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In-house lawyers dealing with Leveson fallout

Posted by: Laurence Simons 10/05/13

While the days of boozy three-hour lunches, casual misogyny and inky shirtsleeves may have been left behind with the interment of the real Fleet Street, the Leveson Inquiry and its origins showed that the morals of some of the current press corps have not developed a great deal since the 18th century.

The report produced by Lord Leveson drew on a great many sources, including a sad procession of B-list celebrities, and covers a lot of different bases.

However, in-house lawyers examining the fallout of a somewhat traumatic year for the British media have expressed concern over the much-criticised lack of clarity and precision in the peer's recommendations.

Gill Phillips, director of editorial legal services at Guardian News and Media, maintained a typical lawyerly equanimity when telling Legal Week the situation produced by Lord Leveson is "a complete mess".

"On the one hand, Labour says it is statutory underpinning. On the other hand, David Cameron says they haven't crossed the Rubicon and it's not statute," she explained.

This highlights a major problem many in-house counsel working in the media and journalism industry have with the manoeuvring over press regulation - much of it appears to be motivated by political wrangling rather than a genuine understanding of the issues involved.

"These are all word games, depending on who you are trying to appease - Hacked Off [the leading pro-Leveson campaign group] or the press," Ms Phillips added.

Nevertheless, the Guardian News and Media lawyer feels that many of the proposals made by Leveson himself are fairly sensible - although she also stressed that she and her colleagues are opposed to the concept of statutory regulation.

While public ire over bad behaviour from journalists may have faded (apart from that inspired in Hugh Grant's most fanatical supporters), it is clear that in-house lawyers are gong to need to deal with changes to how the sector is regulated in the coming years. Which changes, however, remains to be seen.