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The Rt Hon. Sir Brian Leveson has responded to Baroness Hollins, setting out the rationale for the proposals for independent press self-regulation in the Leveson Report, which evolved into Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 (‘Section 40’) and the Royal Charter on Self-Regulation of the Press.

With the proposed repeal of Section 40 currently being considered in the House of Lords as part of the Media Bill, Baroness Hollins wrote to Sir Brian asking for his views on some of the assertions made during Parliamentary debates. His response does not engage in the political debate but addresses these claims and explains the origin and purpose of his recommendation that led to Section 40.

Sir Brian’s letter highlights that freedom of expression was at the core of the Leveson Inquiry’s recommendations and that nothing in the report undermines that principle. It aimed to protect individuals without substantial means caught up in public interest events but unable to seek redress for defamation or unlawful intrusion into their privacy simply because they could not afford to challenge the press in the courts.

To address this concern, the Leveson Report recommended an arbitration system that would protect both the public and news publishers who could not otherwise afford to litigate. If a news publisher failed to engage in arbitration, resulting in a claim being made to the courts, then the judge would be able to exercise discretion to award costs against the news publisher if it was just and equitable in the circumstances of the case.

Conversely, if a member of the public brought a claim against a news publisher rather than pursuing arbitration, the judge would have the same discretion to protect the news publisher from costs. In particular, this would protect small publishers who may otherwise be forced to retract irrespective of the merits for want of financial means.

A key purpose of the recommendation was to encourage good journalism and provide a quick, relatively inexpensive remedy to those who were defamed or whose privacy was unlawfully invaded without either side having to expend vast resources and energy pursuing litigation.

You can read the full text of the letters here:

Baroness Hollins Letter to Sir Brian Leveson 25 April 2024

Sir Brian Leveson Letter to Baroness Hollins 1 May 2024

The 2012 Leveson Inquiry report on the culture, practices and ethics of the press recommended that any press regulator should impose fines for serious or systemic breaches of a set Code of Practice.

However, the publishers who set the rules for the press’s main complaints body, IPSO, have only given it the power to impose fines where there are both serious and systemic breaches of the Editors’ Code. Crucially, this fails to acknowledge that some breaches of the Code may be extremely serious and need redress but may have happened only once.

The IPSO rules set a significantly higher bar for an adequate remedy than the equivalent Leveson recommendation. This change in emphasis and wording significantly undermines the approach and principles that Leveson sought to apply. No matter how bad a breach may be in an individual case by a publication, the only remedies open to IPSO are to order a correction or publication of an adjudication.

However, as Leveson states in his report, “While it may be embarrassing for editors to publish adjudications, this sanction is not enough to deter repeat offending.

The right to privacy

As expected, the right to privacy in the Code of Practice applied by IPSO is balanced against the public interest in publication. However, how the Code and IPSO interpret the public interest leaves ordinary members of the public unprotected.

Our new report IPSO Rulings Review – a follow up report by the Press Recognition Panel 8 May 2024 includes a case study that illustrates this. It explains how, in February 2023, MailOnline ran a story about the death of a mother in Pakistan, publishing pictures of her children and their names and ages – meaning they were easily identifiable. Their father said that the article had a hugely negative impact on his children and that he had never consented to the publication of images of his children, nor their names and ages.

The IPSO Complaints Committee found that this had been an unjustified intrusion into privacy by the publisher, but the only remedy was the publication of an adjudication. The ruling allowed MailOnline to continue publication of the original article if it wished to do so, meaning there could have been a continued risk of identification of the children. In any event, the rights to privacy of other children in the future would also be unprotected, given the lack of a substantial deterrent.

As we stated in our 2024 Annual Report on the Recognition System:

“…news publishers are able to apply liberal and self-serving interpretations of the exemptions to data protection legislation in the interests of freedom of expression if they can justify it in the public interest. In the Editors’ Code of Practice, the industry has then managed to define the public interest as including largely unfettered freedom of expression.”

Our new report outlines another “egregious breach” of privacy that happened last year when the Greenock Telegraph named an alleged victim of sexual assault and revealed her and her family’s residential addresses.

Despite the “strong concerns” over the behaviour of the newspaper during the complaints process, IPSO had no means of imposing an effective deterrent and was only able to order the publication of an adjudication.

Any punishment imposed by a press regulator will, by its nature, always be after the event and, therefore, inevitably too late to help the original victims. Strong powers of deterrence, such as fines, are essential so that they protect future victims of the press before the damage is done.

This was also true of a case where a journalist at the Halifax Courier revealed their anonymous source of a story, with serious and detrimental consequences to that source. In March 2020, the complainant contacted the paper to voice concerns about conditions at the store at which she worked, alleging that her employer had placed profit above the protection of staff against Covid. The complainant stressed she needed to remain anonymous for fear of losing her job. In May, she was dismissed by her employer, partly for making comments “to the media”. She accused the newspaper of revealing her identity to her employer.

