is a fact of life.

Every now and again you hear cries and whispers, not a million miles away from the newspaper and magazine industry, that perhaps, after all, a privacy law debated and passed by parliament would be preferable to decisions taken by "unelected" judges via the "back door". Well, beware of what you wish for. It may not be a full parliamentary debate; but the announcement last week of yet another hearing into privacy and related matters by the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport is the next best thing.

Some media lawyers will tell you that it is the courts which are making the running on privacy case law; and that the PCC is being shunted aside. Well, they would say that, wouldn't they? There is a minority of lawyers who resent the competition, as they see it, from a body that provides its services free and fast. But this is not a zero-sum game; there is a time for the law and a time for the PCC. And they ignore the sheer range of services we offer to those who fear unwarranted intrusion by the press.

From a speech by the chairman of the PCC in Manchester yesterday

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Birth can be a dangerous business – even in the UK

Jane Merrick
Ed Miliband addresses an audience in the Brooks Building of Manchester Metropolitan University on April 21, 2015  

If socialism means building homes and getting the rich to pay their taxes, then bring on Red Ed

Kiran Moodley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before