Dacre slams judges for lack of support for press freedom

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has accused judges of not backing newspapers in defending press freedoms against a creeping privacy law.

"I passionately believe a free press needs the judiciary," he told peers. "I am worried the press is not getting the support from the judiciary it deserves."

Dacre disclosed his concerns to the all-party Constitutional Affairs Committee of the House of Lords, which is inquiring into relations between the executive, the judiciary and parliament.

But he told the peers, including the former Chief Justice Lord Woolf, that the emergence of a privacy law based on case law was leading to tensions between judges and the media.

Freedoms which have been enjoyed for decades were being overturned by judgements without any regard to parliament.

He said: "We are witnessing the emergence of a judge-made privacy law based on case law.

"We were astonished by judgment that decided a man whose wife had committed adultery with a public figure was denied the right to speak about it."

Dacre also described judgements made against the BBC over the Downing Street email as "unedifying".

And he warned: "Rightly or wrongly we feel one of two judges are anti-press."

Dacre suggested that senior judges and editors should get together more often in informal seminar.

He warned however that judges must now expect more criticism from the media if they made political decisions or handed down sentences that were seen as lenient.

"For years judges have enjoyed immunity from criticism in the press. But in a 24-hour media with instant comments and with a general lack of reverence, judges must expect criticism.

"If they are making political judgments they're going to be held more accountable and scrutinised more. If they are making more and more lenient sentences they're going to have to explain their position more vocally and more lucidly."

The committee will publish its recommendations in May.

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