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Prime Minister urged to keep 'solemn promises' on press standards

Published 06/04/2016

David Cameron has failed to keep his "solemn promises" on tackling press standards, according to victims of media intrusion.

In an open letter on press regulation, a number of signatories including Gerry and Kate McCann - who have received libel damages over false stories linked to their daughter Madeleine's disappearance in 2007 - said that the Prime Minister is at risk of "betraying" the public.

The letter, published in the Guardian, calls on Mr Cameron to "honour" his promises to implement a system of press regulation that has "real teeth".

Mr McCann told the newspaper: "Feelings are very strong among those of us to whom the Prime Minister publicly and privately made his pledges.

"If he does not keep his promises to implement the cross-party agreement in full, allow the Leveson Inquiry to be completed and put the needs of the public before press proprietors, we will have been betrayed by him."

The Government was accused of reneging on the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry after Culture Secretary John Whittingdale announced last year that he was considering scrapping plans, which had been part of a cross-party agreement, to force newspapers to pay court costs in libel and privacy cases, whether they win or lose.

The signatories of the letter - who also include relatives of people who died at Hillsborough, victims of the 7/7 terror attacks and Christopher Jefferies, who was wrongly accused of the murder of Joanna Yeates - have said the Mr Cameron has refused to meet them over the issue of whether a second part of the Leveson Inquiry will take place.

They accuse him instead of meeting regularly with newspaper proprietors, including the owner of The Sun and The Times Rupert Murdoch and his editors "on no fewer than seven occasions" between June and December 2015.

Their letter states: "We believe that it is not just us whom you are at risk of betraying, but Parliament, the public at large and the future victims of a press industry which was condemned by Leveson for 'wreaking havoc in the lives of innocent people'.

"If your promises are not kept, history tells us that newspapers will wreak that havoc again.

"It is not too late. Please honour your promises."

In 2014, the McCanns won £55,000 in libel damages from the Sunday Times over a story which suggested that they had kept evidence from authorities investigating their daughter's disappearance.

Mr McCann said press victims felt "pushed to one side" and five years on from Leveson he believed "very little has changed".

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "Section 40 of the Royal Charter hasn't been implemented and the Prime Minister promised us publicly, privately that victims' views on press reforms would remain at the centre of this, and we feel very much that we've been pushed to one side and the centre ground is being taken by the media owners."

Mr McCann said he did not know any victims of the press who thought that the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) was fit for purpose.

"We have no confidence in Ipso as it currently is constituted," he said.

"I don't think there has been a tremendous change. The media had their say at the Leveson Inquiry; we want full implementation of Leveson's recommendations and the Prime Minister promised us that the victims' views would be at the foremost of any press reforms.

"The only reason I can see for any delay is that there is a conflict of interest. The Prime Minister acknowledged previously that the relationship between media and politicians became far too cosy."

Mr McCann went on: "Really, today, we're imploring him, it's not too late to do the right thing. His name is on the Royal Charter, he signed it, this is a cross-party agreement, I don't see any reason not to implement it.

"I feel very little has changed ... lives are being damaged irreparably on a daily basis by the conduct of newspapers and we, the victims do not feel that we have access to fair and swift justice."

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