Full Fact applies to lift Leveson Inquiry Restriction Order

5 December 2011

Last week Lord Justice Leveson made a restriction order that banned the publication of any documents submitted to his Inquiry into press practices before they had been presented in evidence.

The order was made in response to the publication by Guido Fawkes of what later turned out to be a draft of Alastair Campbell's evidence to the Inquiry.

Full Fact believes that this order is far too restrictive, and last Friday we asked Lord Justice Leveson to lift it.

Earlier in the Inquiry, Lord Justice Leveson reassured people about "the ability of anyone to suggest questions to [counsel to the inquiry] which … counsel to the inquiry might wish to pursue."

Our application asks how real that ability is when witnesses' statements are kept secret until after questioning begins.

The only people who get to see witness statements in advance are 'core participants'—most of which are newspaper groups. Under the order the general public, as well as independent expert organisations such as Full Fact, are shut out.

The order is also, we have submitted, contrary to the Chairman's statements about the "spirit of complete transparency" that he said in his opening remarks "should be one of the principal objectives of all [the Inquiry's] work" and of his aim to "ensure that all the evidence and all views upon that evidence have been taken into account."

The Inquiry has previously recognised Full Fact's expertise in this area by inviting us to speak at its seminars on how the PCC and newspaper complaints processes work.

Not surprisingly, we feel that same expertise makes us well placed to suggest questions for when the PCC and newspaper decision-makers give evidence. We hope that the order, which currently obstructs that, will be amended or overturned.

The application also points out that the order prevents organisations collaborating on evidence, publishing our own evidence ourselves, or even sending it to Parliamentarians.

Lord Justice Leveson indicated today that he will release a written ruling responding to our points at a later date.

Read Full Fact's application. (Media enquiries to Full Fact's Director Will Moy 020 7242 3883 or will@fullfact.org).

Realistically, though, we need more money to match the firepower deployed by newspaper groups and others at the Inquiry. To put this in perspective, Full Fact's entire annual budget is less than any one of the junior lawyers involved can expect to earn in a year.

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