The director of the Press Complaints Commission has quit his role amid continuing uncertainty over the future of the organisation.
Stephen Abell is leaving at the end of the month to take up job with a leading PR consultancy.
His departure comes with the commission’s future being called into question as a result of the phone-hacking scandal and the ongoing Leveson Inquiry into press standards.
Inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson – and Prime Minister David Cameron – are believed to favour a new system of statutory regulation rather the “enhanced self-regulation” proposed by the PCC’s defenders.
Stephen joined the PCC as a complaints officer shortly after leaving university in 2001 and became director in succession to Tim Toulmin two years ago.
He has been replaced in the short-term by Michael McManus, a long time political associate of the PCC chairman Lord Hunt, who has been given the title ‘director of transition.’
Said Stephen: “I have been involved with the PCC for more than a decade, and I decided last year that it was time for a new challenge.
“First, I wanted to work with David Hunt in the development of positive proposals for a new structure of self-regulation. I believe we have now done that. I also wanted to give a full account of the work of the PCC to Lord Justice Leveson.
“I remain a firm supporter of enhanced self-regulation for the press, maintaining all that is good about the work of the PCC, and am confident that this will be achieved as a result of the Leveson Inquiry.”
“My greatest professional satisfaction at the PCC has been in our establishment of a bespoke, 24-hour service to help complainants obtain redress, stop harassment and prevent the publication of inaccurate or intrusive material. Whatever changes are made to the regulatory landscape, this free, public service should continue to the benefit of those in need of it.”
Lord Hunt added: “When I joined the PCC last year, Stephen and I agreed that we would work together until we were in a position to propose a new structure for self-regulation of the press.
“I have valued his assistance in this, and his professionalism in leading the PCC’s staff as they continued their important work during a difficult period.
“It is testament to him that the service to complainants, both those in the public eye and those without claim to celebrity, has improved and expanded over the last few years. I wish him success in all his future endeavours”.
Michael McManus will head a new senior team at the PCC, including director of communications Jonathan Collett and Charlotte Dewar, who has been promoted to head of complaints and pre-publication services.