Mail chief slams privacy rulings

Dacre speaks to Society of Editors

Paul Dacre, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail has used his speech to the Society of Editors to attack the BBC, judge-made privacy law and conditional fee agreements.

Mr Dacre, speaking in Bristol, voiced his concerns over the use of CFAs by ‘unscrupulous’ lawyers ‘ramping up costs in media cases.’ He told the conference that in the current climate even well-resourced media groups like his own, Associated Newspapers, feared the financial implications of contesting certain actions, adding that it was beyond the means of local newspapers. The Ministry of Justice is working on reform of the CFA system.

Mr Dacre’s sharpest criticism was reserved for Mr Justice Eady, the Judge in charge of the Jury List, whom he accused of single-handedly introducing a far-reaching law of privacy without any approval from Parliament. Mr Dacre emphasised a concern that the press were hampered from exposing the shortcomings of those who wield power and influence in public life, citing the example of the Mosley case in which Mr Justice Eady found against the News of the World in July 2008. The Daily Mail editor pointed out that exposing scandal was in the public interest and the lifeblood of mass circulation newspapers, which would be hurt commercially if they could not report such matters.

Lord Falconer was critical of Mr Dacre’s arguments in an interview with the BBC this morning, pointing out that any decision of Mr Justice Eady that the media disagreed with could be appealed to the Court of Appeal and House of Lords. These Courts have also fashioned the developing law of privacy which, Lord Falconer told the BBC, was based upon legislation passed by Parliament after lengthy deliberation and argument, namely the Human Rights Act 1998. The peer commented “The judge is unquestionably applying the law as it comes from Parliament, as interpreted by the senior courts, the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords.”

Mr Dacre’s fire was also trained on the ‘ubiquitous’ BBC. Expansion of the public service broadcaster’s output into local online news would jeopardise the future of local newspapers, he warned.