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Watchdog chief wants ‘unruly press’

The chairman of the new press self-regulation body which begins work today said he understands why some of its opponents regard it as “a fake”.

Court of Appeal judge Sir Alan Moses said the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) would deal with “the standards of the press and enforcing the editor’s code” as well as specific complaints but would allow “a wild, unruly press”.

Sir Alan said he had had “a lot” of contact with campaign group Hacked Off who have branded Ipso “a sham”.

He said he “only lost my temper twice” but added he understood “the distress” and “frustration” of the group’s supporters like Gerry and Kate McCann.

He said: “Of course they’re angry, desperately angry, of course they don’t trust Ipso and they regard it as a fake and I’m not at all surprised but I want to show that they’re wrong.”

The vast majority of newspapers have signed up to Ipso, which replaces the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), with The Guardian and Financial Times among notable absentees.

But Sir Alan, who as a High Court judge presided over the Soham murders trial in 2003, said he did not think their joining was “vital to its existence”.

He said: “I f you ask me would I like them to join? The answer is of course I would”.

Sir Alan said he wanted Ipso, which is funded by the newspaper industry, to ” act as properly and truly and genuinely an accountable independent regulator”.

He said the funding system was ” a very understandable concern” but “money has got to come from somewhere”.

He said: “The mere fact that you’re the source of money doesn’t mean to say you’re in control”.

Asked about Ipso’s budget, he said his “suspicion” was it would “cost substantially more” than the PCC.

He said the regulator would never “prevent publication in advance”, adding: “A ll that I’m saying is that of course I want a wild, unruly press. The last thing I want is a boring press”.

He said: “One thing you can say and it’s not an unimportant thing is the importance of an unruly, interesting press because even if most of the time many of it is dealing with trivia, just occasionally it isn’t and it’s worth not losing that”.

Sir Alan added: “O f course there will be from time to time very serious and sometimes disgusting breaches of the code but the answer to that is to punish them”.

He added that £100,000 had been set aside for investigations and Ipso could also look at cases if there was evidence of “a history of intrusion” or “some sort of pattern”.

Hacked Off’s E xecutive Director Joan Smith described Ipso as a “sub-standard regulator”, saying: ” Neither we, nor victims of press abuse, nor the wider public will accept a sham regulator that fails to meet the Leveson criteria of independence and effectiveness and which refuses to be subject to the audit that Lord Justice Leveson said was vital to prevent a repeat of the disastrous failures of the past.”

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