Leveson report: Inquiry says legislation is 'essential' to reign in British press (VIDEO)


Lord Justice Leveson presents his report on press standards, on Nov. 29, 2012 in London, England.


Dan Kitwood

The UK's Leveson inquiry into press standards has concluded that legislation is "essential" to correct what it called "outrageous" behavior.

The long-awaited Leveson report, which follows eight months of hearings, has recommended the creation of an independent press regulator — which would get its teeth from new statutes.

Prime Minister David Cameron, however, has expressed "serious concerns and misgivings" over new legislation, which he said could threaten freedom of speech, the BBC reported.

"The answer to the question, 'Who guards the guardians?' should not be 'no one,'" Lord Justice Leveson said as he delivered the report earlier Thursday afternoon.

"There have been too many times, when chasing the story, parts of the press have acted as if its own code, which it wrote, simply did not exist. This has caused real hardship, and on occasion, wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people whose rights and liberties have been disdained."

Under Leveson's proposals, the British press would be subject to an independent regulator with the power to fine newspapers up to £1 million ($1.6 million) or one percent of turnover if they breach a new code of conduct, the Telegraph said.

The new regulator should be underpinned by legislation, according to Leveson, "to protect the freedom of the press, to reassure the public and validate the new body."

More from GlobalPost: British lawmakers divided over press freedom

Leveson insisted, however, that his recommendations were "not, and cannot be characterised as, statutory regulation of the press."

He stressed that neither the new watchdog, parliament nor the government would have the power to prevent newspapers publishing any material whatsoever.

The Guardian said the reform would be "the introduction of the first press law in Britain since the 17th century."

David Cameron said it risked crossing a significant line: "The danger is that this would create a vehicle for politicians, whether today or some time in the future, to impose regulation and obligations on the press," the Conservative prime minister said, adding that he believed there were "alternative options."

Yet Cameron's deputy and Liberal Democrat coalition partner, Nick Clegg, disagreed, calling Leveson's proposals "proportionate and workable."

The difference in opinion points to a possible split over the issue in Britain's already fractious parliament. As GlobalPost reported yesterday, more than 80 lawmakers from all three main parties have stated their opposition to any statutory regulation of the press.

Until now, British newspapers have self-regulated via the Press Complaints Commission, a panel of industry representatives that has often been accused of being too close to publishers and fundamentally powerless.

The rest of Leveson's 1,987-page report also criticized politicians, for having long had too cozy a relationship with the press, and the police officers who were in charge of the original inquiry into phone hacking at the now-defunct tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch's News International, the News of the World.

The full report is available on the Telegraph's website. Watch Lord Justice Leveson deliver his findings below: