Developing

Tories To Unveil Press Regulation Charter

The Conservatives are expected to unveil a draft Royal Charter on press regulation later, despite Lord Justice Brian Leveson's recommendation that a new system be underpinned by law.

Prime Minister David Cameron has rejected Lord Leveson's recommendation that press regulation be backed by statute, saying such a move would "cross the Rubicon" after centuries of press freedom.

Lord Leveson's report on press standards, released in November and commissioned in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, called for an independent watchdog to be established for the press and supported by law.

Instead, the Conservatives' draft Royal Charter is expected to set up a "recognition body" tasked with ensuring a new press regulator carries out its duties correctly.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have backed Lord Leveson's recommendations. However, cross-party negotiations on how to implement them have failed.

Hacked Off, which has been campaigning for stricter press regulation, met with Mr Cameron on Monday ahead of the charter's publication.

Hacked Off director Brian Cathcart said while he had yet to see full details of the charter, he believed Mr Cameron had "compromised" with the press.

"Our firm view is that it (the Royal Charter) has to be completely Leveson compliant and utterly crystal clear. On that we had no reassurance from the Prime Minister," he said.

"The Prime Minister was not reassuring about the idea that this body would be appointed in a transparent and independent way.

"He was not reassuring on the legal status of this charter. He gave us no encouragement to believe it would have underpinning in statute."

Victims of media intrusion were joined at the conference by Shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman and Liberal Democrat Justice Minister Lord McNally.

Gerry McCann, who was paid damages by several newspapers over reporting of the case of his missing daughter Madeleine, was the main speaker at the event.

Mr McCann said he and his wife Kate "had the misfortune to suffer from everything the press could throw at us".

"The reason we subsequently agreed to the ordeal of giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry was that we don't want anyone else to have to go through what we went through," he said.

"The Leveson package, including the legal underpinning, is the minimum acceptable compromise for us, and judging by the polls, for the public at large too.

"Leveson without the law is meaningless."