Culture secretary Karen Bradley has announced a new consultation into whether to hold a second part of the Leveson Inquiry into press standards and regulation.
The consultation will also look into section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which encouraged newspapers to join a recognised national press regulator.
Bradley told Parliament today (1 November) the government would also formally consult Sir Brian Leveson, who led the 2012 inquiry, on his future involvement. The consultation will run for 10 weeks until 10 January 2017.
As yet only one press regulator has been recognised: Impress has around 50 members although no major members of the national press. The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has 2,500 publications, but has not sought recognition under the act.
Part 2 of the inquiry was set to look into wrongdoing by the press and police forces, including phone hacking, but many of the issues had been addressed by subsequent criminal investigations.
Bradley said: ‘Many of the issues that Part 2 would have covered have been addressed in the last five years.’
She added: ‘The government is determined that a balance is struck between press freedom and the freedom of the individual. Those who are treated improperly must have redress.’
The cost of the first inquiry has led media lawyers to question the sense in running a fresh investigation. Implementing the recommendations of the original inquiry cost £43.7m, while the investigations cost £5.4m.
A City partner involved in the original Leveson inquiry told Legal Business: ‘It would be ludicrous to have Leveson Part 2. The reason it didn’t take place at the time was because of the very close overlap with the criminal proceedings. Now it would undermine the verdicts to re-tread that ground and be a huge waste of public money without serving any useful purpose.’
Earlier this week an organisation representing national newspapers issued a letter threatening legal action over the decision to recognise Impress as a press regulator. RPC partners Geraldine Elliott and Keith Mathieson wrote to Press Recognition Panel chair David Wolfe QC of Matrix Chambers. The letter claimed there was a ‘serious risk of prejudice’ in the decision.