Key findings of the Leveson Inquiry into press standards

Nov 29, 2012

A new independent watchdog underpinned by statute is Leveson's main recommendation for a shake-up

LORD Justice Leveson's report is a damning indictment of "reckless, outrageous" elements of the press who "ruthlessly" chase sensational stories. His solution is laid out in a number of recommendations and findings which are summarised here:

New watchdog: Create a new independent press watchdog with no MPs or serving newspaper editors allowed on the panel. It should be underpinned by statute, but free of "any influence from industry and government".

Legislation: The industry should set up and organise the watchdog, but new legislation should "place an explicit duty on the government to uphold and protect the freedom of the press".

Fines: The watchdog would be able to fine press organisations that breach its code by as as much as one per cent of their turnover with a maximum fine of £1 million.

Speed: The new watchdog should be able to arbitrate civil legal claims against the press. The process should be a "fair, quick and inexpensive".

No obligation: Membership of the new body would not be a legal obligation. But any newspaper that opts out would not benefit from the reduced legal fees enjoyed by members of the new arbitration service.

Phone hacking: There are no findings on any individual in the report, but Lord Leveson is not convinced phone hacking was confined to one or two individuals.

Havoc: The damage caused by "a recklessness in prioritising sensational stories" has damaged people like the Dowlers and the McCanns.

Fame: Celebrities have a right to privacy, too. Leveson found "ample evidence" that parts of the press decided actors, footballers, writers and pop stars were "fair game, public property with little if any entitlement to any sort of private life or respect for dignity". He adds: "Their families, including their children, are pursued and important personal moments are destroyed."

Covert surveillance: The press has been willing to use covert surveillance, blagging and deception to get stories in cases where it is difficult to see any public interest.

Complaints: Those who seek to complain about newspaper coverage of their affairs are rarely taken seriously enough. Leveson found "a cultural tendency within parts of the press vigorously to resist or dismiss complainants almost as a matter of course".

Police: There is a perception that senior Met officers were "too close" to News International, which was "entirely understandable" given police actions and decision-making and the extent of hospitality police officers received from journalists. "Poor decisions, poorly executed, all came together to contribute to the perception." The Met's decision not to reopen the criminal inquiry into phone-hacking was "incredibly swift" and resulted in a "defensive mindset".

Sources: The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph

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