NUJ backs partial enactment of Section 40 with carrots for Impress members but no sticks for rest - Press Gazette

NUJ backs partial enactment of Section 40 with carrots for Impress members but no sticks for rest

The National Union of Journalists has called for a partial implementation of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act – effectively keeping the carrots, but not the sticks.

This would mean that members of statute-backed press regulator Impress would be protected from paying their opponent’s costs in libel and privacy action which reach court (even if they win). But the situation for the vast majority of publishers outside Impress would be unchanged.

This is option four of the Government consultation on whether to enact Section 40, which closes at 5pm today.

Most UK newspaper publishers have called for Section 40 to be scrapped altogether.

The NUJ has also called on the Government to go ahead with part two of the Leveson inquiry, looking at phone-hacking and the relationship between journalists and the police.

The union said in a statement: “The notion that successfully defended cases, brought following journalist investigations and reporting, could still lead to a newspaper having to pay costs for the losing side is not tenable.”

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “A perfect storm poses a mortal threat to British journalism – a crisis of trust, a crisis of revenue and a crisis of relevance.

“The first would be much aided by the establishment of a genuinely independent system of arbitration that would allow those who believe that the press has overstepped the mark to seek redress easily and inexpensively. Journalists, publishers and the public would benefit from the establishment of such a process.

“The NUJ believes that by partially implementing Section 40, it would potentially bring benefits to those regulators that have established proper systems of arbitration. Those who have not would continue to deal with the courts as they do today.

“The government should continue to encourage those regulators that do not have effective arbitration in place to establish such systems.

“While providing significant benefits for those with systems of arbitration, ministers should now rule out implementing Section 40 in a way that could lead to publishers facing potentially ruinous legal costs.

“It is also vital that part two of the Leveson inquiry commences. Commitments were made to victims of abuse by the press that have not been fulfilled.

“It was appropriate to allow live legal cases to extinguish themselves, but serious questions remain about the relationships between senior police officers and executives at some of our biggest media conglomerates. Without the long-promised inquiry, the suspicion of a cover up, or a private deal between ministers and industry bosses, will hang in the air.”

Press regulator IPSO offers an optional arbitration service for libel and privacy disputes. But claimants must pick up the costs if they are unsuccessful.

Royal Charter-backed regulator Impress offers a compulsory arbitration service for its members, but publishers must pay arbitration costs of up to £3,500 and can be forced to pay claimants’ legal fees of up to £3,000.

Read the NUJ submission to the Section 40 consultation in full.



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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette