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Government could shelve Leveson plans to force press to shoulder libel costs

Culture secretary John Whittingdale has indicated that he is amenable to the delay or scrapping altogether of contentious plans to hit the press with onerous legal costs should they be sued for libel, a key recommendation of the Leveson Inquiry.

Citing concerns that this could undermine local media Whitingdale is to shy away from forcing publishers to pick up the tab for legal costs on both sides for privacy cases.

Speaking to the Society of Editors Whittingdale remarked: “This will be a serious and significant change for the industry.

“I know that it is a matter of particular concern to many small publishers who had absolutely no involvement in the abuses the Leveson inquiry was set up to tackle.”

Anew stricter regime is still due to come into effect from next month when publishers not signed up to the government sanctioned regulator backed by Royal Charter will face punitive ‘exemplary’ charges if they lose a libel case.

A majority of the press have rejected the government backed regulator in favour of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), the direct successor to the Press Complaints Commission.

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