Stealth change to press protection - overturned
THE UK government is trying to weaken the one explicit protection for journalism in British law - the restriction on police seizing "journalistic material" introduced in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). This sensibly does not try to define who is "a journalist" - which would inexorably lead to a government register - but states that police must seek a warrant before seizing "special procedure material", which includes "material acquired or created for the purposes of journalism".
PACE sets out rules for notifiying people, such as editors and reporters, against whom an order is sought. The amendment, in the Deregulation Bill, would delete these rules from the Act and allow the Justice Minister to change them by amending "Criminal Procedure Rules". As far as the Freelance can tell this is done by what is called a "Statutory Instrument" - a measure which Ministers present to Parliament but which cannot be amended. We have discovered only three of the tens of thousands of Statutory Instruments presented since 1945 being rejected in the House of Lords.
The Newspaper Society, which represents local and regional paper editors, notes that the changes to PACE are "hidden away in the Deregulation Bill amidst changes to regulation of knitting yarns, sale of liquor confectionary to children and the repeal of archaic offences of shaking carpets or keeping pigstie".
The NUJ is preparing to inform members of the Bill Committee on the importance of keeping the protection in the Act. Come back here for updates.