IPSO expressed its serious concern over the breach of the requirement in the Editors’ Code to protect sources, which had led to the complainant losing her job. Despite this and the paper’s apparent attempts to cover it up, there was no remedy available except publication of an adjudication.

In perhaps the most worrying example we found, the threat to human rights by the press even extended to jeopardising children’s safety with another IPSO ruling last year. In it, a journalist and photographer from the Scottish Sun pursued the complainant in separate cars over 40 miles (including on a motorway) whilst she had a young child in the car, forcing her to drive at speed to evade the harassment.

The IPSO Complaints Committee found that:

“The behaviour employed by the photographer and reporter had been intimidating and harassing; the complainant was followed for a period of time, via car, while travelling with a young child. This was a serious and egregious breach of the Code.

Again, the only remedy available to IPSO was to require the newspaper to publish an adjudication, but despite the “serious and egregious” nature of the breach, the Committee decided not to require this on the front page “…which the Committee acknowledged is valuable editorially”, thus explicitly placing the newspaper’s financial interests above deterrence.

Kathryn Cearns OBE, Chair of the Press Recognition Panel (PRP) says:

“This latest research, which follows our report published in January, builds a picture showing that, as a result of IPSO’s regulatory capture by its publishers, the public remains almost completely unprotected from bad behaviour by the press. No matter how lamentably a newspaper has conducted itself, including during the complaints process, there is simply no method of adequate deterrent open to IPSO which would help prevent any repetition of the behaviour”.


Report published 22 January 2024 – A Review of the UK’s Independent Press Standards Organisation’s Complaints Process and Related Issues

Follow up report published 8 May 2024  – IPSO Rulings Review – a follow up report by the Press Recognition Panel 8 May 2024

Press Recognition Panel’s (PRP) annual state of recognition report shows public protection from press harm is non-existent eleven years on from the Leveson Inquiry.

The Press Recognition Panel’s (PRP) annual report demonstrates that a lack of independent and meaningful press regulation in the UK persists, more than a decade on from the conclusion of the high-profile Leveson Inquiry, leaving the British public as unprotected as ever from potential press harms. 

From 31 October 2023 to 15 January 2024, the PRP conducted a call for information that invited views from a range of individuals, stakeholders and people in relevant professions. 

In the Parliamentary debate surrounding the media bill, the plight of individuals suffering due to press harms has been ignored as the current government races to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act. This is an important piece of legislation which was designed as part of the Recognition System post-Leveson, – a system designed to take politics out of press regulation. The failure to commence Section 40 since it was enacted in 2013 has undermined this objective. Should Section 40 be repealed, it will undermine the Recognition System itself and take us one step further towards the failure of this model of press self-regulation. 

Our report includes examples which demonstrate the significant human cost that can be generated by the actions of the press on vulnerable people in difficult circumstances.  

In our Call for Information this year we received a personal account from a member of the public who spoke to us confidentially about their experience with the press following the disappearance of a family member: 

“We went to the police, we went to the newspapers — no one really wanted to help us apart from the local newspapers. The others wanted to charge us for taking out a missing persons ad. When it came out that they had been killed, the media jumped all over us. A lot of the time we were finding out things in the papers, we didn’t know if they were true or made-up. Wherever we went, even when we were with the police, they hounded us, they were camped out on our door-step. There was no respect. 

We asked them to stop but they didn’t until we confronted them with how much they were upsetting the children then they finally left us alone. 

We had to sit next to them in court and listen to them discussing how they were going to report the case — some journalists from the BBC and Channel 5 supported us but the others were really cold — no empathy talking about what they were going to say. One magazine wanted to interview us but refused when we said we wanted to be able to agree the headline. 

We didn’t know we could complain to anyone. It was such a difficult time, it was only years later that we looked back and realise how bad it was. Especially when someone else disappeared and its on the front page of every national newspaper — it felt as if they were deciding who was worth looking for or not.” 

Hacked Off, in their response to our Call for Information, highlighted a series of other incidents of intrusion and other press abuses exposing members of the public to harm in the last year: 

