Coffee House

Why The Spectator won’t be part of a state licensed media

28 November 2012

Anyone picking up a newspaper in recent days will have noticed that the press has been writing a lot about itself. Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into press practices and ethics has created anxiety at a time when newspapers were already haemorrhaging sales and influence. David Cameron’s government’s response to the report is nervously awaited, and a group of 42 Tory MPs is urging him to seize a ‘once-in-a-generation’ chance to regulate the press. They threaten to rebel if he doesn’t. The Prime Minister will be vilified whatever he decides to do.

As the oldest continuously published weekly in the English language, The Spectator has seen this all before. The technology changes, but the principles do not. We lambasted the Sunday Times in 1829 for putting the free press at risk with sloppy libels. We are also familiar with the Nick Clegg trick: to declare commitment to a fierce and independent press, while trying to undermine it. In 1833 we criticised the vainglorious Lord Brougham, then Lord Chancellor, for seeking to ‘rivet fetters upon the press which he has so often eloquently eulogised as the main bulwark of our liberties’.

What is new in 2012 is that so many parliamentarians seem unaware of the principle at stake. In their letter demanding regulation, the 42 Tories express bafflement at the ‘obsessive argument’ against statutory regulation. But there is a reason why leaders from Thomas Jefferson onwards have ‘obsessed’ about press freedom: it is, as Churchill put it, ‘the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men prize’.

No right-thinking person can fail to be appalled at the hacking scandal. The Leveson inquiry has given us a shocking glimpse into a 21st-century crime. The boom in mobile phones and email accounts has led to a massive black market in illegal information. Hacking is a global criminal industry, for which newspapers are just one client. Ex-hackers explain how stolen secrets can be sold to anyone from cuckolded husbands to insurance company investigators.


But tackling this crime is a matter for the police, not for a press regulator. Laws have been tightened to prevent journalists buying from hackers, and the punishment upgraded from a fine to a jail sentence. But there is no logical link between (already illegal) phone hacking and parliament giving itself the power to set the terms under which the press operates.

While England established the principle of press freedom, the United States did most to codify it under the constitution. And James Madison, the father of that constitution, still has the best answer for those who talk about abuse of freedom of the press. Abuse, he said, ‘is inseparable from the proper use of everything — and in no instance is this more true than in that of the press’. Better to leave a few noxious branches on the tree of press freedom than to prune and ‘injure the vigour of those yielding the proper fruits’.

Today, laws intended to stop the worst excesses of the tabloids could end by exerting a chilling effect on the rest of press. Once parliament has granted itself such powers, it can be counted on to expand them later. The language being used by the enemies of press freedom in Britain today is positively Orwellian: the state should merely ‘guarantee independence’ of the press regulator. The idea of benign ‘statutory regulation’ was advocated by MPs in 1952 and The Spectator vigorously opposed it then, too. ‘Everyone who really understands what freedom of the press means and cares about it,’ we argued, ‘must resist such a proposal to the uttermost.’

That is what The Spectator will now do. If the press agrees a new form of self-regulation, perhaps contractually binding this time, we will happily take part. But we would not sign up to anything enforced by government. If such a group is constituted we will not attend its meetings, pay its fines nor heed its menaces. We would still obey the (other) laws of the land. But to join any scheme which subordinates press to parliament would be a betrayal of what this paper has stood for since its inception in 1828.

Some newspapers may take the same view, especially as they mutate into digital form. On current trends the Guardian’s printed edition will run out of readers in February 2020, the Daily Express in May 2019 and the Independent in April 2014. Should they morph into a website (or an iPad app), who will regulate them? And how? Britain’s best-read political website, Guido Fawkes, is domiciled in Ireland. If the fusion of print and digital means the rules of the game need to be redrawn, then it is an ideal time to reapply the principles set down by Milton’s Areopagitica, which encapsulated the doctrine of press freedom three centuries ago.

