St Albans MP comments on Leveson Report

ST Albans MP Anne Main has urged fellow politicians to tread cautiously before “muzzling the press” in the wake of the Leveson Report.

In his 2,000-page report, published today, Appeal Court judge Lord Justice Leveson said that, at times, the press has “caused real hardship” and “wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people whose rights and liberties have been disdained.

“This is not just the famous but ordinary members of the public, caught up in events far larger than they could cope with but made much, much worse by press behaviour that, at times, can only be described as outrageous.”

However he said that he remained “firmly of the belief that the British press – all of it – serves the country very well for the vast majority of the time”.

Lord Justice Leveson said the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) had failed and that a new body was required, as it was more a “complaints handling body” and lacked independence.

He added: “What is needed is a genuinely independent and effective system of self-regulation.”

His report was sparked by “public revulsion about a single action – the hacking of the mobile phone of a murdered teenager”.

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In nearly nine months of oral hearings, 337 witnesses gave evidence in person and the statements of nearly 300 others were read into the evidence.

In his report, Lord Justice Leveson pointed out: “Not a single witness has proposed that the Government or that Parliament should be able to step in to prevent the publication of anything whatsoever. Not a single witness has proposed that the Government or Parliament should themselves be involved in the regulation of the press.”

Commenting on the report, Mrs Main said: “Instinctively I feel we should defend freedoms of the press. I accept that the majority of press did not take part in the worst excesses of this scandal and we must tread cautiously before introducing anything that would muzzle a free press.

“Nothing can detract from the vile behaviour of some of the media; however we must not consider knee-jerk legislation. I think the Prime Minister is wise to move forward cautiously in light of Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations.”

David Cameron announced the two-part inquiry investigating the role of the press and police in the phone-hacking scandal on July 13, 2011.

Lord Justice Leveson was appointed as chairman of the inquiry.