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Culture Secretary hints at Section 40 decision in regional daily interview

Karen BradleyCulture Secretary Karen Bradley has hinted she may reject controversial changes to the libel laws in an interview with a regional daily.

Speaking to Wolverhampton-based daily the Express & Star, Mrs Bradley, left, questioned whether the implementation of the so-called ‘Section 40′ law would be necessary.

If enacted, Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act would mean that any newspaper not signed up to a state-sponsored regulator could be forced to pay both sides’ costs in a privacy or libel action – even if they win.

A consultation on whether to implement the legislation closed earlier this year after 140,000 responses, although the publication of its results has been delayed by legal issues.

Mrs Bradley told the Express & Star: “The reason we did the consultation is that there are very diverse views on this matter and there are very strong views on this matter. Some are convinced that Section 40 is the answer, and many others think it is not.

“When you look at why we ended up with the Leveson inquiry and why we did the legislation… it is important to remember that Section 40 was passed in 2013 and was started in 2011.

“That’s six years ago. A lot of things have happened since then and perhaps the intent that was there when Leveson’s recommendations were made and legislated for has not translated into reality.

“I want to look at the situation today if there is a need for this legislation.

“Ultimately what we want is a strong, free, fair press that can thrive and do what the press has always done so well, which is hold those in the public eye to account.

“At the same time we must make sure there is suitable protection so that unreasonable press intrusion doesn’t happen. That’s the balance that we have to strike. We will be looking closely at the evidence and making a decision in due course.”

At present, the Max Mosley-funded body Impress is the only recognised press watchdog under the government’s Royal Charter.

But most publishers have refused to join it on principle, saying the Royal Charter amounts to state-sponsored press regulation.