It may be politically difficult for David Cameron to err on the side of liberty, given the loud and angry voices demanding that he make his swoop now. But the Prime Minister is, at heart, a pragmatist and will realise that statutory regulation of the press would achieve very little — save to crush an ancient liberty that has survived every one of his predecessors. The Spectator would have no part in it.

This is the leading article from this week’s Spectator, which is out tomorrow.

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  • Peter Martin

    Incapable of transgressing-broadaster SKY NEWS just now perhaps missed the irony of its own paper review in picking up a piece pointing out Leveson was talk of Westminster & MSM (esp. BBC, to a near obsessive degree) only, with the public being spoken at…. endlessly… caring not a whit.

    I actually do care on Leveson, but also find the conceit of still taking ’speaking for the nation’ to ‘demanding the nation follows’ such as the BBC’s narrow, unsubtle public-swaying ambitions breath-taking.

    That we are seeing hissy-fits in some quarters that they can’t crush those who don’t conform going on as the police and others as, if not more in the mire, especially the politically-motivated tormentors of Lord McAlpine, are quietly excused, is a level of hypocrisy that is typical but too far.

  • nick porter

    Apply the methods used to tame the unions.A large daily fine would be a better source of funds to the treasury than the Spectators corporation tax.Bring it on

  • mtnrunner2

    Right on, Spectator! Government should not dictate press content, only enforce libel laws.

    • Nick

      Why not? The press dictate which party wins General Elections.The press dictate how political parties should think.The press dictate to MPs,the police and any other third party that is interested in making a few bob.
      The press are out of control and need a tight dog lead.Remember,all they are are just poxy reporters and nothing special and nobody really needs them.

  • Nick

    Dear Spectator magazine…….Do as you are sodding well told.
    As much as I like reading The Spectator and have done so for years,your attitude that you will not be part of a state licensed media is typical of the medias ‘untouchable above the law’attitude that has hacked (no pun intended)me off for a long time.You journalists think that you’re so bloody important and necessary regarding everyday life.I don’t need you nor does anybody else.You’ve all built yourselves an empire and you don’t like it because people are biting back…..Well that’s tough titty isn’t it.Get back down to Earth and stop acting like your so bloody important……..Oh yeah,while your there…..get yourselves a proper job.

    • mtnrunner2

      In other words, be a good serf? That is all people will be if they don’t stand up for the principle of individual rights, which is: to be able to act freely and peacefully provided you don’t harm someone. You punish harm, not the possibility of doing it.

      • Nick

        Sorry but I don’t quite understand your reply.Are you agreeing or disagreeing with me?

  • FF42

    I think you are conflating liberty with irresponsibility. It is possible for statutory self and co-regulation to co-exist with freedom of the Press. Several countries manage to appear at the top of Reporters without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index while running a regulation scheme. These countries include the top-rated country, Finland, as well as several others who are deemed to have a free-er press than Britain does.

    • C Cole

      Yes, but most other countries don’t have our famously unwritten constitution, do they? Other than the Human Rights Act, there isn’t any constitutional protection for freedom of expression.

      • FF42

        I agree. If you are going to have a statutory regulation scheme, the first stated principle must be freedom of the press. My point, which Fraser misses, is that freedom entails responsibility. It would be nice if editors took on all of that responsibility, but in practice they fail to do so.

        • C Cole

          Fair points all, but I think industry self-regulation underwritten by civil contracts and a financial incentive to participate – such as continued VAT exemption – deserves a chance. Whether it will get it remains to be seen…

      • C Cole

        In other words, without a constitutional guarantee such as, eg, the Americans enjoy, state regulation of the press is unacceptable – and has been for the last 300 years.

        That being said, I’d be interested to know more about how Finland manages to strike the balance.

  • Stuart Saint

    I totally support your stand Fraser, excellent leader. I will be emailing my MP expressing my support for your position.

