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Judge calls for British press to be regulated

LONDON -- Britain's unruly newspapers should be regulated by an independent body dominated by nonjournalists with the power to levy steep fines, a judge said yesterday.

The report pleased victims of tabloid intrusion but left editors worrying about creeping state control of the country's fiercely independent press.

Lord Justice Brian Leveson issued his 2,000-page report at the end of an ethics inquiry triggered by a scandal over tabloid phone hacking that expanded to engulf senior figures in politics, the police and Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

His key recommendation was to create a new print media regulator, which he said should be established in law to prevent more people being hurt by "outrageous" press behavior that had "wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people whose rights and liberties have been disdained."

Prime Minister David Cameron echoed concerns about government interference. He called on the much-criticized press to show it could control itself by adopting the judge's proposals quickly -- and without political involvement.

The proposal is similar to the system in Ireland, where a press council and ombudsman were set up in 2008 to make the print media more accountable.

Critics of the tabloid press generally backed Leveson's findings.

"I welcome Lord Leveson's report and hope it will mark the start of a new era for our press in which it treats those in the news responsibly, with care and consideration," said Kate McCann, who was the subject of intense press interest after her 3-year-old daughter Madeleine disappeared during a holiday in Portugal in 2007.

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