Leveson reaction: Victims petition for new press law

Gerry McCann says: "without the statutory underpinning system will not work"

Rob Williams
Friday 30 November 2012 18:38 GMT
Gerry McCann welcomed the results of the 16-month inquiry, but said it should have gone further
Gerry McCann welcomed the results of the 16-month inquiry, but said it should have gone further

Some of the victims of phone hacking and press intrusion have launched an e-petition calling for Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations for press regulation to be implemented.

Gerry McCann, the father of missing Madeleine McCann, the actor Hugh Grant and Chris Jefferies, a retired school teacher who won damages from eight newspapers, today kicked off the Hacked Off campaign.

In his evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, Gerry McCann described how he and his wife Kate were treated like a commodity, as an “insatiable” hunt for headlines led to the sacrifice, not only of the search for the truth, but of their “dignity, privacy and well-being”.

Following the publication of Lord Justice Leveson's report into the culture, practices and ethics of the press, Gerry McCann had earlier urged the Prime Minister to reconsider his position on the regulation of the press, calling on him to 'do the right thing'.

Speaking to the Today programme this morning McCann told presenter John Humphrys that "without the statutory underpinning this system will not work."

I don't think the report has gone far enough... he has given the press another opportunity of self regulation," Mr McCann said.

"I have concerns that this system is not compulsory."

He said he opposed the Prime Minister's stance against any statutory underpinning saying: "I would have liked to have seen a properly independent regulation of the press, whereas I think he has given the press another opportunity of self-regulation,"

"The other thing I find a little disappointing from the report is that we don't have a clear roadmap and timescales for implementation which I would have liked to have seen laid out a bit more clearly."

Although the couple received damages for some of the coverage of them in the national press Mr McCann said that no one was "brought to task", arguing that there should be more accountability for reporters and photographers.

Mr McCann explained that damaging material can still be found on the internet relating to the family: "There is still a tremendous amount of vile [sic] written about us [on the internet]... and we have to face that going forward on a daily basis... and our twins who are almost eight will have to deal with that."

He said that the "ludicrous" press coverage of the case - which suggested there was evidence to link the couple to their daughter's disappearance - continued to cast a shadow over their family.

"Thankfully, for us, I would say the vast majority of the British public did not believe what was written", he continued.

The findings of Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into press standards and practices were released yesterday in a document comprising four volumes and over two thousand pages.

Within hours of its publication, however, the Prime Minister had taken to the dispatch box to state his opposition to its main recommendation: that the press should be regulated by law to prevent further wrongdoing.

Mr Cameron said that he had “principled and practical” concerns about “crossing the Rubicon” and legislating to control the press, while the Labour leader Ed Miliband insisted Parliament should “put its faith” in all Leveson’s recommendations.

In an unusual split with his Coalition partner, Nick Clegg came out in favour of the legislaion saying any new regulator must not just be "independent for a few months”.

In response to the publication of the report, and the comments today from Mr McCann, Culture Secretary Maria Miller told the programme: "The horrific experiences of the McCanns and others cannot be allowed to happen again and that is why we are absolutely clear that we fully accept the principles of Leveson but, as you would expect, we would look at the details of implementation.

"We have some grave concerns about the principle of putting into place statutory underpinning for this new self-regulatory body but we are also not convinced that it is absolutely necessary to achieve the objectives that both Lord (Justice) Leveson set out and indeed the victims have set out."

She declined repeatedly to say whether she believed the statutory underpinning recommendation was "bonkers" - the test previously suggested by Mr Cameron for whether he would implement any proposed reforms.

"What we are absolutely doing is going to move forward with the core recommendation of the Leveson report, which is an independent self-regulatory body," she said.

"Actually the judge did say that it was a matter of detail. The prime focus of the judge's report yesterday was the importance of the press themselves to now come forward with a self-regulatory body framework that can work. That's what the McCanns and others want to see.

"What he wants to see is effective regulation. What we are saying is that we have grave concerns about making that effective regulation underpinned with statute.

"What we are concerned about is creating amendable legislation that could in the future give a framework which could give Parliament the opportunity of stopping reporting on certain areas.

"You have to consider that carefully before going forwards."

She said the draft legislation was being drawn up "to look at what that Bill might look like, to demonstrate our concerns"

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