A leading legal advisor to the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics has warned the Government that implementing a crucial proposal of the Inquiry's report would breach human rights law.
The Leveson Inquiry report was finally published last week and included amongst its many recommendations a proposal to toughen up any independent press regulator, by ensuring that statutory law provided for its existence.
The proposal is controversial, for although it stops short of government regulation of the press, it would force the press to form a strong regulator and in doing so its critics say would open the press up to potential political influence in future.
Now a leading legal advisor to Lord Justice Leveson, Shami Chakrabati, has told The Mail on Sunday that she was unable to support the proposal that a new regulator should be provided for by statutory law, claiming such a move would be in breach of the Human Rights Act 1998.
Ms Chakrabati, who is director of the civil rights group Liberty, claims that a law that requires media agencies and the press to join a new regulator would amount to coercion.
"The difference... is what do you do if people don't join the club or don't set up a club and Leveson doesn't want compulsory regulation of the press but says if they don't play ball politicians may have to consider it," she told The Daily Mail, saying that this was where the proposals would fall short of the law.
The Leveson proposals include a plan to make the communication industry regulator Ofcom responsible for overseeing the workings of any new independent press watchdog. This has also raised concerns as the chairman of Ofcom is a political appointment.
Last night the civil rights group Liberty released a statement on the matter.
"Liberty would rather leave the question of whether the tests are met to the courts and not involve a quango which is ultimately appointed by politicians," the statement read.