QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
London WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
MR JUSTICE SALES
|The Queen on the application of Press Standards Board of Finance Limited||Claimant|
|- and -|
|The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport||Defendant|
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MS N LIEVEN (instructed by The Treasury Solicitor) appeared on behalf of the Defendant
Crown Copyright ©
LORD JUSTICE RICHARDS:
"(A) The First Defendant must not put to the Privy Council or any committee of the Privy Council any charter, draft charter or petition for a charter relating to any aspect of regulation of the press, whether in the form published on 11 October 2013 or otherwise.
(B) The Privy Council (sued through the Second Defendant its Lord President), or any committee thereof, must not consider or recommend the grant of any charter relating to any aspect of regulation of the press, whether in the form published on 11 October 2013 or otherwise, and whether advanced by the First Defendant or any other person."
(1) The claimant's proposed charter was put on the Privy Council Office website on 3 May. We have the specific date from Ms Lieven on instructions.
(2) In the course of May, the claimant was informed that there was to be a "period of openness", during which, via the Privy Council Office website, interested parties had the opportunity to submit their views on the claimant's proposed charter. There would then be a period of consideration to assess whether the charter met the Privy Council's criteria, followed by an assessment by ministers and the Privy Council.
(3) It was made clear to the claimant that the period of openness was not viewed as a formal consultation as such, because the government's preferred direction had not been set out, and answers to specific questions on specific areas had not been sought.
(4) The criteria by reference to which the proposed charter would be assessed were not published, save that on the Privy Council Office website there was published a standard list of criteria which, it is said, related to professional institutions and were not directly applicable to a charter of the present kind. I should note that although the general criteria published on the website were directed more appropriately to professional institutions, they did include such plainly relevant matters as the body's role; details of the number of members, grades, management organisation and finance; qualifications required for membership of the various grades; and "why it is considered that the body should be accorded chartered status, the reasons why a grant could be regarded in the public interest, and in particular what is the case for bringing the body under government control as described above."
(5) The claimant had been told by a letter of 21 May from the DCMS, that is the Department for Culture, Media and Sports, that it would be of use, so as to inform the consideration of the charter, if the information referred to on the website could be provided. At a meeting on 23 May with the DCMS, the claimant understood it to be accepted that some of those criteria were not relevant to the claimant's petition, but the note of the meeting also records that the claimant was told that a letter would be helpful and that a helpful response would be to cover the criteria so far as relevant. The reaction to that was that the relevant items had been dealt with in the petition. That point had already been made, in any event, in a letter from the claimant dated 22 May. On this aspect of the case, I should add that there was a ministerial answer to a Parliamentary question on 3 June, to the effect that consideration would be given to the proposed charter by reference to the criteria on the website.
(6) A further factual point is that the claimant was not informed of the responses received from other interested parties during the period of openness. Attempts by the claimant to obtain information about the progress of consideration of its petition, and, for example, to establish whether, if the committee of the Privy Council were minded to reject the petition, there would be an opportunity for the claimant to address those reasons before a final decision was taken, met with little by way of substantive response.
"Independence. Following on from the Leveson report, Government policy is that there should be an independent verification body (a Recognition Panel) able to recognise a press self-regulator. A self-regulator should be independent of the press, of Parliament, and of the Government. Whilst there is much to be said for industry engagement in a system of industry self-regulation, the Committee was unable to satisfy itself that industry both funding and playing a significant role in appointments to the Recognition Panel are factors which could be consistent with Government policy. There were three areas which the Committee particularly noted:
(i) Recognition panel: The Committee did not consider that the PressBof Recognition Panel would be sufficiently independent for the following reasons ….
(ii) Self-regulator: The Committee was not satisfied that the proposed 'recognition criteria' would deliver a sufficiently independent self regulator for the following reasons ….
(iii) Certainty: The Committee welcomes PressBof's intent to impose constraint on future amendment of their Charter. However, the Committee considered that the specific proposals do not provide proper independence from the press, Parliament and Government. There would be nothing to stop the Government alone amending the charter in the future ….
Arbitration: The Committee welcomes that the PressBof Charter includes the option for arbitration, but is concerned that it does not make it a condition of recognition that a self-regulator must provide an arbitration service for complainants. This was an essential element of the Leveson Report …
Standards Code: … The committee is not satisfied that the PressBof Charter would deliver a robust standards code, which is ultimately the responsibility of the self-regulator.
Apologies: The PressBof Charter states that the self-regulator should have the power 'to require remedial action', and the 'power to require the nature, extent and placement of a remedy', but it does not make clear what this remedial action might include. Following on from the Leveson Report, the Committee is unable to satisfy itself that this wording would ensure that the self-regulator will have the necessary power to require the relevant publisher to direct apologies.
Third party complaints: The PressBof Charter requires a self- regulator to have the power to hear complaints. In the case of third party complaints, it is required only where the alleged breaches are significant and there is a substantial public interest in the self-regulator giving formal consideration to the complaints. In the light of the Leveson Report, Government policy is that all such complaints should be considered if there is a public interest in so doing. The Committee is not satisfied that the higher thresholds in the PressBof Charter are consistent with Government policy and would deliver an effective complaints mechanism."
"Following on from the Leveson Report, Government policy is that any solution must be perceived as credible by the public and supported by the press. The Prime Minister has said that 'As Lord Justice Leveson recommended we need a system of tough, independent self-regulation that will deliver for victims and meet the principles set out in his report'. The responses to the Period of Openness showed that (i) the PressBof Petition was not seen to have credibility with the public; but (ii) was supported by the industry, with support coming from a number of regional press newspapers and groups, and most national newspaper groups, following a campaign by The Newspaper Society."
• "Whether the PressBof Petition assists in securing a vigorous free press?
• Whether the PressBof Petition will assist in securing a press self-regulator which delivers the key Leveson principles, as set out by the Prime Minister on 18 March 2013?
• Whether the Petition will sufficiently activate the legislative incentives that bind the press into the system (exemplary damages and costs)?
• Whether the PressBof Charter Petition is likely to hold credibility with the public?
• Whether the PressBof Charter is supported by the press industry?
• Would the petitioners be able to deliver in accordance with the Petition?"