Royal CourtsThe application by PressBoF for an injunction to restrain the consideration by the Privy Council of the Cross-Party Royal Charter on Self-Regulation of the Press [pdf] was dismissed today after a hearing before Richards LJ and Sales J.   The Court also refused PressBoF permission to apply for judicial review of the Privy Council’s rejection of its proposed Royal Charter on the basis that there was no arguable case.

Richard Gordon QC, on behalf of PressBoF, argued that the press of consideration of the PressBoF charter was “conspicuously unfair” and Kafkaesque.  He made it clear that there was no challenge to the rationality of the decision – the challenge was all about process.  He argued that if a proper process had been adopted then “matters of huge constitutional importance” could have been addressed. If the Cross-Party Charter had been “set in stone” then the Government should have said so at the outset.  He said that a lot could have been said by PressBoF but wasn’t.

On behalf of the Defendant Privy Councillors, Natalie Lieven QC argued that there was a high threshold for an injunction and the public interest was strongly against it.  The judicial review claim advanced by PressBoF “was without any merit at all”.  it was open to PressBoF to make the case for its charter but they chose not to do so. PressBoF, she said, were playing a game, waiting for draft reasons to refuse for them to respond to.   She pointed out that a lack of consultation was a strange argument for PressBoF to make as such a duty would not be owed to them but to third parties, such as Hacked Off.   Lord Justice Richards pointed out that there was extensive public debate after Leveson.  Ms Lieven QC also pointed out that, as Lord Black’s witness statement made clear, there was extensive discussion with the press before the Cross-Party Charter was published.

After a short retirement, Richards LJ gave judgment on the application for an injunction and the application for permission to bring a judicial review claim.  He pointed out that Hacked Off managed to understand what the criteria that were relevant to the Charter and the PressBoF was in no worse position.  He made clear that, in his view, there was a greater public interest in securing independent press regulation than in the matters raised by PressBoF.  There was no arguable claim for judicial review and the injunction application would have been refused in any event.

In a statement responding to the decision the campaigning group Hacked Off said

“The big newspaper companies like the Mail and the Murdoch press have been in denial ever since the Leveson inquiry report condemned the way they treated ordinary people and said they needed to change.

The inquiry judge has told them this. Their own readers – the public – have told them. Their past victims have told them. Every single party in Parliament has told them. Now the courts have thrown out their latest manoeuvre. 

We have to ask: is there anyone at all that Rupert Murdoch and the other arrogant proprietors will listen to? 

 The Royal Charter is good for journalism, good for freedom of speech, and – vitally – good for the public. What Mr Murdoch and his friends are clinging to is the right to lie, twist, bully and intrude, inflicting misery on innocent people. That has to stop.”

Updated:  PressBoF confirmed during the afternoon of 30 October 2012 that it was pursuing an application for permission to appeal against the decision of Richards LJ and Sales J to refuse permission for a judicial review and not to grant an injunction.  Later on PressBoF made an application to the Court of Appeal for a temporary injunction pending the consideration of the application for permission to appeal with a view to restraing the Privy Council from considering the Cross Party Charter.  This application was dismissed by Lord Dyson MR, Moore-Bick and Elias LJJ.  Lord Dyson said “We are not willing to grant interim relief ‘administratively’ pending an application for permission to appeal.

The background to the application can be found in our posts PressBoF issues Royal Charter judicial review claim against eight Privy Councillors and PressBoF Judicial Review Injunction application listed for hearing tomorrow