  • “The family of Matthew Lavin, who complained after a newspaper reported on the man’s death after he died by suicide. The reporting appeared to glamorise the location of the suicide, gave excessive information about his injuries and cause of death, and referred to the deceased’s street level address. IPSO rejected the complaint. 
  • The family of Susan Hart, who complained after The Sun reported that Ms Hart had died while on holiday in Greece. Her death had not been confirmed at the time of publication, at which point a search for her was underway. The report of her death in a national newspaper, therefore, caused considerable distress. Content from the family posted to social media was also taken and republished by The Sun without consent. When a member of the family called The Sun to seek a correction, the newspaper initially failed to do so. Eventually, The Sun agreed to publish a brief note on the article stating that Ms Hart had not been found deceased on the stated date.
  • A lady complained after a newspaper named her daughter as the victim of a rape, in a piece headlined, “Scots drug dealer raped unconscious woman after he injected her with heroin”. The woman had since died by suicide. The complainant, her mother, said that this reporting intruded on her grief, and that she feared for her daughter’s child, who might one day read the article and learn about the tragic circumstances of their mother’s death. The article also included pictures taken from social media, without consent, from the victim’s funeral. IPSO rejected the complaint.
  • The family of Steven Carrie complained after a newspaper report wrongly described him as a father, and was – in the family’s opinion – exploitative of their efforts to raise awareness of the importance of defibrillators. The newspaper offered to print a brief correction. Although the family did not consider this to be satisfactory, IPSO closed the complaint and did not require any further remedial action.”


As well as exploring the evidence which underlines the urgent need for meaningful and independent press regulation in the UK, the report makes three overarching recommendations: 

  1. The UK Parliament should not repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. Instead, it should either commence the provision or put in place alternative mechanisms to protect freedom of speech and the public by holding the whole of the press to account under an independent system of self-regulation.
  2. The Government should take steps to remove legal standing for press standards that are developed by the industry and for the industry rather than holding them to account. 
  3. Ofcom should include in their statutory codes of practice for online platforms implementing safety duties under the Online Safety Act 2023 that the definition of a ‘Recognised News Publisher’ means a news publisher which is a member of an Approved Regulator operating within the Recognition System. 


Kathryn Cearns OBE, Chair of the Press Recognition Panel (PRP) says:   

“The public has been abandoned. A lack of action over the course of many years to fully implement the recommendations made during the Leveson Inquiry has been compounded by the current government’s move to rush through a repeal of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act.  

“A repeal of Section 40 will be devastating for the public in the UK where harm by the press is still inflicted far too often on ordinary members of the public. The public could lose its only viable route – were it properly commenced – to challenging the UK press and news publishers without incurring huge costs. In addition, it will denigrate freedom of speech in the UK.” 

“We urge Peers in the House of Lords to stop this part of the media bill in its tracks before we lose the only pathway to independent and meaningful press regulation that exists.” 

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Annual Report and Financial Statements For the year ended 31 March 2023

Presented to Parliament pursuant to Article 12.4 of the Royal Charter on Self Regulation of the Press

The Royal Charter

The Royal Charter ensures that the PRP remains wholly independent of any other body or influence.

The Charter lists 29 criteria that regulators have to meet in order to be recognised. The criteria were designed to secure press freedom and protect the public interest.


The Press Recognition Panel (PRP) is an independent body set up by Royal Charter to oversee regulation of the press and other news publishers. The role of the PRP is to “recognise” regulators who apply to us as meeting the 29 criteria (numbered 1 to 23) in the Charter. If we conclude that a regulator meets the criteria, then it is known as an “approved regulator”.

The PRP ensures that, among other things, approved regulators are independent of the publishers they regulate, are funded properly to do their job, are open to all publishers, and provide the public with proper opportunities to raise concerns about the conduct of the regulator’s members.

The PRP must also carry out reviews to make sure approved regulators continue to meet the Charter requirements and the PRP must withdraw recognition if they don’t.

In addition, the PRP must report to Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and the public on how the recognition system is working and on the impact of the PRP’s work. We will also inform the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The PRP was created as a result of the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, which followed widespread concern about alleged unlawful activities carried out by some sections of the press, such as phone hacking.

The Royal Charter is the mechanism by which the PRP was created. It was sealed on 30 October 2013.

Schedule 3 of the Charter lists 29 criteria that regulators have to meet in order to be recognised. The criteria were designed to secure press freedom and protect the public interest.

The Charter can only be amended by a two thirds majority of each of the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Scottish Parliament, and with the unanimous agreement of the PRP Board.

The PRP came into existence as a legal entity on 3 November 2014. 

No, the PRP is not a regulator. The PRP has no control over the press and other news publishers and cannot tell any press organisation, publisher or regulator what to do. The PRP’s role is to recognise, review and report on regulators, to ensure they meet, and continue to meet, the 29 Charter criteria. Where a regulator no longer meets those criteria, the PRP Board can withdraw recognition.  

PRP Board members are free to act without outside influence having been appointed for a period of five years. During that period each of them can only be removed by the unanimous agreement of the other Board members. The Royal Charter itself can only be amended by a two thirds majority of each of the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Scottish Parliament, and with the unanimous agreement of the Board itself.

No. The PRP plays a part in ensuring the freedom of the press while protecting the public interest. The PRP’s role is to ensure that regulators of the UK press and other news publishers are independent, properly funded, and able to protect the public.

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