David Sherborne has had his work cut out for him over the last year: as the sole counsel for all the core victims of the Leveson inquiry, he has single-handedly been holding the British press to account for invading the privacy of those he is representing.
Leveson apparently got irritated with Sherborne in some of the hearings, losing patience with his habit of reaching for ten words where three will suffice – but his eloquence, it would seem, has paid off. The report unveiled by Leveson yesterday has given Sherborne and his clients the result they wanted.
The 5 Raymond Buildings barrister, who appeared in the Spear’s Reputation Management Index at the end of last year, is quick to point to the personal effects of press intrusiveness on his clients: ‘They range across a broad spectrum, from high profile individuals who for years have experienced disturbingly intrusive or unlawful behaviour, particularly at the hands of the tabloid press, to people who have only become well-known because of some awful event in their personal lives, like the Dowlers or the McCanns, and whose grief or misfortune has been made immeasurably worse by the way in which the press have reported or investigated these events.’
They have been united in their hopes for the outcome of the investigation, he says: ‘Different though their individual experiences may be, they all wanted to see an industry – sections of which had got out of control – be more tightly regulated, by a body that was independent of the organisations which it oversees and with the teeth it needs to ensure real change in standards, practices and ethics.’
Sherborne has no time for the argument that statutory regulation proposed by Leveson will in some way limit freedom of speech: ‘It just doesn’t add up. All that the legislation proposed will do is make sure that the principles of press self-regulation which he has recommended and which seems to have found almost universal support, will be guaranteed by the body that is created to uphold them.
‘There is no suggestion that it will allow this or any other government to control the press or to undermine freedom of speech. Leveson has emphasised the importance of this right time and again in his report, and the duty on the government to protect freedom of speech will also be part of the very statute which he suggests should be introduced as a back-stop provision for this regulatory body.’
Sherborne, frequently papped walking into the Leveson hearings with various high profile clients including High Grant and Sienna Miller, thinks the hammering the press received was justified, and that the recommendations made are timely: ‘Given the compelling and often disturbing evidence which my clients gave to the Inquiry about their experiences, I’m pleased to see clear and trenchant findings by Leveson that there’s been a widescale failing in press standards, ethics and culture.
‘This is undoubtedly right. For this reason, it’s good to see significant recommendations about a strong regulatory body which is both independent of the newspapers and has some teeth.’