  • Firdaus Kanga


  • Curnonsky

    One effective but seldom-discussed method of regulating the press: if you don’t like what’s printed inside, don’t buy it. There seem to be a lot of people who aren’t bothered about all the gutter hackery, though, or the newspapers would be piling up like snowdrifts on the sidewalk. Perhaps those crying for a regulated (i.e. censored) press are really howling in recognition of their own sins?

  • Sarah46

    Here here! I hope you are right, that Cameron is a pragmatist, I wonder will he have the courage to make the argument against regulation. We shall see.

  • peteswordz

    It is of course fascinating to note the same politicians, so keen on regulation to prevent press intrusion into private lives are the same politicians keen to grant the State & its agents the powers to access private communications. It’s even likely, the first prosecution under any proposed legislation would rely on evidence obtained by such official snooping.
    Well done Speccy. You have much support.

  • Thick as two Plancks

    If regulation of the press is a good idea, then so would be regulation of politicians. So we could appoint a Chief Censor from the press to regulate the politicians, and a Chief Censor from the politicians to regulate the press.

    Perhaps between them they might reach workable agreements, even if those agreements were a conspiracy against ordinary people.

  • Sarah

    Michael White:
    “Listening to the familiar, self-justifying nonsense being peddled by the booze industry as the government finally squares up to imposing a minimum unit price on alcohol left me with a sense of deja vu. Where else had I recently heard such special pleading from an industry which is often recklessly indifferent to the destructive consequences of its own behaviour?

    Bankers? Tobacco barons? Supermarkets? Ah yes, that was it:”. The press.

  • Sarah

    Of course the problem with all this “free” speech lark is that they’re paid for it.

    • Peter Martin

      In most cases yes, but at least by choice.
      There is one exception I can think of that gets ‘paid’ via compulsion.
      Oddly, their notion of ‘free speech’ appears to be they get to spout propaganda an awful lot, edit out anything that doesn’t suit their narrative, and censor all those who might ask them questions or hold them to account if straying.
      Which is pretty unique.

  • Eudemus

    I was under the mistaken impression that some arguments would be advanced during the course of this editorial. I’d be willing to bet that your predecessors in 1829 etc. (to whom you pompously refer using the first person pronoun) actually used some arguments to make their case. How dare you evoke their memory?

  • Stuart

    I think it is only a matter of time before the internet destroys crap subservient media like this.

    Good luck in the wilderness you dinosaurs.

  • Sarah

    “No right-thinking person can fail to be appalled at the hacking scandal.”

    No right-thinking person can fail to be appalled by the press’ bully boy tactics, the injustice they meet out to people, their mafioso undermining of the democracic process, their promotion of sexism and racism, their incitement of sexual violence, their utter failure to spot or investigate the big scandals of our time, their continuous lies about the regulation proposal. The hacking scandal is small fry.

    If the Spectator will refuse to take part in becoming accountable, well see ya!

    • Nick Kaplan

      Are you Harriet Harperson by any chance?

      • Chris Colline

        Im amazed there are 10 people out there who agree with that codswallop. I hope she gets what she wished for… and I do not mean that in a good way. Long may the slippery road to hell continue. If people do not want freedom then let us not oblige them.

  • John Maloney

    Good for the Spectator. Lets hope others follow suit.
    What if Leveson becomes Lord Chief Justice, though.

  • romanlee

    Iwould have more sympathy for the press if they had campaigned against thought crimes especially the one,” if someone thinks they have been abused”

  • roger

    The laws protecting an individuals private life need a bit of a re-think, simple things like removing a paparazzis right to sue if his camera is dashed to the ground would be a good start. The other laws on spying are already there.
    As for the press, it should be a contractual press self-regulation, not a press law.
    The biggest area that the press need to address is their relations with the police and other public bodies, only public press briefings should be allowed, not the old system of ‘buying a drink’ and ‘police sources’, that way lies corruption.

  • Angry Customer

    All the comments in favour of your decision are obviously forgetting the phone hacking etc etc etc and seem to have no problem with whats went on in the press in previous years. I find this absolutely disgusting.Would you like the phone of a dead family member to be hacked? I certainly do not support your decision and as a regular reader of your magazine I will not be buying it ever again…………..

