The chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, Peta Buscombe, has a letter published in the Financial Times today about the paper's leader yesterday on the need to change the libel laws.
The FT leader argued: "Moreover, a more permissive libel law requires a responsible media. The aim must be to establish an effective, quick and fast system of redress short of full libel proceedings. The Press Complaints Commission does not have sufficient teeth. One option might be a specialist libel tribunal outside the courts system. This could respond expeditiously and more cheaply to privacy infringements.
Baroness Buscombe writes: "Sir, I agree with your editorial (“English libel law no longer works”, August 3) that English libel law is in need of reform. I do not feel, however, that you give sufficient credit to the public service that the Press Complaints Commission provides in a way that complements the law.
"The tortuous process for delivering reform and the length of time that libel law reform has taken (and, indeed, is still taking) contrasts sharply with the flexibility of the self-regulatory system. The PCC system allows for continuous evolution. We can adapt to cultural change, influencing and reflecting in our decisions what is, and what is not, acceptable in our society. The PCC performs a critical role in filling the gap left by the law and ensures the speedy and cost-free resolution of disputes.
"The PCC has authority. We demand prominence of apologies and levels of standards. We also work to prevent, indeed pre-empt, harm and to encourage editors to think before possibly breaching the Editors’ Code of Practice. The system demands a degree of trust and integrity from all those who buy into it. It works because editors are held ultimately responsible."