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Society and Culture Society and Culture

Repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2014

Last updated: 11:47am 18 January 2019

We will repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2014, which, if enacted, would force media organisations to become members of a flawed regulatory system or risk having to pay the legal costs of both sides in libel and privacy cases, even if they win.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.80

Our verdict

The Crime and Courts Act 2013 gained Royal Assent in 2013 after recommendations made by the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press. Section 40 of the act proved particularly controversial, because it requires publishers to either join a government-approved regulator, or else face liability for the costs of both sides in libel and privacy cases, regardless of the outcome. Many newspapers were unhappy about the potential implications of the new law for press freedom and refused to recognise the official press regulator, IMPRESS.

The previous government launched a consultation on the Section 40 issue in November 2016. The current government offered its response in March 2018 and made its intention clear.

“After considering the responses to the consultation, the Government plans to repeal section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, and shall do so when there is a suitable legislative vehicle.”

It is noteworthy that in December 2018, the chair of the Press Recognition Panel said there is “no parliamentary vehicle in sight” through which Section 40 would be repealed.

As of yet, there has been no change to the law so Section 40 remains in place, and the reiteration of the manifesto pledge in the consultation response does not represent significant movement towards fulfilment. We’re marking this as ‘not started’. We’ll be watching to see if a “suitable legislative vehicle” arrives and the process of repeal begins in earnest. Follow this policy to stay updated.

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