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High Court rejects Hacked Off challenge to press regulation consultation

A HIGH Court judge this week rejected a legal challenge by supporters of Hacked Off to a Government consultation on press regulation. 

The News Media Association (NMA) reports that the 10-week consultation, which closed on 10 January, sought views on whether the Government should commence section 40, wholly or in part, keep it under review or repeal it. It also asked for views on whether to continue with part two of the Leveson Inquiry, either under the original terms of reference or revised terms.

Counsel for phone hacking victim Jacqui Hames, Byline Media Holdings Ltd, and another claimant referred to as HJK argued that the consultation exercise “suffered from unacceptable imbalance in its treatment of those issues and failed to present key arguments in favour of introducing the Section 40 scheme”.

It was also argued that the act of launching a consultation on Leveson part two represented a breach of the legitimate expectations of phone hacking victims that it would take place, following Ministerial assurances over the years.

Responding to the challenge, counsel for the Government said that it was “undeniable” that there had been developments in the field of press regulation since the original Leveson Inquiry and that there was nothing unfair or unlawful about consulting on all the options on how to proceed in the light of those changes.

It was also argued that the challengers were “cherrypicking” the consultation document, which had in fact set out the arguments of both the press and its critics.

Finding in favour of the Government, Mr Justice Lewis said that reading the document “fairly, as a whole and in context” the consultation was lawful and “properly reflects the options open at this stage.” He also noted during the hearing that it was for the Government to decide when to commence section 40. 

The NMA is seeking a judicial review of the decision by the Press Recognition Panel last year to approve IMPRESS. The hearing is due to take place at the end of June.

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