    • desbest

      Aaaaaah! David Cameron is pulling on your heartstrings to implement propaganda and state censorship under government regulated news.

      But what about the phone hacking scandal?

      But tackling this crime is a matter for the police, not for a press regulator. Laws have been tightened to prevent journalists buying from hackers, and the punishment upgraded from a fine to a jail sentence.

      Did you know that the Great Firewall of China was originally made to stop piracy?

      They are taking away our freedoms.
      Orwellian 1984

    • Colonel Mustard

      No, let it be absolutely clear, I am not forgetting them. I am very conscious of their emotive effect on reason and the way that is used by lobbying groups to push their agendas.

  • Bill Cameron

    A sensible and well-argued article. We will all know tomorrow what the ‘good’ Lord Leveson has proposed. Until then all this is just froth – then the real debate can begin.

  • Englishman

    It says in Wikipedia that Leveson is a “devout Jew”. Why let these people control our media?

  • Jupiter

    Finally something sensible from the Speccie. If we have state regulation of newspapers, every time you read a paper you would be wondering what they hadn’t been allowed to print.

    There really would be no point reading them anymore.

    • Sarah

      Don’t you wonder that anyway?

      Does it not strike you as odd that the free press neglected to mention phone hacking, the hillsborough coverup and press blunders, what Jimmy Saville was up to, the Rochdale cases, press misogyny and implication in corruption of juries in rape trials, what the Mohammed cartoons looked like, etc? Though we do know what Britney Spears’ period-stained knickers look like.

      • Peter Martin

        ‘what Jimmy Saville was up to’
        Interesting you should mention that.
        Because now we are to be treated to wall-to-wall broadcast ‘coverage’ (selected talking heads only) and ‘analysis’ of Leveson, all currently with a mandatory ‘but we’re overseen by OFCOM, to a much more serious degree’ disclaimers (like a BBC employee twitter version, and as credible), for weeks on end, it would appear that such as Savile, McAlpine, 28gate, etc are all rather uniquely consigned not just to the back-burner, but to another year-long inquiry footed by the poll-taxpayer, only this time again kept internal and protected as such with a phalanx of FoI-exclusion lawyers also on the public purse.
        Yet I imagine just enough funds will be scraped together after all this, and the pay-offs and hush monies and gardening-leave contingencies to bring a grateful nation an Xmas special like ‘Strictly EastEnders – Dancing on Thin Ice (the ECU says so)’

  • paulus

    Its double speak from the lib dems, the only people who can talk out of both sides of their mouth. Every publication must band together and resist this attempt by big brother to undermine a basic freedom. If they regulate, and no one bothers to turn up they will look fucking silly, Then and god help me for saying it take it to Europe and get it over turned.

  • the viceroy’s gin


    While England established the principle of press freedom, the United States did most to codify it under the constitution.


    Correction. The United States codified press freedom under the Constitution.

    The reason this argument is being had today is because press freedom has never been codified thusly, and is subject to the whim of whichever crop of worthies occupies the benches that day.

  • Paul

    How can you tell your messages have been hacked, and how do you discover who hacked into them? Just strikes me that if I can take out a SIM card from a phone and replace it with another in a minute, I don’t see how the police can regulate this effectively.

  • JMckechnie

    It is to be hoped that Mr Cameron will ‘err on the side of liberty;’ for it will be a sad day if press freedom is ever curtailed in this country.

  • Andy

    I agree: well said Fraser. The Spectator should have no truck with ‘state-sponsored press regulation’ because this will quickly turn into state-sponsored censorship of the press. That’s what the Left wants. It already controls the BBC, so now it wants to kill the print media.

  • launcher

    Well said Fraser.

  • John Emsley

    The key point in your article-which I support wholeheartedly-is the fact that,as and when you all go digital,any laws likely to be enacted will become irrelevant. In other words, the whole thing will simply accelerate the move away from printed papers.

