(originally posted on this blog on 10/11/08, but worth a re-read)
A High Court judge with a "hatred of free speech and the popular press" is bringing in a privacy law to the UK "by the back door", a national newspaper editor has claimed.
Paul Dacre, editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail, cited rulings by Mr Justice Eady in favour of the Formula One boss, Max Mosley, against the News of the World and an unnamed celebrity who had an affair with a married woman as examples of the erosion of freedom of expression. He claimed the judge had "a virtual monopoly of all cases against the media" and was therefore able to use the privacy clause of the Human Rights Act to thwart attempts to defend public decency by shaming those in high places found to have committed immoral acts.
Mr Dacre, who was speaking at the Society of Editors' annual conference in Bristol last night, argued that without the ability to report scandal popular newspapers would lose a mass readership with "obvious worrying implications" for democracy.
"If Gordon Brown wanted to force a privacy law, he would have to set out a Bill, arguing his case in both Houses of Parliament, withstand public scrutiny and win a series of votes," he said. "Now, thanks to the wretched Human Rights Act, one judge with a subjective and highly relativist moral sense can do the same with a stroke of his pen."
Mr Dacre added: "I personally would rather have never heard of Max Mosley ... It is the others I care about: the crooks, the liars, the cheats, the rich and the corrupt sheltering behind a law of privacy being created by an unaccountable judge." He said: "Since time immemorial public shaming has been a vital element in defending the parameters of what are considered acceptable standards of social behaviour, helping ensure that citizens – rich and poor – adhere to them for the good of the greater community."
Censorship is not the answer