Former Court of Appeal judge Sir Stephen Sedley chairs a debate with legal experts on the public interest element of the Leveson Report into the culture, practices and ethics of the press, at the Media Law after Leveson workshop at the Oxford Law Faculty.
Rachel Craufurd Smith opens the session by striking a note of caution about the possible adverse consequences of press regulation, arguing that, where the press are acting in the public interest, they must be free to do so without legal repercussions. She explores the difficult balance of ensuring the press act in the interests of the public and democracy, whilst guarding against the threat of any chilling effect the Leveson proposals may have on investigative journalism.
Gavin Phillipson takes a far more hardline view of the press response to Leveson, arguing that the media had distorted the notion of press freedom in order to free themselves of any regulation and to act with impunity, rather than to preserve the industry from what it had characterized as state censorship. He criticises sections of the press for repeatedly publishing known inaccuracies if it serves the editorial line, and attacks the media defence of invasions of privacy on the basis of preserving media plurality.
Andrew Scott assesses the effect of the Bribery Act on the practice of chequebook journalism, or payment of sources. Scott sounds a cautionary note, arguing that the Leveson proposals could have a chilling effect on investigative journalism.