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 Government announces inquiry into UK press

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PostSubject: Government announces inquiry into UK press   Government announces inquiry into UK press Icon_minitimeMon Jul 11, 2011 2:32 pm

There will be an independent inquiry into how the press is regulated, the Prime Minister David Cameron has said, according to media reports.

Cameron said that an inquiry into the conduct of the UK's press could begin before the Parliament breaks up for summer recess, according to a report by the Daily Telegraph.

"This ... inquiry should look at the culture, the practices and the ethics of the British press," Cameron said, according to the Telegraph. "In particular, they should look at how our newspapers are regulated and make recommendations for the future."

Cameron has recommended that the inquiry should be conducted by independent figures from a range of backgrounds who command the public's confidence.

Cameron announced the inquiry in addition to a separate full public inquiry into alleged phone hacking activities at the News of the World (NotW) newspaper.

A private investigator working for the NotW is alleged to have hacked into people's phones. The alleged activity involved listening to voicemail messages left on the phones. It has been alleged that the phones of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and the families of people killed during the terrorist bombings in London have been hacked.

Cameron said the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) had "failed" to regulate the press properly.

Currently the rules governing press behaviour in the UK are set out by editors in a code of practice. The Editors' Code is a set of standards journalists should observe when reporting and includes rules on accuracy, intrusion into grief and privacy and secret recordings.

The PCC can 'name and shame' publications that break the Editors' Code and ask them to publish apologies, but it has no legal powers to enforce punishments such as fines for violations of the Code.

"It's now clear to everyone that the way the press is regulated today is not working," Cameron said, according to the Telegraph's report. "Let’s be honest: the Press Complaints Commission has failed. In this case – in the hacking case – it was, frankly, completely absent."

"Therefore we have to conclude that it is ineffective and lacking in rigour. There is a strong case for saying it is institutionally conflicted, because competing newspapers judge each other. As a result, it lacks public confidence," Cameron said.

Cameron called for a new system of regulation that should "strike the balance" between privacy rights and what newspapers can publish in the public interest.

The PCC said it welcomed the Prime Minister's inquiry announcement but said it should not be held as a scapegoat for misconduct amongst the press. The PCC said it could "play its part" in the reform of press regulations.

"We are confident that such an inquiry will recognise the considerable successes of the Press Complaints Commission," the PCC said in a statement.

"We do not accept that the scandal of phone hacking should claim, as a convenient scalp, the Press Complaints Commission. The work of the PCC, and of a press allowed to have freedom of expression, has been grossly undervalued today," the PCC said.

Earlier today Labour leader Ed Miliband had called for the PCC to be scrapped. He called the organisation a "toothless poodle" that had "failed" to provide the public with trust in how the press is self-regulated.

"We need wholesale reform of our system of regulation," Miliband said in a speech at the Reuters news agency.

"The Press Complaints Commission has failed. It is time to put the PCC out of its misery. We need a new watchdog. There needs to be fundamental change," Miliband said.

Miliband said that a new press watchdog should be set up with increased powers but within a self-regulatory framework. "My instincts continue to be that a form of self-regulation would be the best way forward," he said.

"A new body should have far greater independence of its Board members from those it regulates, proper investigative powers and an ability to enforce corrections," Miliband said.

Miliband said the PCC had not properly investigated alleged phone hacking activities at the NotW.

"[The PCC] failed to get to the bottom of the allegations about what happened at News International in 2009," Miliband said. "Its chair admits she was lied to but could do nothing about it."

"The PCC was established to be a watchdog. But it has been exposed as a toothless poodle. Wherever blame lies for this, the PCC cannot restore trust in self-regulation," Miliband said.

The PCC said Ed Miliband was "wrong" to call for it to be scrapped.

"[Miliband's] remarks are long on rhetoric and short on substance," the PCC said in a statement.

On Wednesday the PCC admitted it needed to restore public confidence in how the press is regulated. It announced that it was to review the Editors' Code, its own funding and constitutional arrangements, its practical independence and the range of sanctions it had available for violations of the Code.



The PD F is well worth a read over, certainly opens your eyes at time to things you forget or haven't realised whats going on.

Last edited by Gris Gris on Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:35 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Government announces inquiry into UK press   Government announces inquiry into UK press Icon_minitimeMon Jul 11, 2011 2:32 pm

Police forces report hundreds of data protection breaches, privacy lobbyists report

More than 900 police personnel were disciplined for unlawful data protection practices in the past three years, privacy campaigners have said.

Figures released by 36 police forces in England and Wales under freedom of information (FOI) requests by Big Brother Watch (BBW) stated that 904 police officers and civilian employees were disciplined for offences under the Data Protection Act in the three years up to 1 June 2011.

Under the Act organisations that are responsible for holding personal information have a number of legal obligations, including ensuring that the data is processed fairly and is secure from accidental loss, damage or destruction.

The figures also showed that 98 police officers and civilian staff left the force after management discovered their unlawful activity.

One police officer accessed information about their neighbour, whilst a police sergeant passed information about his ex-wife to his solicitor, the statement said. In Dorset a police officer resigned and was referred to crown prosecutors after disclosing information about the supply of class A drugs to a third party, the statement said.

"Our investigation shows that not only have police employees been found to have run background records checks on friends and possible partners, but some have been convicted for passing sensitive information to criminal gangs and drug dealers," Daniel Hamilton, Director of Big Brother Watch, said in a statement (6-page / 240KB PDF) containing the FOI statistics.

"This is at best hugely intrusive and, at worse, downright dangerous," Hamilton said.

“Police forces must adopt a zero tolerance approach to this kind of behaviour. Those found guilty of abusing their position should be sacked on the spot," Hamilton said.

Seven police officers from the West Midlands force were criminally prosecuted within the three year period under violations of the Data Protection Act, the highest number recorded by any of the forces, the BBW statement said.

Kent police force reported that 10 staff had had their employment terminated for data protection law breaches, according to the BBW statistics. Merseyside and West Midlands reported that seven staff left, the BBW said.

Merseyside police reported that 208 staff were legally cautioned for "viewing a computer record relating to a high profile arrest", according to the BBW statement.

A spokeswoman for Merseyside police told OUT-LAW that of the 208 Merseyside personnel noted in the report one person had been prosecuted. The majority of the other 207 had received "management advice" on the forces' data protection policies whilst seven resigned, the spokeswoman said.

Seven forces either did not reply or did not provide information, the BBW said.

In a statement sent to OUT-LAW a spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said that a high standard of conduct is expected of police staff.

“All officers are subject to the standards of professional behaviour set out in the Police Conduct Regulations," the statement said.

"These regulations are very clear and state that police officers must be honest, act with integrity and do not compromise or abuse their position. Officers hold a position of trust, with privileged access to data and systems, and they have a positive duty to demonstrate that trust to the communities we serve," it said.

“When an officer’s conduct, on duty or off duty, falls below the standards, there will be an investigation into what has occurred and if the allegation is proven then appropriate action will be taken,” the statement said.

The UK's data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said that police personnel have a duty to observe data protection principles.

“Police officers and civilian staff can have access to substantial collections of often highly sensitive personal information," the ICO said in a statement. "It is important that they do not abuse this access and only use the information for their policing duties."

"We expect police forces to make substantial proactive efforts to check that any access to their records is for legitimate police purposes and to take action where they discover wrongdoing. Public officials who abuse their positions can face serious consequences including criminal prosecution under the Data Protection Act,” the ICO said.
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