UK Leveson press privacy intrusion enquiry recommends self-regulation backed by law, jail sentences and fines

The UK parliamentary enquiry into culture, practices and ethics of the press, the so called Leveson enquiry, recommends the creation of an independent self-regulatory body, governed by an independent board. Importantly, the Report calls for jail sentences for journalists who "knowingly or recklessly" obtain or disclose personal data – this could be achieved by bringing into force amendments to section 55 of the Data Protection Act by section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. 

The new self-regulatory body should be backed by legislation which would put, for the first time, a legal duty on the government to protect the freedom of the press. Prime Minister, David Cameron, said that he is “not convinced at this stage that a statute is necessary to achieve Lord Justice Leveson’s objectives”.

Lord Justice Leveson says that the Board should have the power to impose appropriate and proportionate sanctions, including financial sanctions up to 1% of sales revenues with a maximum of £1m. There should be a new process of independent arbitration for complainants. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport will start to draft a bill implementing the Leveson recommendations.

The report also evaluates the status of data protection rights with regard to the press, and includes several recommendations for the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). It says that the ICO should issue practical guidance designed to support the press in improving standards and practice in the handling of personal information.

The ICO should also publish guidance for the general public, and take immediate steps to issue advice for those individuals who think that their privacy has been breached by the press. 

The Leveson Report, published on 30 November.