The editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, has today attacked the Press Complaints Commission report into alleged further phone hacking at the News of the World, calling it “worse than pointless â€¦ actually rather dangerous to the press.”
Rusbridger told Radio 4’s Today programme the established system of press self-regulation was put under threat from the regulator being “so weak.”
He said: “If you have a regulator behaving this uselessly, I suspect MPs will start saying this is not regulation.”
Speaking after publication this morning of a report from the press watchdog which found there was no fresh evidence of phone-hacking at the News of the World, Rusbridger said the PCC had fallen behind the press, MPs and lawyers in investigating that matter.
He said: “I think this report is worse than pointless, it’s actually rather dangerous to the pressâ€¦
“The PCC has done nothing in this case other than write a couple of letters to the editor of the News of the World, who wasn’t even there at the time.
“If you have a self regulation system that is finding nothing out and has no teethâ€¦it’s dangerous to self-regulation.”
Rusbridger said he believed in press self regulation but, echoing the words of Conservative cabinet minister David Mellor’s criticism of the press in the 1980s, said the PCC was “in the last chance saloon”.
He added: “The PCC does very valuable work in mediation but regulators have the power to do investigations, they have the power to ask people in.
“They haven’t even asked anybody who was at the News of the World at the time to come and give evidence; they haven’t spoken to the police.
“They have done none of the work MPs and lawyers have done and on the basis of that they say ‘there are all these anonymous and unsubstantiated sourcesâ€¦we can’t find anyone to go on the record therefore we can’t reach a conclusion’ well, that’s not regulation.”
Rusbridger added: “That may mean the PCC has to be better funded so that it has some investigatory mechanism and does not write reports as weak and as lightweight as this.”
The PCC concluded this morning there was no evidence that the practice of phone message tapping by journalists at the News of the World went beyond that which has already been admitted.
The report also said there was nothing to suggest the commission was mislead during an earlier investigation, in 2007, into the affair.
News of the World’s former royal editor, Clive Goodman, and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, were jailed in 2007 after admitting hacking into the private voicemails of royal aides and celebrities.
The News of the World and its publisher have always denied anyone other than Goodman and Mulcaire were involved in hacking.