Jonathan Coulter with Jocelyn Hurndall and Irene Ridgeon
Our hearing lasted from 10.30 am to around 4.40 pm, with both sides’ barristers putting their cases to Justice Mark Warby, who specialises in media matters. Paul Scott got us an eye-catching banner, and many supporters turned up. I am very sorry some were never allowed into the courtroom – they had told me there would be standing room for those who could not sit, but this was not available on the day.
I must say that our legal team, including solicitor Ravi Naik and barrister Nik Grubeck, did an excellent job in putting over our case. Evan Harris, Executive Director of the Hacked Off Campaign, was also there. For his part, Justice Warby listened intently and probed each side’s arguments. It is difficult to gauge what decision he will take, but he expects to provide it within a fortnight. We’ll let you know.
In brief – why is it important to stand up to IPSO?
The following paragraphs draw on diverse experience of people who have stood up to IPSO, and some points are relevant to our case.
IPSO is a regulatory organ established by the press industry in 2014, with an alleged mission to uphold standards in news publishing and to protect the public from the effects of unethical conduct. It is supposed to do this by enforcing a code written for it by newspaper editors.
In practice IPSO is modeled closely on the failed Press Complaints Commission (PCC), in defiance of the Leveson Inquiry, and as such tends to put the interests of the industry before those of the public. A few facts will help you understand this:
- It has arbitrary internal rules that enable it to cherry-pick which complaints it will actually look into, enabling newspapers to defy their own code of practice with impunity. This feature is much evident in our case, both with regard to: (a) its rejection of complaints on the grounds that the ‘wrong person’ has brought them, and; (b) its allowing the papers to publish misleading and inaccurate information so long as it appears in so-called ‘opinion articles’.
- Like the PCC, IPSO has powers of investigation but does not use them; it just responds to complaints.
- Unlike the PCC, it has a power to impose fines, but it never does so.
- Even when it upholds complaints against newspapers, its interpretation of ‘due prominence’ for corrections allows editors to bury their mistakes on inside pages.
- In one year IPSO received 8,148 complaints relating to discrimination (much of it against Muslims) but upheld just one of them.
If we value our country and its values, we need to end this state of affairs