Victims of phone-hacking have accused the British Prime Minister David Cameron of betrayal after he rejected the recommendation of the Leveson Report on how to regulate an “outrageous” press that “had wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people”.
After nine months of hearings on media standards, involving more than 600 witnesses, Lord Justice Brian Leveson said Britain needed a tougher form of press self-regulation, backed by legislation. Justice Leveson denied this amounted to statutory regulation, because his proposed independent watchdog would not involve politicians (or newspaper editors).
Cameron said he welcomed Justice Leveson’s principles but was wary of legislation that might infringe on free speech.
“The danger is that this would create a vehicle for politicians, whether today or some time in the future, to impose regulation and obligations on the press,” he said.
The founder of the Hacked Off campaign, Brian Cathcart, said: “Despite their years of abuses and outrageous conduct, it seems that the Prime Minister still trusts the editors and proprietors to behave themselves.”
Mark Lewis, a solicitor for several phone-hacking victims, including the family of the murdered teenager Milly Dowler, said some were feeling let down.
“Cautious optimism lasted for about 45 minutes and then the Prime Minister spoke and said, well, he’s not actually going to implement a report that he instigated,” he said.
Cameron had told the inquiry it should be about “really protecting the people who’ve been caught up and absolutely thrown to the wolves by this process,” Lewis said. “He called it the victim test; he called it the Dowler test. It looks like he failed his own test.”
Cameron’s stance was opposed by his deputy in the governing coalition, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who said changing the law was the only way to ensure the new regulator was permanently independent.
“We need to get on with this without delay,” Clegg said. “We owe it to the victims of these scandals, who have already waited too long for us to do the right thing.” He was joined by the Labour leader Ed Miliband, who said his party unequivocally backed the report.
Justice Leveson criticised some police for poor judgment, but found no evidence of corruption involving press relationships with police.