If we are successful the regulator will have to consider the complaints afresh, but in practice the significance will probably be much greater, requiring substantial change to the way IPSO goes about its business.
The timing of this case is also auspicious, as it comes just before the House of Commons votes on amendments to the ‘Data Protection Act’. This seeks to reverse the Government’s recent decision to shelve the second part of the Leveson Inquiry and ‘Section 40’ of the Crime and Courts Act 2013; the latter is designed to relieve complainants and the Press from excessive legal costs.
Above all, a win would strike a blow for freedom of expression in this country. As Jonathan Coulter, puts it:
We have a magnificent tradition of free speech going back over 300 years, despite which, people often refrain from speaking up on contentious topics for fear of being attacked or smeared in the press, while lacking the financial means to secure redress.
They often face powerful business and political interests with large PR budgets and the means to get their ‘stories’ planted in multiple news outlets at once. This tends to stifle freedom of expression, and frustrate democratic processes.
However, a win in this case will send a warning shot across the bows of newspapers, encourage them to check their facts before publishing, and help Hacked Off and Parliament to advance the cause of press reform.