Today’s announcement in the Conservative Party manifesto (https://www.conservatives.com/manifesto page 80) that it will repeal s.40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2014 means press regulation is likely to remain in a state of confusion. This provision was intended to be the ‘stick’ of the Leveson reforms designed to drive the UK newspapers to an accredited system of self-regulation by creating penal costs sanctions in any court cases for those titles which chose not to join. If a Tory government is elected on 8 June, the stick will be put into a cupboard never to be used. Most national titles have joined IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation), although some such as The Guardian, chose to remain outside. IPSO did not apply for accreditation as a regulator because it disagreed with the structure and control requirements. An alternative regulator (Impress) has obtained accreditation but it regulates only around 40 local publications.
We are therefore likely, if the polls are to be believed, to be left with a patchy and inconsistent system which complainants must navigate if they are the victim of false or intrusive reporting. With the threat of financial penalties removed it seems unlikely that the system of regulation will undergo further reform. A complainant therefore has to work out whether they should go to IPSO, Impress, or the newspaper’s own self-regulator and then what rules or Code will apply. In our experience, the merits of the outcomes vary depending on the type of case being pursued. There have been some sound findings leading to helpful outcomes for some complainants, but the overall picture means navigating around a complaint is far from straightforward.
The manifesto also confirms that a May Government would not implement the second part of the Leveson Inquiry, though this news is perhaps not unexpected.