  • dalai guevara

    People are throwing two things into one pot here: the unbalanced urge to deliver voyeuristic tat to the thick by whatever means and the freedom to investigate. Why is that?

  • carolcroft

    “But tackling this crime is a matter for the police, not for a press regulator” History shows that the self-regulation of the press barons and their PCC is not fit for purpose indeed they colluded and commissioned and profited from the corrupt environment.

  • sunnydayrider

    Spot on!

  • TomTom

    Hilarious ! But you are ever so happy with the Libel Laws…they are just perfick in this sceptred isle. Will you be closing down and offering simply an Online Offering from Sark ? Maybe you won’t be affected as a loyal mouthpiece of No10….you can have James Forthy as Editor-in-Chief sitting in No10

  • Lisa Maria Idge

    As someone who spent several weeks on the phone, after the spectator put my family at risk, I can;t say I am surprised.

  • Frank Fisher

    Well said.

  • David Cowley

    I will be strongly tempted to cancel my subscription if you place yourself outside civic society. And I would not use an unlicensed doctor, architect or lawyer. You should embrace it, given you would not fall foul of it.

    • FrankS

      “you would not fall foul of it”
      How do you know, have you seen it?

    • Stez

      And I was thinking of placing a subscription having read this
      excellent piece! As for ‘I would not use an unlicensed doctor, architect
      or lawyer’… I normally get more sense from half an hour with Dr
      Google than our local ‘caring profession’ (paid-twice-as-much-as-in-France) GPs any day. And as for the latter two unions, we have one of each in our household, both unlicensed and we love nothing more than beating the smug, useless professionals (who charge useful people like you multiple times more) on a regular basis. Professional Unions are exactly that. We do NOT need self-serving barriers and state control of our media.

  • Ryan

    The issue should not be regulation of the press, but the enforcement of pre-existing laws. Hacking, fraud, bribery – these are all crimes. The question is why for so long have the police treated the Press with kid-gloves? Corruption yes. Cowardice yes. We need a free press, but we also need a police force not afraid to prosecute wrongdo-ers.

    • Sarah

      There’s no law against promoting sexism. What law?

      • TheOtherTurnipTaliban

        Its so simple in your world isnt it? People.. the plebs.. are such mindless automata that they require defending from dangerous thoughts and the only people – the only real right-minded people to do this – are you and people like you.

        Are you really so arrogant as to not wonder if this is somewhat simplistic and unlikely?

  • Prodicus

    I wondered whether anyone would have the guts simply to say No. Excellent news that the Spectator is first over the top, leading from the front. All credit to you, Nelson.

    Right. Who’s next?

  • Chris Kimberley

    minus points for using the phrase ‘chilling effect’ again but otherwise a good article

  • David Trant

    Oh dear! does that mean the entire staff could be locked up, oh dear! Do they realise what that will do to some of the local pubs, most of their customers disappearing like that. Oh well never mind.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    But what has the Spectator run that would have upset anybody or provoked the wrath of any putative regulator? The Spectator does not take advantage of the freedom now available. Will this post go the way of the last time I wrote in this vein?

    Oh, and it is a good announcement of itself. I just wonder how brave it is in real life.

    • TomTom

      It will be the Great Nethergate Scandal that had Fraser Nelson dragged off to the Lubyana in Quarry Hill, Leeds

    • Dan Grover

      The Speccie was found guilty of breaching reporting restrictions this June. What would you have them do? On what topic do you deem them to be too toothless?

      • Rhoda Klapp

        So, if they were found guilty in this instance of which I have no recollection, the Spect is already subject to regulation, in which case Fraser’s stand is showboating. I deem them to be too shallow, too focused on gossip and the westminster village, too liable to uncritically push out planted stories from the lobby and entirely not as perceptive or incisive as the amateur commenters right here. Basically they are part of the problem.

