Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing as victims of press abuse, some of whom received categorical promises from your predecessor David Cameron. Several of us gave evidence to Part One of the Leveson Inquiry. Others have suffered at the hands of the press subsequent to that inquiry.
We are all disappointed and angered by your decision to surrender to powerful corporate media interests by cancelling Part Two of the Inquiry and seeking repeal of Parliament’s costs-shifting measures.
In 2013, following a historic cross-party agreement, Parliament agreed to introduce the key recommendations of Sir Brian Leveson for independent and effective self-regulation of the press. After decades of press policy being dictated by unaccountable newspaper proprietors, this was the moment that Parliament asserted its sovereignty and spoke up for ordinary people against the powerful.
Part Two of the Leveson Inquiry
In his letter to Amber Rudd and Matt Hancock, Sir Brian Leveson was clear that the Second Part of the Inquiry should proceed. It is supported by free speech charities such as ARTICLE 19 and by the National Union of Journalists. It was promised to victims of press abuse and to the public as a means of uncovering the full scale of systematic wrongdoing by senior newspaper executives.
In announcing cancellation of the Inquiry, Matt Hancock suggested that Part Two would be “backward-looking”. In fact, new allegations have now emerged from the Sunday Times whistleblower John Ford, as well as from civil cases against the Mirror and The Sun. We can think of no other area of public or corporate life in which the government would collude in covering up allegations of shocking unethical behaviour while those responsible remain in post.
Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013
Parliament’s costs-shifting provision has been on the statute book for over five years, and is central to making the system work. It provides access to justice for victims of unlawful press behaviour, while also protecting smaller publishers from wealthy and powerful litigants. Parliament was unequivocal, voting for it by 530 votes to 13. Yet the Government has refused to bring it into force.
Your decision to seek repeal will not only disadvantage ordinary people who cannot afford to take on powerful and wealthy publishers, but will also prejudice the interests of many local publishers who have sought protection for their investigative journalism by joining an independent, recognised regulator. Your government’s action will leave them vulnerable to expensive litigation.
The public remains fully behind the Leveson proposals and completion of his inquiry. Tomorrow, in the Data Protection Bill, MPs will have a chance to decide whether the wish of the public and the promises to victims are delivered, or abandoned in favour of capitulating to a handful of newspaper executives and proprietors. We will be writing to all MPs to urge them to keep their word and support the Leveson amendments. We hope you will not stand in their way.
Ben Jackson, assistant to Jude Law
Lord Brian Paddick, former police officer and Lib Dem peer
Emily Brothers, first openly transgender Labour parliamentary candidate
Alistair Morgan and Kirsteen Knight, campaigners with Justice For Daniel Morgan
Gerry and Kate McCann, parents of Madeleine McCann
Ian Hurst, intelligence officer in Northern Ireland
Jacqui Hames, police officer and Crimewatch presenter
Jane Winter, Northern Ireland human rights campaigner
John Tulloch, survivor of 7/7
John Messenger and Maire Davies
Margaret Aspinall, member of the Hillsborough Family Support Group
Margaret and James Watson
Mark Cann, director of the British Force Foundation
Mary-Ellen Field, representative of Elle Macpherson
Michelle Milburn, theatre agent
Mike Hollingsworth, husband of Anne Diamond
Paul Dadge, helper of 7/7 victim
Sheila and Martin Hollins, family of Abigail Witchells
Sheila Coleman, on behalf of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign
Sheryl Gascoigne, ex-wife of Paul Gascoigne
Sky Andrew, football agent
Sue Roberts, member of the Hillsborough Family Support Group
Tricia Bernal, mother of Clare Bernal