Scots’ role at Leveson had the ‘appearance of an afterthought’ – Cusick

LORD Justice Leveson’s questioning of Scottish newspapers during his inquiry into Press standards had the appearance of an afterthought, The Independent’s James Cusick said last night in ‘Life after Leveson’, a Chartered Institute of Public Relations event held in Edinburgh.

Interviewed by The Scotsman deputy editor, Peter MacMahon, for around an hour, prior to answering questions from the 30-strong audience at Creative Scotland’s Waverley Gate headquarters, Cusick said that the inquiry was not just about tabloids’ behaviour but about the entire media sector.

Commenting on the evidence given by ‘regional’ editors, he said it looked like an “afterthought, and it does seem strange that when every other editor in Fleet Street had been given a day on their own, all of a sudden we had the slightly unusual circumstances of the editor of The Herald, the editor of The Scotsman, and others being lumped in together, and it was all a bit quick”.

But he stressed that it was not Scotland’s media which was on trial.

“Really, it was not Scotland, Scotland’s journalists or Scotland’s media which was on trial. In the broad brush strokes of his inquiry, Sir Brian wanted to hear from everybody.”

Cusick said that Leveson’s inquiry would not deliver its final concluding verdict until the current criminal cases were completed and that was likely to be at least a year – and could well be 2014.

The inquiry was set up following allegations of phone-hacking by the now closed News of the World newspaper.

Cusick added that the inquiry was split into two parts and that much of the detail of who did what to whom could not, because of the impending criminal trials, come out at this first stage. He also doubted as to whether the second stage of the inquiry may ever take place. If the crucial questions of who did what to whom were fully answered in both the civil and criminal trials, Cusick said “there may be no public appetite for this to be gone through again by a second stage Leveson inquiry”.

He added: “I think there will be a re-examination by Downing Street after the end of the criminal and civil trials, and if there is no public appetite for another nine months of detailed examination of these matters, then there is not going to be a second stage.”

During the evening, Cusick also looked at how Press regulation or standards may be enforced as a result of the outcome of the inquiry and subsequent trials, including a re-vamped Press Complaints Commission and other forms of self-regulation. He also talked about how there was a potential rollback by some in the industry who, at the start of the enquiry last July, were in favour of a degree of external regulation, but were now coming back to the idea that continuing self-regulation was still the preferred option ahead of any form of state or statutory involvement.”