  • Nick Kaplan

    Well said, I’m sure your readers will support you every step of the way; I certainly will.

    • Baron

      But Nick, Fraser has already parked guard dogs at the gate, not only that Baron’s had postings blocked, understandable perhaps what with the poor quality of his rants, but the courageous defender of the freedom of the press won’t publish Mark Steyn, a man whose exigent musings appear in the sister publications in the States, Australia.

      What do you think of that then?

    • Sarah

      I certainly won’t.

      But the Spectator doesn’t care about female readers so I don’t suppose thy’ll lose any sleep over it.

      • Archimedes

        What!?!? Women can read!?!?! Women, though – really…?

        • Sarah

          Yes they have better language skills. Proven in tests.

          Though nobody could accuse men of letting their disability stand in their way. And it’s sweet how they encourage one another in the industry.

          • Archimedes

            You must be very proud to be a woman, then – and so privileged and lucky to be part of a group of elites from birth, and all on your own merit too.

          • TheOtherTurnipTaliban

            Sarah, kindly stop posting and ask your local GP for a humour transplant. Tara.

  • Daniel Maris

    What we need is a detailed statement of legal privacy rights e.g. the right to expect not to be photographed, or otherwise recorded in your own home or in hospital, at school,or in your private garden, whilst using a phone in a domestic/personal setting etc The press should be able to override some of those rights where they are investigating crimes etc. (but not personal indiscretions). However,there should be no “celeb protection” law or prior notice provision.

    At the same time we need to weaken the libel laws.

    There should also be a cheap and effective procedure for correcting mistakes and ensuring apologies are given according to an “equal prominence” rule.

    • TomTom

      Bye Bye CCTV and be bye Daniel Maris last seen in a Blunkett Corectional Camp

      • Daniel Maris

        Nonsense, Tom Tom. You don’t understand that these areas of privacy are already subject to legal enforcement, but that they are far too open to judges making oppressive law that protects the rich and influential and keeps the public in the dark about important matters.

        • TomTom

          I don’t disagree with you Daniel, I merely see you whistling in the wind with the legal system in the UK. Look when these Libel Laws came in – noone actually knows – but it may be James I………yet the Bill of Rights of 1689 has been tampered with repeatedly and that came in 80 years later ! So work out why vested interests treat us as they did in the 17th Century if not the 13th

  • Stephen David

    Absolutely right thing to do! Well done

  • barsacq

    “Britain’s best-read political website, Guido Fawkes, is domiciled in Ireland.”

    Which has state regulation of the press and web. It’s only based there for tax-dodging purposes, DOH!

    • Vulture

      And to avoid our ludicrous libel laws, which are merely a device for rich people to cover up their seedy lives from the plebs’ gaze..

      • HooksLaw

        I am not sure there is anything wrong with our libel laws, its the licence given to defendants in court that may be wrong (and the expense of course). Max Mosley won his case didn’t he?

  • Colonel Mustard

    I thought Cameron’s answers during PMQs hinted at statutory regulation being on the cards. What I think we will get, as we have done for 15 years now, is yet more intrusive and bureaucratic regulation with assurances that it won’t be misused. And then of course it will be.

  • HooksLaw

    ‘But tackling this crime is a matter for the police, not for a press regulator.’

    Absurd comment.

    The police deal with breaking the law. Its not at all clear to me that a law has actually been broken in that dialling a default 0000 to read an answer-phone message may not be illegal. Indeed how can dialling a number that is actually an industry standard default be classed as hacking?

    But the point is one of ethics as well and by your comment you casually dispose of that inconvenience like a pimp might dispose of an addled call girl.

    • OldSlaughter

      ” how can dialing a number that is actually an industry standard default be classed as hacking?”

      Absurd comment.

      Basically you are suggesting that it is only hacking if the password is suitably difficult. Almost as if it would not be burglary if your front door was unlocked.

      It was and is illegal. Nobody has disputed that anywhere, until your comment.

