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Leveson: It's time to curb British Press

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The Leveson report this afternoon called for sweeping changes to the way the Press is overseen – including a tough new watchdog backed by law.

Lord Leveson says the existing Press Complaints Commission should be scrapped and replaced with a new form of independent self-regulation overseen by broadcasting regulator Ofcom.

The new board would have the power to fine newspapers up to £1million and force the publication of corrections and apologies – but could not prevent stories from being printed.

Lord Leveson claimed his recommendations fell short of statutory regulation of the press and he hoped publishers would sign up voluntarily to the new body. Neither the newspaper industry nor the government would influence appointments to the board.

Journalists will also have access to a whistleblower hotline if they feel they are being made to do anything that breaches a code of conduct.

Lord Leveson – whose inquiry was sparked by the News of the World phone hacking scandal – said the moves were needed because the press had repeatedly acted as if its existing code of conduct "simply did not exist", and "wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people".

The judge also criticised politicians who he said had enjoyed too cosy a relationship with newspapers.

But he said his inquiry had found little evidence of widespread police corruption in their dealings with the press. Lord Leveson made it clear there was a distinction between the local and national press, saying the regional press had been "much praised" throughout the inquiry.

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"Their demise would be a huge setback for communities," he said and added that the contribution of local papers was "truly without parallel".

He said the press played a vital role in national life. "I remain firmly of the belief that the British press serves the country very well for the vast majority of the time," he said.

But he said there were too many examples of the press falling to meet its responsibilities over the last decade.

In the 2,000-page report he said: "Too many stories in too many newspapers were the subject of complaints from too many people, with too little in the way of titles taking responsibility." Spelling out his proposals for ensuring such behaviour could be dealt with in future, the judge dismissed the idea that they could be described as statutory regulation.

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He said: "What is proposed is independent regulation of the press organised by the press, with a statutory verification process to ensure that the required levels of independence and effectiveness are met."

The verification process would be carried out by existing watchdog Ofcom.

Political Editor Daniel Wainwright was one of the first to get his hands on a copy of the Leveson today.

The report into press standards was published at 1.30pm, followed by a brief statement from Lord Justice Leveson.

See Daniel's tweets from the the QEII Conference Centre in London.

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