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Publishers launch High Court bid to injunct the Government and stop press regulation Royal Charter

By Darren Boyle

Publishers' body PressBof is seeking an injunction to stop the Government from going to the Privy Council to seek the Queen’s approval on its press regulation Royal Charter.

The Privy Council is due to rubber-stamp the Government’s plan tomorrow (Wednesday) before sending its recommendations to the Queen.

The newspaper and magazine publishers want time to establish their own system of press regulation that is free from political interference.

International newspaper publishers and media groups have written to the Queen urging her not to sign the Government’s proposals.

Pressbof, which is chaired by Lord Black of Brentwood, believes a High Court injunction in advance of a judicial review is necessary to stall the Government’s plans.

Publishers are asking the High Court to quash the 8 October decision by the Privy Council to reject the industry’s own Royal Charter proposal.

The eleventh-hour legal bid will be heard before Lord Justice Richards and Lord Justice Sales.

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Lord Black said the decision to go to court had been made because of the "enormous ramifications for free speech" of the case in the UK and across the globe.

Lawyers for Culture Secretary Maria Miller will be opposing tomorrow's legal challenge.

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said the industry royal charter had been considered in "an entirely proper and fair way" by a Privy Council sub committee and the Culture Secretary had secured significant changes to the cross-party charter to address press concerns.

"The Government is working to bring in a system of independent press self-regulation that will protect press freedom while offering real redress when mistakes are made," the spokesman said.

The rival Royal Charters are similar in many respects. Both would create a "recognition panel" to oversee an independent self-regulatory body with powers to impose fines of up to £1 million on newspapers for wrongdoing.

However, while the press charter would require industry-wide approval for any amendments, the politicians' version could be changed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament, sparking fears within the industry that future governments could seek to encroach upon media freedom.

The Privy Council rejected the newspaper industry's Royal Charter because of concerns that the press regulation system it set out was not independent (from publishers) and did not include a mandatory libel disputes arbitration arm, as recommended in Sir Brian Leveson's report.

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