Report recommends current approach to privacy law

Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions against legislation

The Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions chaired by John Whittingdale has recommended that Parliament do not enact a statutory privacy law but the media improve self-regulation.

In a report published today, the Joint Committee has recommended that the preferable way to protect the privacy of private individuals is through enhanced media regulation rather than by fresh legislation to protect privacy. In the view of the Committee, the Press Complaints Commission should be replaced with a beefed-up regulator with wider remit and which:

  • has a wider range of sanctions, including the power to fine;
  • is cost-free to complainants
  • is able to determine the size and location of a published apology, and the date of publication
  • plays a greater role in arbitrating and mediating privacy disputes.

The new regulator should be independent of print media but staffed by caseworkers with industry experience and have all media organisations as stakeholders. Rather than favouring the establishment of a statutory regulator for the press the Joint Committee suggests a new Parliamentary Committee to oversee the reform of self-regulation by the media sector and consider recommendations on statutory oversight if no system which commands public confidence emerges.

Confidence was expressed in the manner in which the judiciary are now developing the law of privacy, laying to rest the allegation that privacy law in England in Wales has been made without the supervision of Parliament.

The wide-ranging report also takes issue with the ability of internet companies to limit breaches of court orders and the gratuitous outing of confidential matters protected by court orders within Parliament, as to which new rules ought to be considered.

The Joint Committee website and Chairman’s comments are available here.