Why we need YOUR help now
A SINGLE piece of legislation could be about to bring a catastrophic end to 300 years of press freedom. And we need your help.
There’s no reason why you would have heard about Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. Those words alone are enough to send anyone turning over the page so apologies. But please bear with me.
At the moment we publish stories every day on our website www.getbucks.co.uk, and several in print every week.
And while we don’t go out of our way to upset or anger people, occasionally we do.
In many cases it’s the relative or friend of someone who has been convicted in court, demanding to know how and why we have reported the case and arguing their loved one has been wrongly convicted.
The angry email or phone call is occasionally ended with a threatening line about how I’ll regret publishing the story. Sometimes this “wrongly convicted” person has been caught on CCTV and pleaded guilty.
Don’t get me wrong. When we have published something inaccurate, we are at pains to correct the mistake and are happy to do so.
Indeed, after the Leveson Inquiry, the old Press Complaints Commission was wound up and pressure fell on the newspaper industry for tougher regulation. Most newspapers, including ourselves, joined the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), chaired by experienced judge Sir Alan Moses. It can force newspapers to issue front page apologies and has the power to levy fines of up to £1 million.
But sometimes, as exampled above, complaints arise when we have published nothing but the truth. But now we could be crippled for doing so. So what’s changed? A new law has been proposed that, if enforced, means that when someone sues, even if the published article is entirely true, in the public interest and the complaint is thrown out by the courts, any newspaper not signed up to a state-approved regulator will have to pay ALL the costs. I repeat, all the costs, even when we are vindicated in court.
This law is Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.
It has the potential to cripple every local and national newspaper in the country. As an example of how devastating it could be, The Sunday Times says its Lance Armstrong investigation would never have been published if the new law had been in place.
It would damage our ability to report freely, responsibly and lawfully, and encourage base- less legal cases which we may not have the funds to fight through the courts.
We would become vulnerable to threats by those emboldened to pursue weak claims for high fees, since claimants will not have to risk the usual legal costs of failure.
They could also exploit the legislation to force financial settlement of complaints, given this would still be lower than paying both sides’ legal costs for successful defence of our journalism in court.
If you, like us, think this is clearly wrong, you have only a few days to help, with a consultation running until January 10. To take part in the consultation see below.
Remember, if we mess something up, you or any member of the public can write to Ipso seeking redress. Ipso investigates our reporting on behalf of complain- ants to determine resolutions, corrections and fines for systemic failures.
Thank you for reading this. We appreciate your help.
Step by step guide on how you can help
Go to ‘Consultation on the Leveson Inquiry and its implementation’:
Scroll down the page to ‘Respond Online’ and click.
Page 1: Introduction. [Click ‘Next’ at bottom of page]
Page 2: [Tick box ‘Individual’ and then ‘Next’ at the bottom of the page]
Page 3: [Tick box ‘Neither of the Above’]
Page 4: Which of the following statements do you agree with? [Tick the third box – ‘Government should ask Parliament to repeal all of s.40 now.’]
Do you have evidence in support of your view, particularly in terms of the impacts on the press industry and claimants? [Tick box ‘No’]
Page 5: To what extent will full commencement incentivise publishers to join a recognised self-regulator? Please use evidence in your answer. (Maximum 250 words) [Write answer: ‘It will not.’]
Page 6: Do you believe that the terms of reference of Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry have already been covered by Part 1 and the criminal investigations? [Tick box: ‘Yes’]
Page 8: Which of the two options set out below best represents your views? [Tick the second box : ‘Terminate The Inquiry’]
To finish completing the consultation, click ‘Next’ and then ‘Done’.