Lord Chief Justice says newspaper owners should not be allowed to opt out of PCC
Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, has stressed that Richard Desmond and other newspaper owners should not be allowed to opt of regulation by a reformed Press Complaints Commission (PCC).
The Guardian reports that, speaking at the Human Rights Law Conference organised by legal reform group Justice, Judge, the most senior member of the judiciary in England and Wales, also emphasised that it was important that editors continue to sit in judgment on other editors as part of a new PCC – and that consideration should be given to fining errant newspapers for breaches of its code.
Judge said that any new press regulation regime should be "all inclusive", adding that while "you might perhaps be willing to discount a news sheet circulated to about 25 people… any national or regional paper would have to be included".
Although he did not name Desmond's Northern & Shell group, the Daily Express and Daily Star owner is the most prominent publisher who has not signed up to the PCC - membership of which is voluntary.
However, the senior judge was otherwise careful to stress the importance of the British tradition of self-regulation.
Judge praised the PCC for its mediation work, before arguing that "consideration would have to be given" as to whether the body should have the power to "direct the terms of any apology" and whether it could "make an order for compensation".
However, he added that it was "essential" that the PCC "should include a significant number of editors" for it to work effectively.
It was important that a new PCC "must not be a toothless tiger", but, equally, it was necessary to ensure that the body did not have too great a power to effect censorship or licensing powers. He queried whether any new regulator ought to have the power "to prevent publication" of news, particularly given that some of those making the decision may well be "editors of rival competing newspapers".