The confused and ineffectual Karen Bradley, promoted from nowhere to become Culture Secretary by Theresa May, must have thought it was a jolly good wheeze to delay the decision on Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry - and Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act - by subjecting the whole process to a “consultation”. But her campaign has progressed not necessarily to her advantage, with the launch of a claim for judicial review.
Karen Bradley - needs to actually make decisions
In a move which appears to have blind-sided most of the press - honourable mention, as ever, to the ever-alert Jane Martinson at the Guardian - the claim for judicial review of Ms Bradley’s move “argues that the consultation launched by the culture secretary, Karen Bradley, is unlawful because both Leveson part two and the controversial section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 concerning legal costs were previously promised, and because the consultation document itself is biased”. So who is behind the challenge?
“Former Crimewatch presenter Jacqui Hames, online news publisher Byline Media, and an anonymous phone-hacking victim have jointly filed the claim against the lawfulness of the consultation exercise, claiming to be ‘particularly affected by any decision to resile from the promises made’”. Ms Hames claims Young Dave personally promised her on Leveson 2.
Jacqui Hames at the Leveson Inquiry
And here is the first problem for the press establishment: the first instinct of papers like the Mail and Sun will be to go after those filing the claim. But Ms Hames, as a former long-standing presenter on the BBC’s Crimewatch, who is also a victim of well-documented press intrusion, is not going to be easy to vilify. And the phone-hacking victim who has joined the action has secured anonymity. Double jeopardy for the Fourth Estate.
Their only avenue will be to go after Byline Media, which also presents difficulties for them, as this is the only significant player in enabling crowdfunded content without editorial interference. The whiff of mean-spirited bully-boy tactics would hang over any attack on Byline, which would also be seen as an attempt to smear truly independent press regulator IMPRESS (Byline has signed up to be regulated by IMPRESS).
In any case, there is a more pressing problem for part of that press establishment: as Evan Harris of campaigning group Hacked Off has pointed out, “Given that Ofcom will need to investigate whether those behind the Sky takeover bid are ‘fit and proper’, cancellation by the government of the second phase of the Leveson inquiry would be even more outrageous”. James Murdoch, now head of 21st Century Fox, which is making the Sky bid, has previously faced severely adverse comment on his past conduct.
As has been noted, the kinds of issues that would be addressed by Leveson 2 involve the Murdoch empire directly, not least the still unsolved murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan: one of the investigations into his killing, led by Ms Hames’ former husband Dave Cook, suffered direct interference from the Murdoch Screws.
So there must be no consideration of the Sky bid without Leveson 2. That is how significant this legal challenge is. This time, Karen Bradley will have to do rather better than bluster that she is “in listening mode” and pretend it’s not really happening.
The Government needs to stop putting out the welcome mat for the Murdoch mafiosi, while screwing about victims of press abuse. They gave assurances. Now they must keep them.