Lord Justice Leveson gave his clearest indication yet as to the direction of his final report, which will set out his proposal on how to improve the culture, practice and ethics of the press, when it is released in October.
He told the inquiry yesterday that he wanted a body that was independent of the government and of the press.
“Whatever comes out of this must be independent of government, independent of the state, independent of parliament but independent of the press.”
Tony Blair, who gave evidence to the inquiry yesterday said that Leveson had the chance to “drain the poison from the culture” of the press.
The former prime minister also appealed for consensus on reform, with which Leveson concurred, stressing the importance of political consensus in order to avoid problems with previous inquiries where reforms were seen as “too difficult”.
The chairman of the inquiry emphasised that he has “absolutely no interest in imperiling the freedom of expression of the Press”, and also said that the new body has “got to be speedy, it’s got to be effective, it’s got to achieve a result.”
“It has to have experts in it, it must command the respect of the press but also the general public. I would like to think about a system that provides redress, particularly to those who can’t afford to litigate.”
Lord Justice Leveson said that he had been contacted by disabled, transgender and immigrant groups who felt that they were unable to make collective complaints about articles they believed were prejudicial or inaccurate because under the current PCC rules, only specific complaints from individuals are considered.
The judge also outlined his plans to deal with the need for prior notification to people who have had stories written about them. Leveson’s plan will involve the establishment of a new ombudsman to regulate such matters. This aims to take into account the views of people like Max Moseley, the former head of Formula 1 who won damages from News of the World over its story about a sex orgy. While Lord Justice Leveson conceded that this measure could “lead to litigation and kill a story”, he felt confident that the establishment of an independent figure to regulate “editorial enthusiasm” would contribute overall to fairer journalism.