A phone hacking victim has lost a High Court bid to challenge a “seriously unfair” Government consultation exercise on press regulation. Former Crimewatch presenter Jacqui Hames failed to persuade a judge that she had an “arguable” case which should be aired at a full judicial review hearing.
She complained that the public consultation, which was launched on 1 November 1 2016 and sought responses by 10 January 2017, proceeded on an “unlawful basis”.
Mr Justice Lewis heard submissions on the Government’s behalf that the consultation document at the centre of the case was “not inaccurate, misleading, unfair or unbalanced and does not omit any important information“.
After hearing submissions from both sides, the judge ruled today that there was nothing “even arguably” unfair or unlawful about the consultation process.
The judge was told earlier by Charles Bear QC, representing Ms Hames and two other applicants:
“The consultation concerns two discrete, but linked topics in a field of enormous importance, namely press regulation. The applicants are all persons with a specific interest in press regulation, either as victims of press intrusion or independent publishers.”
He said the “essential complaint” made by all three applicants – Ms Hames, Byline Media Holdings Ltd and an individual referred to only as HJK – was that “the consultation has been carried out in a seriously unfair way in relation to both its subject matters”.
Part of the consultation sought views on Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 – a controversial measure which would see newspapers which were not signed up to an officially recognised regulator having to pay their own and their opponent’s legal costs in defamation and privacy cases, even if they actually won in court.
It also asked for views on whether the second part of the Leveson Inquiry, which would look at wrongdoing in the police and press, should go ahead.
On Section 40, Mr Bear told the court that the consultation sought views “on whether to bring it into force, leave it under review, or repeal it”.
He argued that the consultation “suffered from unacceptable imbalance in its treatment of those issues and failed to present key arguments in favour of introducing the Section 40 scheme”.
As well as criticism of “defects” in the consultation process, Mr Bear said that Ms Hames and HJK – who had both “suffered seriously through press intrusion” – complained of “a breach of a substantive legitimate expectation” that part two of the Leveson Inquiry would proceed.
But the judge rejected all grounds of complaint.
After the hearing, Ms Hames said:
“So much for no government interference in setting up press regulation. I will continue to hold politicians to the post Leveson Settlement, agreed cross-party, that the industry is so determined to destroy.”
This article originally appeared on the online subscription service Media Lawyer and is reproduced with permission and thanks.
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