The committee chosen to set up a press self-regulator in defiance of the Leveson Inquiry recommendations has refused to meet victims of press abuse. Sir Hayden Phillips, who chairs the appointments panel for IPSO, the successor to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) being prepared by the big newspaper companies, said any meeting with victims would be ‘inappropriate’ and ‘we cannot enter into a debate with you’.
The correspondence is reproduced in full below.
Hacked Off had asked for a meeting in the hope that victims such as the McCanns, Christopher Jefferies and others could hear the panel explain why they were supporting a scheme which clearly breaches what Lord Justice Leveson recommended and which will fail to meet Royal Charter standards.
The refusal by Sir Hayden and his colleagues – the former judge Lord Brown, the healthcare expert Dame Denise Platt and two press industry representatives – shows they are not ready to justify their own involvement or to hear the views of victims on what is required.
Replying to Hacked Off on behalf of his panel, Sir Hayden wrote: ‘We have been willing to take on this task as we believe that IPSO does reflect his [Leveson’s] central recommendations and because it is such a substantial improvement on the PCC that it should be put into place as quickly and as effectively as possible.’
This makes clear that the panel is happy to cherry-pick from the formal recommendations of the Leveson Report, which flowed from a properly-constituted public inquiry led by a senior judge. When Hacked Off asked Sir Hayden to explain which recommendations he considered ‘central’ he refused to answer.
His suggestion that IPSO is ‘a substantial improvement on the PCC’ flies in the face of the evidence. This detailed analysis, which has never even been challenged, shows that IPSO satisfies only 12 of the 38 Leveson recommendations that are needed for a press self-regulator to be independent and effective. On this basis it is impossible to argue that IPSO is a substantial improvement on the PCC.
At a meeting with Sir Hayden’s panel, Hacked Off would also have pointed out that even the selection of his panel and his panel’s own structure are in breach of the Leveson recommendations. IPSO is failing before it can even begin.
8 January 2014
Dear Sir Hayden,
I write following the announcement relating to the appointments panel for IPSO, the body being established by PressBoF to replace the PCC.
Hacked Off, of which I am director, represents many victims of press abuse and we have sought the implementation in full of the Leveson Report recommendations.
Those whom we represent, including Christopher Jefferies, Gerry and Kate McCann and many others, do not support IPSO either in its declared intention or in its structures and functions. They and we do not believe that IPSO can command or expect the confidence of the public (whom it is supposed to serve) unless it obtains recognition as ‘Leveson-compliant’ from the independent Recognition Panel established by Royal Charter.
The Media Standards Trust has published an analysis of how far IPSO is from conforming with the criteria for effective, independent self-regulation set out by Lord Justice Leveson after his year-long public inquiry. You can read it here: http://mediastandardstrust.org/mst-news/ipso-an-assessment-by-the-media-standards-trust/ This analysis states that IPSO only meets 12 of the 38 Leveson recommendations and it sets out in detail why it reaches that conclusion. So far as we are aware, no one has challenged the Trust’s findings.
We would be grateful if you would agree to meet us and some of the victims of press abuse so that we may discuss our concerns and hear your views.
Brian Cathcart – Executive Director, Hacked Off
21 January 2014
I have now been able to discuss your request with my colleagues on the IPSO Appointment Panel.
I hope you will appreciate that we cannot enter into a debate about the degree to which IPSO does or does not reflect or fulfil all of the recommendations made by Brian Leveson. We have been willing to take on this task as we believe that IPSO does reflect his central recommendations and because it is such a substantial improvement on the PCC that it should be put into place as quickly and as effectively as possible. We are not therefore in a position to seek or urge further changes to the agreed and announced proposals for the nature of IPSO. The Appointment Panel’s task is simply to try to ensure that people of wisdom, experience and independence are appointed to the new self-regulatory body. I totally understand that you have strong views about the nature of IPSO which you are perfectly entitled to hold but we cannot enter into a debate with you about those. The meeting you suggest would not therefore be appropriate.
However, if you would like to put to us your views in writing about the qualities and experience you would wish us to look for in making these appointments we would be happy to consider them.
Sir Hayden Phillips
21 January 2014
Dear Sir Hayden,
Thank you for your response, which I find surprising. May I ask a few questions? The answers may enable me to understand your position better, in particular when it comes to explaining it to victims of press abuse whom you are declining to meet.
Is this position agreed by all of the members of the panel, including those others to whom I wrote independently?
You say that you and the other panel members believe that IPSO reflects the ‘central’ recommendations of Lord Justice Leveson. Can you tell me which recommendations those are, who identified them as ‘central’, and on what basis? How do you characterise the Leveson Report recommendations that you do not consider ‘central’?
You say that you support IPSO ‘because it is such a substantial improvement on the PCC that it should be put into place as quickly and as effectively as possible’. In what ways, bearing in mind the Media Standards Trust analysis which I hope you have seen, is IPSO a substantial improvement on the PCC? And how will you determine the degree of effectiveness you consider satisfactory?
Can we take it that you agree with Lord Justice Leveson’s findings about the PCC, and in particular with his diagnosis of the shortcomings that caused it to be a failure?
You say that you are not in a position to urge ‘further changes’ to the IPSO proposals. Does this mean that your minds are closed to evidence on the merits of the system? Does it mean that no matter what could be proved about the system in which you are involved, you will not question it?
Finally, you say that Hacked Off has ‘strong views’ about IPSO. The strength of our views, I would suggest, is neither hear nor there. What matters is that they should be based on reliable evidence. We believe they are and we have seen no evidence to date to suggest that we are mistaken. If you have such evidence, we and the victims of press abuses with whom we work are most eager to see it. Our offer of a meeting therefore stands. Like you, it appears, we seek better and more effective press self-regulation. We urge you to meet us and discuss how that can be achieved.
I should add that once I have your answers on these points I am likely to copy this correspondence to our leading supporters. We may also publish it.
Brian Cathcart – Executive director,Hacked Off
23 January 2014
I am sorry you were surprised by my response which was, indeed, sent on behalf of the whole Panel.
I do not think I can really add to our original response. I can but repeat that, as an Appointment Panel with the sole objective of recruitment and selection, we cannot be drawn into the wider debate you are clearly proposing. However, perhaps I can also repeat that if you wish to contribute to our actual work we would very much welcome receiving your views on the qualities and experience we should be looking for in those we shall be considering for appointment.
Sir Hayden Phillips