Members of press regulation group Hacked Off including Kate and Gerry McCann have signed a letter accusing prime minister David Cameron of breaking “solemn promises” of implementing industry changes suggested by the Leveson Inquiry.
The PM’s failure to follow through with suggested regulation that would force publishers to pay libel costs, even if they win, if they fail to offer the litigator a low cost way of reaching a resolution.
Gerry McCann, father of Madeleine who went missing in Portugal in 2007, said: “Feelings are very strong among those of us to whom the prime minister publicly and privately made his pledges.
“If he does not keep his promises to implement the cross-party agreement in full, allow the Leveson Inquiry to be completed and put the needs of the public before press proprietors, we will have been betrayed by him.”
Chris Jefferies, the wrongly arrested landlord of murdering Bristol architect Joanna Yeates in 2010, also added his signature to the letter.
The letter goes further, expressing disappointment at the failure to implement part two of the Leveson inquiry, which was to investigate specific phonehacking claims and police failures.
The full letter can be read below:
Dear Prime Minister,
We write to you as people who have experienced press abuses and who look to you to ensure that such abuses are not inflicted on others in the future.
You made many promises on this issue in 2011-13, not only to us in private meetings but also publicly in Parliament, under oath at the Leveson Inquiry and in the form of the historic cross-party agreement on press self-regulation which you signed as Prime Minister only three years ago.
You promised, for example, to ‘make doubly sure that we get to the bottom of what happened’ when press standards collapsed. You said:
‘What is absolutely vital is that we put in place a regulatory system that they [the victims of press abuse] can see has real teeth.’
‘The relationship between politicians and the media must change.’
We want to express our frustration and dismay that, five years on, these solemn promises have not been kept, and we urge you to honour them now.
We were extremely disappointed last October when the culture secretary said he was delaying indefinitely one of the essential measures in the cross-party agreement – Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 – that was designed to give independent press regulation ‘real teeth’ and was a key recommendation of the Leveson Inquiry - one you said that you accepted.
Worse, by delaying or shelving this measure your government will deny the public the low-cost access to justice that Leveson intended. Some of us know from experience how daunting it is for an ordinary citizen to take a big newspaper corporation to court for libel or invasion of privacy. In the cross-party agreement you undertook to deliver this low-cost justice through Section 40, but now it appears that you want to break that promise.
We urge you to commence Section 40 without delay.
We have also been concerned to read, through newspaper articles sourced from the Government, that you are seeking to cancel the crucial second phase of the Leveson Inquiry. Since this is meant to establish how lawbreaking took hold in our press, why the police failed to stop it and who was responsible, we need hardly say why this is of such vital public importance.
Not only did you promise that the inquiry would get to the bottom of this lawbreaking, but you also stated explicitly of Leveson 2:
‘It is right that it should go ahead and that is fully our intention.’
We urge you now to remove any doubt by confirming that the second phase of the Leveson Inquiry will go ahead without fail once the last criminal trials have concluded.
Some of us wrote to you on some of these issues in November, asking you either to act then or to meet us face to face to explain your position. You declined to do either. This amounts to another breach of promise, for in 2011 you declared:
‘We must at all times keep the victims front and centre of this debate.’
Instead, you have met with newspaper editors and proprietors on a regular basis. For example, between June and December 2015 you met with Rupert Murdoch and his editors on no fewer than seven occasions. Our request for a meeting with you continues to be ignored.
At your suggestion some of us met on 24th March with the Culture Secretary. He refused to agree to the implementation of the costs incentives by commencing section 40. Once again, he was unable to give us any explanation as to why your promises were being broken.
We believe that it is not just us whom you are at risk of betraying, but Parliament, the public at large and the future victims of a press industry which was condemned by Leveson for ‘wreaking havoc in the lives of innocent people’. If your promises are not kept, history tells us that newspapers will wreak that havoc again.
It is not too late. Please honour your promises.
We are copying this letter to the other signatories of the cross-party agreement and to the leaders of the other political parties in Parliament. We invite them to join us in demanding that you keep the promises you made.
Gerry & Kate McCann – victims of intrusion and libel by many newspapers over many years
Christopher Jefferies – wrongly accused of murder and libeled by multiple newspapers
Sheila & Martin Hollins – victims of press abuse following the attack on their daughter, Abigail Witchells
Edward Bowles – family suffered intrusion and harassment by newspapers following the death of his son in a coach accident.
Margaret Aspinall and Sue Roberts - mother and sister of victims of the Hillsborough disaster.
Jacqui Hames – family suffered hacking, surveillance and intrusion by newspapers when her husband was investigating a murder case with links to News International associates
Tricia Bernal and Phil Bernal – suffered intrusion and phone-hacking after the murder of their daughter and sister Claire Bernal
John Tulloch –suffered press abuse after being injured in 7/7 attacks and subsequently hacked
Paul Dadge – caught up in 7/7 attacks and subsequently hacked by News International
Andy Miller – libeled by the Daily Mail
Juliet Shaw – libeled by the Daily Mail
Emily Brothers – attacked by the Sun over her transgender status and disability (blind)
And many others.