The Guardian’s director of editorial legal services, Gill Phillips, believes the outcome of the Leveson inquiry has been “disastrous”.
Phillips, as reported by Press Gazette, told a London legal conference: “What Leveson has come up with is the worst of all worlds.
“His attempt to please everybody… has led him down a road that has proved to be pretty disastrous. We don’t have anything that could be perceived as effective or credible by either side of the debate.”
Phillips registered her particular disdain for the proposal to create a new press regulator through the mechanism of a royal charter. She said she viewed this as a “medieval” tool previously “used by monarchs to circumvent parliament”.
Two rival royal charters have been submitted for approval to the Queen’s privy council – one supported by the three main political parties and Hacked Off and another by large parts of the newspaper and magazine industry.
But Phillips is opposed to any form of state involvement in the regulation of the press. She cited the example of the detention of David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald who reported on the leaks about covert US and UK surveillance operations by NSA whisteblower Edward Snowden.
“If anything demonstrates why we do not want a government regulating the press, David Miranda is that,” she told the conference.
“We live in a democratic state and they still did what they did to David Miranda for no good reason at all. It goes back to the whole debate about why we shouldn’t have the state regulating the press.”
Phillips also addressed one contentious issue about press regulation proposals – the setting-up of an arbitration service.
She does not reject the idea of creating such a service to decide damages claims against publishers as an alternative to the courts but recognises that this is not straightfoward and that there could be unfair financial on-costs for regional and magazine publishers.
It could encourage unfounded claims that prevent genuine claims from being resolved and this might therefore place an unfair burden on publishers.
However, Phillips is not against the idea of some kind of pilot arbitral scheme in order to test whether or not publishers’ concerns are justified.
The day after her speech, a Guardian News & Media (GNM) spokesperson issued a statement stressing that the Guardian, which has not supported the industry’s royal charter, wants the charter process “paused”.
“The industry should set up a regulator in line with Leveson’s criteria,” said the statement. “All parties involved – the press, politicians and phone-hacking victims – should work together for the first time to discuss the few remaining areas of disagreement.”