Friday, 7 December 2012

Treat journalism as a profession with its own ethical charter

The following letter by John Spencer appeared in The Times 5 December 2012.


Few people seem willing to confront the most obvious question the Leveson Report raises about public life in Britain: the systemic lack of professionalism in so many walks of life.

Britain has become a country whose relationship with sound ethical principles has become, at best, ambivalent, and, at worst, non-existent.  Perfectly sensible laws exist to criminalise phone hacking, and yet they were routinely ignored. The reason is not that the laws lacked force, but that our culture has mutated into one which puts profit before duty.

This was evident in the MPs' expenses scandal, and it has been clear to see in the arena of personal injury litigation, where spam text messaging and unscrupulous behaviour by insurers and others continue to proliferate.

The solution to the issues highlighted by Lord Justice Leveson is not statutory underpinning, still less any form of more invasive legislation, but a wholesale reinvigoration of the notion that duty comes before profit. While the duty of the professions is to serve their clients, the media's duty is to serve the public. The two things are one and the same. They would not be problematic if it were the case that all those involved acted in accordance with the highest of ethical principles.

John Spencer
Director, Spencers Solicitors 

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