Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Law 'should back press regulation'

Kate and Gerry McCann have evidence to the Leveson Inquiry

More than half of voters think a new system of press regulation should be backed by law, according to a new poll.

Some 53% felt statute was necessary if the new regime was to be effective and independent, while 23% thought legal backing would put at risk the freedom of the press, the YouGov survey for the Media Standards Trust found.

Asked whether Lord Justice Leveson's proposals for reform - which included legislation - should be implemented, almost three-quarters (74%) said they should while 9% said they should not. However, more than half of respondents said they had followed the issue either "not very closely" or "not at all".

The poll was released as the Government prepares to publish a draft Royal Charter this week that ministers want to use instead of legislation. Prime Minister David Cameron has set his face against using statute to underpin regulation, arguing that it would "cross the Rubicon" after centuries of press freedom.

Campaigners for statutory underpinning will hold a conference in Westminster on Monday when Gerry McCann will tell ministers that "Leveson without the law is meaningless".

Victims of media intrusion will be joined by shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman and Liberal Democrat Justice Minister Lord McNally at the Hacked Off event. The Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, has been invited.

Mr McCann, father of missing Madeleine McCann, will say: "Kate and I 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.

"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."

The YouGov poll showed that only 35% of voters would have confidence in a new regulator that was backed by Royal Charter. A regulator set up by the Government - rather than the newspapers - and backed by law would have the confidence of 54%.

Director of the Media Standards Trust Martin Moore said: "This poll shows that the public overwhelmingly support implementation of Leveson, and do not have confidence in a system set up by the press without proper independent oversight. There's a real fear that, if things do not change substantially, the same illegal and unethical practices will recur."

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