PETER Hodges, in January 12 Stourbridge News, is wise to be concerned about the effect on local papers of Section 40.

It could potentially also threaten amateur publications, such as club newsletters.

More worrying is the legal precedent that Section 40 sets.

A long-held precept of English law has been individuals or organisations guilty of an offence should expect to be punished and those innocent will not be penalised.

Section 40 means that Parliament will have removed the ability of the courts to award costs against those who choose to make unfounded complaints against a publication unless it has paid to join a government- approved independent self-regulation scheme.

Further, the malicious complainant can proceed knowing that all their legal costs will actually be borne by the publication however ridiculous their claim.

A question in the government consultation on Section 40 was, Do you think it will make it likely that more organisations will join the government approved scheme?

The obvious answer is yes, in the same way that subjects of oppressive regimes are persuaded to act against their wishes out of fear that they may otherwise suffer unjust punishment.

I think this has frightening implications for our Justice system.

David Anscombe Stourbridge