PM 'Open-Minded' On Leveson's Press Report

PM 'Open-Minded' On Leveson's Press Report

David Cameron is said to be keeping an "open mind" about the future regulation of the press and will make no decisions before he has seen Lord Justice Leveson's much-anticipated report.

Downing Street has rejected any suggestion that the Prime Minister has already decided to rule out full-blown state regulation following reports he is heading for a showdown with Lord Justice Leveson when he delivers his report into the findings about the British press.

The Mail On Sunday claimed Mr Cameron would back a new, tougher model of self-regulation to replace the Press Complaints Commission - but with the threat that a statutory system could be brought in later if matters do not improve.

The Leveson report is supposed to be shrouded in secrecy until its publication on Thursday.

Mr Cameron and some other senior Government figures will have access to it on Wednesday so that he can make a substantive response when it is released.

"The Prime Minister is open-minded about Lord Justice Leveson's report and will read it in full before he makes any decision about what to do," a spokesman said.

Victims of press intrusion are calling for an independent regulator, backed up by law, while editors fear that statutory regulation could serve only to limit press freedom.

Christopher Jefferies, the landlord who was wrongly arrested for the murder of his tenant Joanna Yeates, revealed today he has yet to receive a written apology from any of the editors and reporters responsible for his "vilification" in the press.

The 67-year-old retired teacher won substantial libel damages from eight newspapers following their coverage of his arrest in connection with the architect's disappearance in 2010.

He was released without charge while another tenant, Vincent Tabak, was later sentenced to life for murder.

And Mr Cameron set up the Leveson Inquiry in July last year in response to revelations that the News Of The World (NOTW) commissioned a private detective to hack murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone after she disappeared in 2002.

This Thursday's report follows the first part of the Leveson Inquiry looking at the culture, practices and ethics of the press, and will include recommendations for press regulation.

Speaking to Sky's Dermot Murnaghan, the Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission Lord Hunt said he had made his own recommendations.

"I think some time ago (the PCC) realised it needed to be replaced by a tough independent regular, so I came along, I was given a blank piece of paper, I set out what I thought was the best way forward, basing the whole structure on contract rather than statute, and that's what I put to Lord Justice Leveson," he said.

"It's got to have enough power to deal with the sort of outrageous behaviour we have seen uncovered."

He added that he wanted to see more "internal regulation".

"We're dealing with publishers, some of whom have hundreds of editors, I think they have taken insufficient responsibility. I want the buck to stop there."

London Mayor Boris Johnson told Sky that the present system, "doesn't really carry confidence amongst the public at large."

"There needs to be a tougher system of self-regulation," he added.

"Where I think we don’t want to go is in the direction of a media that is controlled by politicians."

Members of campaign group Hacked Off, including victims of press intrusion, want an independent regulator - possibly backed up by law to ensure newspapers comply.

Hacked Off director Professor Brian Cathcart said they wanted "something effective that will make a difference" - probably backed by law to give it the necessary "clout" - but said if the chairman found a way of doing that without law, they would be happy as long as it was effective.

But Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society Of Editors , called for "proportionality", saying he hoped Lord Justice Leveson had not only taken the "headline evidence" into account.

"Some of the points that came out were absolutely dreadful and nobody is trying to hide away from the fact that there were some pieces of behaviour in some parts of the press that were quite appalling," he said.

"But it's got to be seen in context - we want to see some proportionality."

Former Crimewatch presenter Jacqui Hames, who was placed under NOTW surveillance along with her husband, said victims wanted to "draw a line under all this".

"We want to be able to trust our journalists again and pick up our newspapers and be confident that what we're reading is accurate and it hasn't been obtained illegally or at the detriment of somebody's life," she said.

"We have a fantastic historical tradition of newspapers and journalism in this country and I would love to see that restored.

"It's a fantastic opportunity to look to the future so that in 50 years' time people will look back and see this as a pivotal moment and a restoration of faith in our free press."

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