Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 - under which media organisations could have been held responsible for the legal costs of unsuccessful libel claims - will be repealed, the government announced today.

Matt Hancock, culture secretary, told parliament that ’we have decided not to commence Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and to seek repeal at the earliest opportunity'. He also revealed that the second phase of the Leveson inquiry into the conduct of the press would not be held. 

’We have consulted widely, with regulators, publications and victims of press intrusion,’ he said, pointing to ’seismic changes’ to the media landscape since the inquiry was held in 2011. 

Steven Heffer, head of media and privacy at London firm Collyer Bristow, who acted for victims of phone-hacking by the press, described the announcement as ‘astonishing’. 

’Part 2 of Leveson should have been a crucial part of examining unlawful actions by media organisations, and improper relationships between journalists and the police,’ Heffer said. ’Instead, the whole affair will be swept under the carpet.’