Search

MP Sir Keir Starmer says journalists who break the law ‘need more protection’

PUBLISHED: 15:31 15 July 2015 | UPDATED: 15:31 15 July 2015

Sir Keir Starmer MP has called for a change in the law to protect journalists who break the law 'in the public interest'. Picture: Polly Hancock.

Sir Keir Starmer MP has called for a change in the law to protect journalists who break the law 'in the public interest'. Picture: Polly Hancock.

Archant

Journalists accused of phone hacking or bribing public officials should be protected by a new “public interest” defence in law, the Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras has said.

Sir Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions (DPP), used his new position in parliament to argue that current legal protection for journalists was not strong enough and put at risk “an essential foundation of a democratic society”.

His comments come as cases brought against several journalists prosecuted for phone hacking or bribary resulted in acquittals.

This includes Kentish Town resident and former Sun journalist Clodagh Hartley, who was cleared of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office in November last year, and Hampstead Garden Suburb resident and ex-Sun news editor John Kay, who was cleared of paying public officials in March.

Ironically, some of the prosecutions against journalists were launched under Sir Keir’s tenure as DPP from 2008 to 2013.

In a debate on Monday on the freedom of the press, organised by the London Press Club, the now MP Sir Keir said: “The time has come for a new law governing this difficult and controversial area. That law needs to be clear and simple.

“Journalists and editors should not need a lawyer on hand 24/7 when they go about their business. A new law should clearly establish a public interest defence.”

Some criminal offences already carry a “public interest” defence, such as under the Data Protection Act 1998 when obtaining or disclosing personal data, but other offences do not.

While as DPP in 2012, Sir Keir issued guidelines for prosecutors when assessing cases involving journalists.

Key to this was whether “the public interest in what the journalist was trying to achieve outweighed the overall criminality”.

Sir Keir hopes to go further with this to be cemented in law.

He did not, however, tell his fellow speakers – including Trevor Kavanagh, associate editor for The Sun – he was against the recent cases brought against journalists.

While saying some offences “have an express public interest defence”, he said that “some did not”.

He added: “The Leveson Inquiry concluded that victims of press abuse need greater protection. I agree with the conclusions. However, journalists’ rights also need protecting.”

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

Yesterday, 15:46

With Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe expecting to spend her third Christmas in Evin prison, the foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt used a visit to Iran to slam the middle-eastern nation’s imprisonment of UK dual nationals including the West Hampstead mum.

Yesterday, 15:28

Police want the public’s help to identify a man wanted over two Golders Green burglaries.

Yesterday, 12:08

Dawn Barnes will be looking to upset the odds as she has been reselected as Lib Dem candidate for the Hornsey and Wood Green seat.

Yesterday, 10:23

Eastenders actor and Celebrity Masterchef winner John Partridge will be switching on the Archway Christmas lights.

Yesterday, 09:29

Hampstead’s Lisa Deaner, 54, has been shortlisted for an Anthony Nolan Supporters award by the blood cancer charity.

Yesterday, 07:00

Save Swiss Cottage is crowdfunding for a judicial review into Camden Council’s decision to approve the Construction Management Plan (CMP) for 100 Avenue Road last week.

Mon, 16:55

A workshop owner who engraves benches on Hampstead Heath was forced to break in to his own business to retrieve machinery after the landlord changed the locks and evicted him over unpaid rent.

Mon, 14:00

Champagne corks were popped on Saturday as the well-known former Blustons clothes store in Kentish Town has been re-opened as a vintage charity shop.

PROMOTED CONTENT

Looking to get your child interested in a sport? Allianz Park, home to rugby union team Saracens, welcomes people of all ages to join their family of supporters and discover how their core values Honesty, Discipline, Humility and Work Rate underpin everything they do off and on the pitch.

As part of a major refurb, the London Marriott Hotel Maida Vale has renamed its three new-look function rooms to reflect the geography and rich history of the area. The largest, perfect for weddings and large meetings, is named after a Hampstead subterranean river, The Westbourne.

Londoners seeking high quality houses for sale within easy commuting distance of the capital are being advised to look north to St Albans’ prestigious Gabriel Square development.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now