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One year on the Government now has no time-scale on responding to Section 40 consultation

One year on from the close of a public consultation on implementing Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act the Government now has no timescale on revealing its response.

If implemented, Section 40 would make news publishers pay both sides’ costs in libel and privacy cases, win or lose, if they are not signed up to a Royal Charter-backed press regulator.

A consultation on whether to scrap or implement the measure closed on 10 January 2017. Section 40 passed into law in 2013 but has yet to be enacted by the government.

A decision on what to do with Section 40 was expected before Christmas but has been further delayed following Sir Brian Leveson’s request to see the responses of Leveson Inquiry participants.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport told Press Gazette that the response would be published this year but there was no definite timescale.

A DDCMS spokesperson said: “Sir Brian has requested to see the overall results of the consultation along with individual responses that were submitted by core participants in the Leveson Inquiry.

“Understandably, he wishes to consider the information properly before giving us his formal view on the issues raised. We will therefore be publishing the Government’s response to the consultation in the new year.”

The Conservatives pledged to scrap Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act in their latest manifesto. The party said it would also not proceed with the second stage of the Leveson Inquiry.

At the end of November most national newspaper publishers began offering low-cost arbitration as a way to settle libel and privacy disputes.

This was one of the recommendations in the 2012 Leveson Report and might be sufficient to stop Parliament forcing publishers into joining a Royal Charter-backed regulator by enacting Section 40.

The arbitration scheme, run by regulator IPSO, is optional for publishers.

 

Comments

2 thoughts on “One year on the Government now has no time-scale on responding to Section 40 consultation”

  1. Please, may we have accuracy?
    “Section 40 passed into law in 2013 but has yet to be enacted by the government. ”
    Parliament has enacted Section 40. Successive Secretaries of State have failed to bring it into force.
    “At the end of November most national newspaper publishers began offering low-cost arbitration as a way to settle libel and privacy disputes.”
    FAQ low-cost arbitration website: “What if the publisher does not want to arbitrate?
    Both parties must voluntarily agree to arbitrate.
    Without agreement, the arbitration process will not be available for your claim. In these circumstances you may wish to pursue other legal pathways or ask IPSO about making a complaint under the Editors’ Code.”
    Yes you can/No you can’t. Is that really Leveson compliant?

  2. A couple of significant omissions here. Section 40 could indeed make a winning paper pay the loser’s costs, but (and the legislation is very clear) only if the judge considers that ‘fair in all the circumstances’. So this measure is by definition as fair as the law and the courts can make it.

    And you have omitted altogether the point that, by promoting low-cost arbitration, Section 40 would end the scandal by which only the very rich or the very fortunate are able to uphold their rights in libel and privacy cases. The present arrangements deny ordinary people justice while enabling the powerful to chill journalism.

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