      • Sir Arnold

        To be absolutely pedantic, “although rarely listed as an element, the common law offence of burglary required that ‘entry occur as a consequence of the breaking”. For example, if a wrongdoer partially opened a window by using a pry bar and then noticed an open door through which he entered the dwelling, there is no burglary at common law.”

        • Colonel Mustard

          But burglary also exists as a statutory offence. Under the Theft Act 1968 a person is guilty of burglary if he enters any building or part of a building as a trespasser with intent, etc. No breaking required. Just trespass.

          • TomTom

            theft Act 1968 was superseded I believe

            • Colonel Mustard

              No, parts of it have been updated or amended but the Act itself and the elements of Burglary still apply.

        • OldSlaughter

          That is indeed very pedantic. But fair enough. I could easily change it to ‘would it not be theft if the door was unlocked’. Same difference.

      • HooksLaw

        Is there a law against accessing a voice mail message? In truth I only ask. The default on phones is 0000 or 1234. If you do not change the industry standard default, then how is that ‘hacking’ ?
        Is accessing a voice mail ‘hacking?

        My point is that illegal or not it is I would suggest its unethical, but the Spectator in its puffed up hubris does not seem to consider ethics of much consequence.

        • TomTom

          of Investigatory Powers Act 2000

        • DavidDP

          “the Spectator in its puffed up hubris does not seem to consider ethics of much consequence.”
          I’m not sure from where you draw that conclusion; it’s certainly not bourne out by the article above. Ethics, morals and legality, while connected are not the same thing.

        • OldSlaughter

          Well, it is illegal. So the ethics are kind of covered by that.

      • TomTom

        Read RIPA
        of Investigatory Powers Act 2000

        • OldSlaughter

          Which part and to what end? If Glen Mulcaire can get done by it I assume it is relevant. Please point out the part that contradicts what I have said.

    • DavidDP

      “Its not at all clear to me that a law has actually been broken in that dialling a default 0000 to read an answer-phone message may not be illegal. ”
      If I decide not to have locks on my doors, are you saying that it wouldn’t be illegal to take my things? Really?

      • Frank Fisher

        Your phone messages are not ‘your’ ‘things’.

        A judgement earlier this month suggested that emails cannot be considered property in English law – I reckon phone messages might come under the same general area.

        • DavidDP

          So the appropriate response would be to change that particular law, rather than place the pres under statutory control.
          There appears to be a considered lack of proportion and sense here.

      • HooksLaw

        What is being taken? Who said the law was sensible? My point about ‘leaving it to the police’ is that unethical press behaviour need not be against the law.
        I do not see where the press can just carry on as before. I do not care tuppence about celebrities, but the notion that the press are worthy and to be cherished is fanciful. Not too long ago a murdered girls landlord was hounded and virtually convicted in print, all because of his lack of dress sense and a shocking comb-over. Where was our glorious self regulation then?

        • DavidDP

          I’m not sure what your point is, but your statement about how access via a default number may mean the activity was illegal seems rather dubious, as such an argument would be unlikely to hold water in defence of tresspass and/or theft in other spheres.
          Neither does your point about hounding of the landlord, not least because strengthening self-regulation is clearly something even the press agress is necessarily, but also because, again to use an analogy, you wouldn’t necessarily argue against the current criminal jsutice system because people manage to commit crimes.

    • Cogito Ergosum

      The impression has been given that all these hacks (easy hacks, but nontheless hacks) have been achieved by dialling 0000 or 1234. But there are also backdoor code numbers, which are supposed to be reserved for the network engineers or handset manufacturers.

      I don’t doubt that many hacks were via 0000/1234. But I suspect some were with backdoor codes that fell into the hands of private investigators. I am troubled by the silence of the media on this matter.

      Indeed I am troubled by the way the media have created a furore of special pleading about press freedom but have said little or nothing about the wrongs that Leveson exposed. The press do not deserve their freedom until they are more honest about their wrongdoing.

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