'Despicable politics': PM has betrayed us, say press victims
Steve Coogan, Hugh Grant and Gerry McCann on the attack over crucial need for statutory underpinning
THE Prime Minister is playing a "despicable political game" by rejecting Lord Leveson's call for a press watchdog underpinned by statutory legislation, the comedian Steve Coogan says.
Coogan, a victim of phone hacking who gave evidence at the Leveson inquiry, led a chorus of disapproval from victims of press abuses overnight when he said David Cameron had "hung the victims of crime out to dry".
Writing in The Guardian, Coogan says Cameron's stance suggests "there isn't an ounce of substance in his body" and he "doesn't know the meaning of conviction". Without regulatory underpinning, says Coogan, the Leveson inquiry amounts to nothing more than "a large slap on the wrist" for the press.
Actor Hugh Grant, a victim of phone hacking who has lead calls for tighter press regulation, said victims felt "betrayed" by the Prime Minister's response to Leveson. "Buzzword is betrayal", Grant tweeted.
The filmmaker Ed Blum, another victim of phone hacking, accused the Prime Minister of "ripping out the heart and soul of the Leveson report" by refusing to back the call for a statutory body to oversee the new press regulator, the Guardian reports.
Speaking at a press conference organised by the Hacked Off campaign, Blum said the British press was again on "the slippery slope towards self-regulation" and the British public will know it has "been let down".
John Tulloch, a victim of the 7/7 terrorist bombing in London who says he was "bullied" into giving an interview to the News of the World, says "Cameron has undoubtedly sided with the [press] barons and that's outrageous. I'm disgusted with the prime minister and very disappointed."
Gerry McCann, who won £500,000 in a libel action against the Daily Express after it suggested he and his wife were involved in the 2007 disappearance of their daughter Madeleine, felt Leveson did not go far enough.
Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme this morning, McCann called for a system of accountability to be imposed on journalists and photographers. Although McCann won his case against the Express, no one at the newspaper was punished. He called for "clear penalities" for journalists and editors.
"There are commercial imperatives that make the press run these stories," said McCann. "They [The Daily Express] knew that what they were writing about us was not true – or could not be verified – but the pound signs made them print it."
McCann says he does not accept that a regulated press would not be free. "Full implementation of the Leveson report is the minimum acceptable compromise," he said.
Singer Charlotte Church, a victim of phone-hacking, backed the findings of the Leveson Inquiry last night calling it, "a real and practical way of dealing with the problems of the press". During an impassioned appearance on the BBC TV's Question Time, Church clashed with Neill Wallis, former executive editor of the News of the World, as she argued for a legal underpinning of a regulatory body for the press. "Every time there is an inquiry, the industry says it will change, but what about three or five years down the line when standards start to slip," Church said. "That's why you need statutory underpinning of the press regulation".