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Dacre seeks tighter press controls

Journalists who do not abide to a code of conduct should run the risk of being "struck off" from their profession, the editor of the Daily Mail has said.

Paul Dacre told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards that the current scheme of accrediting reporters is "haphazard" and called for a more rigorous system.

Mr Dacre, editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers, which publishes the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, said "existing press cards don't mean much".

He argued there should be a new self-regulatory body, working alongside the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), to deal with press standards.

Speaking at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, he said: "I do believe there is an opportunity to build on the existing haphazard press card system.

"There are 17 bodies at the moment providing these cards. By transforming it into an essential kite mark for ethical and proper journalism, the key would be to make the cards available only to members of print newsgathering organisations or magazines who have signed up to the new body and its code."

Mr Dacre suggested that journalists not carrying such a card would be barred from covering events such as key Government briefings or interviews relating to sporting fixtures.

Journalists would be at risk of having their cards removed, cancelled in a similar way to doctors who are struck off by the General Medical Council.

He added: "The public at large would know the journalists carrying such cards are bona fide operators, committed to a set of standards and a body to whom complaints can be made."

Mr Dacre, the longest-serving Fleet Street editor, said: "By and large, the scandals that have emerged over the last few years and recently have been to do with issues that are above the law. Hacking phones is illegal, paying policemen is illegal. I'm not sure what a self-regulatory body was meant to do about that."

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