Today it was reported in the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper that the Director of Public Prosecutions (the DPP), Mr Keir Starmer, is developing an interim policy for prosecutors which will give them guidance as to the factors which they should take into consideration when deciding whether or not to prosecute journalists acting in the course of their work as journalists.
This announcement was made as Mr Starmer gave evidence to the long running Leveson Inquiry into press ethics in the UK.
The interim policy, when published, will be subject to a 12 week public consultation before the final policy was put into force.
Apparently it is intended that the policy will cover offences committed by journalists under the Regulation Of Investigatory Powers Act (which covers phone hacking and under cover surveillance), the Bribery Act (which makes no exceptions or defences for journalists but only for the armed forces and the secret services), the Data Protection Act and the Computer Misuse Act. In addition, the Telegraph reports, it would cover the Official Secrets Act and offences of aiding and abetting misconduct in public office which prevents civil servants and police officers from leaking information to journalists.
The policy will probably be one of many new recommended laws, regulations and policies to emanate from the Leveson Inquiry. It is very likely that the lobbying industry will be more tightly regulated than hitherto. As to the press and media industry, it is still not clear how much new regulation will be put in place, given that freedom of speech and of the press is usually well protected in the UK.
We will blog further on Mr Starmer’s interim policy for prosecutors when it becomes available.
The Leveson Inquiry continues. The official website for the Inquiry is here.