Straw Ends Threat of a Privacy Law by the Back Door; PRESS FREEDOM PROTECTED IN HUMAN RIGHTS BILL
Byline: DAVID HUGHES
THE Government acted decisively yesterday to prevent new human rights legislation being used to launch back door privacy laws that could fetter the Press.
Jack Straw outlined amendments specifically designed to stop the rich and powerful using the Human Rights Bill to gag newspapers.
Opening the second reading debate on the Bill in the Commons yesterday, the Home Secretary said the Government was opposed to a statutory law of privacy and believed the amendment would 'satisfactorily safeguard the position of the Press'.
Mr Straw set out a series of safeguards to prevent judges paying more attention to Article Eight of the Convention, which recognises an individual's right to privacy than to Article Ten, which says there should be freedom of expression..
Under the changes, self-regulation is cemented in place. If a newspaper observes the Press Complaints Commission's Code of Conduct - toughened after the death of the Princess of Wales - the courts will not be able to take action against it in defence of an individual's privacy.
Amendments, which are likely to be introduced at the Bill's next stage - its line-by-line examination in committee - will be based on three components.
* No injunctions against a newspaper unless it is present or represented in court or all practicable steps have been taken to alert it of an application. The PCC says it means that injunctions 'could only be granted in the most exceptional circumstances'.
lAn explicit statement in the Bill that courts must give particular regard to freedom of expression when respect for private life and freedom of expression clash. This, says the PCC, will offer new safeguards for articles where an individual puts his or her side of a story.
lA requirement on courts to take into account the public interest of any publication coupled with a judgment of whether the newspaper had acted fairly and reasonably and within the provisions of the PCC's Code of Practice. …