Why section 40 must be repealed
The government is proposing to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, which in my opinion is one of the most malignant and dangerous pieces of legislation ever placed on the statute book.
This legislation has never actually been implemented, and for very good reason. If it were, those media organisations which have not signed up to a state-approved regulator would be required to pay the costs of both sides in any legal action brought against them for any of their stories, even if they win.
In other words, some modern Robert Maxwell who was trying to prevent an investigative journalist from publishing a truth he wanted to suppress could bring an action against the outlet which published that truth, and the courts could find that the story was
- In the public interest
- Not motivated by malice
and still get costs awarded against the publisher which might be ruinously expensive.
This pernicious clause, even in its current inactive form is a threat to free speech and accurate journalism, and my only complaint about the government's plans to repeal it is that this should have been done eight years ago as soon as the Conservatives gained a majority in parliament.
Opposition to this clause is an absolute litmus test in my book of whether someone understands democracy and is fit to hold elected office and it is not a particular surprise to me that Sir Keir Starmer fails this test: he has suggested that Labour will vote against repeal of Section 40.
It's probably a good thing for anyone involved in politics to occasionally ask themselves the Mitchell and Webb question:
Well, if you are voting to keep Section 40 on the statute book, or worse, to bring it into effect, on this issue you are the baddies.