The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) has named Appeal Court judge Sir Alan Moses as the new press regulatory body’s first Chair.
Moses, said to once have thrown a pile of newspapers across a courtroom in anger over press coverage when he presided over the Soham murders trial, will now join the selection panel which appointed him and set about choosing the 12-person Ipso panel ahead of its official launch in June.
The press regulator, which will replace the criticised Press Complaints Commission (PCC), is backed by almost all of the national newspaper publishers and is opposed to the government’s Royal Charter on press regulation, which seeks to make any self-regulator meet the approval of a recognition panel.
Sir Hayden Phillips, chair of the independent panel tasked with appointing a Chair and Ipso board members, said that Moses was the “unanimous choice” of the panel.
“With his reputation for being quick, forthright and fearless I believe that not only is he someone on whom the public can depend to tackle abuses by newspapers where they occur – using the considerable new powers that will be vested in Ipso – but someone who also believes firmly in independent self-regulation of the press and in the vital democratic role of a free press in a free society,” said Phillips.
“He is a person of experience and integrity, of independence and vigour, and also personable, approachable and always open to consider to new ideas,” he added.
Moses became an Appeal Court judge in 2005 after serving for nine years as a High Court judge. He took silk in 1990.
Commenting on his appointment as Chair, Moses said in a statement: “The public and the press are entitled to a successful system of independent regulation. I recognise it is a big responsibility to achieve this. I believe that such a system should be designed to protect the public against a repetition of the breakdown in standards in some parts of the newspaper industry in recent times. At the same time it should affirm and encourage the vital role of a free and fearless press.
“But I am determined that there should be no hesitation in dealing with bad practice by newspapers and providing support and vindication for those who suffer as a result of any future breakdown,” he added. “This new organisation will have to listen to and learn from the press and their critics in the period ahead.”
Press reform campaign group Hacked Off, which is staunchly opposed to Ipso and supports the government’s Royal Charter plan, said the appointment “changes nothing” and described Ipso as a “dreadful insult” to victims of press intrusion.
“The appointment of Sir Alan Moses as chair of Ipso changes nothing when the structure and operation of this ‘Son of PCC’ remain so fatally flawed,” said Hacked Off Director professor Brian Cathcart.
“Ipso – created with no public consultation whatsoever – is clearly designed to defy the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry on independence, the wishes of all parliamentary parties and the views of the overwhelming majority of the public. It is a dreadful insult to victims of press abuses, leaving in charge the same shadowy newspaper paymasters who called the shots at the discredited Press Complaints Commission during its worst years and even now.”
He added: “The best thing Sir Alan Moses could do now is to advise the big newspaper companies to redesign Ipso so that it can meet the basic standards of independence and effectiveness set out in the Leveson Royal Charter. That would give the public the protection from abuses that we know it needs while safeguarding freedom of expression.”
However, Moses insisted that his independence on Ipso was guaranteed.
“To those who have voiced doubts as to the ability of Ipso to meet the demands of independent regulation, I say that I have spent over forty years pursuing the profession of barrister and judge whose hallmarks are independent action and independent judgment,” he said. “I do not intend to do away with that independence now.”
The Guardian and the Independent are the only national titles still to decide whether or not to sign up to Ipso, while the Financial Times has decided to create its own internal regulator.
At the Scottish Newspaper Society conference earlier this month, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond welcomed "progress" made by Ipso but urged it to recognise the UK government's Royal Charter, which is backed by the Scottish parliament. At the same event, Lord Black - a key figure behind Ipso - urged the press industry to continue fighting against the Royal Charter.