Wakeham blames HR Act for privacy 'shambles'

Former chairman of the Press Complaints Commission Lord Wakeham has blamed the Human Rights Act for the current ‘shambles’on privacy – and claimed it should be amended to allow the PCC to ‘reassert its primacy”.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, Lord Wakeham claimed to have predicted the current ‘intolerable state of affairs’when the Human Rights Act made its way through Parliament in the late 1990s.

Wakeham, who chaired the Press Complaints Commission from 1995 to 2001, said it was clear to him that ‘because Parliament was relinquishing control of the issue, the resulting law would inevitably go further than we wished”.

‘Section 12 of the Human Rights Act attempted to enshrine in law the PCC’s common sense Code of Practice which protects an individual’s right to privacy as well as defining the public interest which justifies intrusion, with a view to cases being sorted out by the Commission and not the courts,’said Wakeham.

‘It has clearly failed to deliver that goal and the problem needs urgently addressing.’

Wakeham’s solution is to amend the Human Rights Act limiting the role of the courts to dealing with issues that impact only on public authorities and the state, which he claimed the original drafters of the European Convention on Human Rights had intended.

He added: ‘That would leave the media outside the direct supervision of the courts on privacy issues and enable the PCC – which can react much more swiftly to changes in newspaper technology than the law will ever be able to do so – to reassert its primacy in this area, as Parliament always intended.”

Wakeham claimed the recent spate of injunctions was down to the fact that in privacy matters – unlike in libel – the courts ‘inevitably err on the side of the applicant when considering whether to grant an injunction, and not on the side of a newspaper”.

‘That is the root of the inherent ‘unfairness’ the Prime Minister referred to, and why this shambles has arisen,’he added.

On Monday, Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC announced a new joint Lords and Commons committee will be set up to examine issues around privacy.

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