Why we need YOUR help now

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS - DEANNE BLAY­LOCK EDITOR

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’.

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