State is a threat to privacy, too: Letter

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Sir: Lord Wakeham's recent statement ("Press faces tighter intrusion laws", 11 October) rightly questioned the effectiveness of self-regulation in the press. The European Convention on Human Rights recognises that press freedom is an essential component of a democratic society, but also that the state should protect the right to respect for private and family life. The law in this country should reflect both important rights by providing a right to privacy, subject, of course, to a public interest defence.

As chair of the Press Complaints Commission, Lord Wakeham is not concerned with the intrusions of privacy by the state itself. We believe that the privacy debate should not just focus on the treatment of celebrities by the press, but on the intrusions into the lives of ordinary people by state bodies, whether government departments, local authorities or the police. Lord Wakeham is wrong when he argues that nobody would benefit from statutory controls, as at present such people simply have no remedy.

The High Court will shortly decide whether a Brentwood man can bring judicial review proceedings against his local authority for passing to the media a video taken from its closed circuit television system showing him about to commit suicide. The local authority claims to have done nothing legally or morally wrong. As the law currently stands, he cannot complain of a breach of his right to privacy, because he has no such right.

PHILIP LEACH

Legal Office, Liberty

London SE1

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