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Privacy: Committee of MPs and peers say privacy law is not needed

A committee of MPs and peers charged with reviewing UK privacy law in light of the phone hacking conducted by the News of the World has concluded that no additional legislation is required to protect the public or celebrities.

The Joint Committee of Privacy and Injunctions has concluded that new statute law would not clarify the legal position on privacy invasions, and that cases should still be decided by judges on their individual facts.

However, the committee did conclude that the Press Complaints Commission must be replaced by a stronger, independent review body.

"We conclude that a privacy statute would not clarify the law," the executive summary of the report concluded.

Committee chairman, John Whittingdale MP, added: "The committee spent some time debating whether additional laws to clarify the right to privacy were necessary or desirable. However, we concluded that the existing position, where each case is judged by the courts on an individual basis, is now working reasonably well."

The committee did conclude that access to justice in privacy cases should not be restricted to the very wealthy. The Leveson inquiry into press ethics had previously taken evidence from former F1 chief executive Max Moseley, who had testified that only someone with his considerable wealth could contemplate the extortionate legal fees and financial risk involved in taking a major newspaper or broadcaster to court.

The committee recommends that in future the Press Complaints Commission should be replaced by a cost-free regulator, which has far greater powers to fine publishers and order apologies.

The Press Complaints Commission, the regulator for the newspaper industry, will close later this year, after being damaged by its refusal to fully investigate hacking claims against the News of the World.

Mr Whittingdale added: "The PCC's successor must have teeth. It must be truly independent of the industry. It must incorporate all major news publishers."

Related links:

Read more on the story (BBC)

Right to privacy (FindLaw)