Wednesday 21 March 2018

Hugh O’Flaherty: Press is taught hard Leveson lesson, so legal sanctions will not be required

Lord Justice Leveson made one very important point which does not seem to have attracted much comment in the British parliamentary debate that followed publication of his report or in the media. It is this: he pointed to the privileged position that journalists enjoy about not disclosing their sources of information.

Securing this privilege was hard-won. Back in 1973 our Court of Criminal Appeal had held in the Kevin O'Kelly case that "insofar as the administration of justice is concerned, the public has a right to everyman's evidence, except for those persons protected by a constitutional or other established and recognised privilege".

Journalistic privilege was not recognised then. But in 1996 in the case of Goodwin v United Kingdom, a journalist was successful in claiming that a requirement that he disclose his sources was in breach of article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 10 guarantees freedom of expression.

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