Peter Leyland Professor London Metropolitan University, United Kingdom

Peter Leyland is Professor of Public Law Emeritus at London Metropolitan University, and Professorial Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He has published widely in the field of constitutional law, administrative law and comparative public law with a focus on the UK, Italy, and Thailand. He is founding co-editor of Hart Publishing’s ‘Constitutional Systems of the World’ series and he frequently travels abroad as a visiting scholar.

Regulating press freedom in the United Kingdom and the constitutional response to the phone hacking scandal

The scandal in the United Kingdom which came to prominence with the hacking by journalists of mobile phones of victims of crime, as well as rich and famous public figures, to obtain highly personal information for stories, had a profound impact. It not only led to the closure of a national Sunday newspaper, the News of the World, owned by Rupert Murdoch, the resignation of the Prime Minister’s press secretary, the imprisonment of several former employees of News International and fundamental questions over the conduct of the Metropolitan Police force, but it also resulted in modifications to the regime of media regulation. The constitutional response is discussed in the light of the fact that stricter legal regulation of newspapers and further assertions of legal rights to privacy may have profound effects on press freedom This presentation evaluates the contribution of Parliament and its committees in uncovering invasions of privacy by the press and then considers the investigatory role of the judicial inquiry under Lord Justice Leveson. Finally, there will be a discussion of the recommendations of the Leveson report and of the resulting problems in the reform of the mechanisms for the regulation of the press and for the investigation of complaints against newspapers.