Leveson refuses to discuss new press regulator

LORD Justice Leveson yesterday insisted he would not get involved in the debate over how best to implement his recommendations on press regulations, as newspapers prepared for a last-minute push against state regulation of the British media.

Making his first appearance in front of politicians since he published his report last year, the judge told a Lords committee that it would be “absolutely inappropriate” for him to discuss the format of a new press regulator.

“I have said all I can say on the topic,” Leveson insisted. “I’ve done my best and it is for others to decide how to take this forward. It would be wrong for a serving judge to step into the political domain.”

On Tuesday culture secretary Maria Miller said she had rejected the newspaper industry’s own plan for self-regulation because it would not meet the high standards for independence set out in Leveson’s report on media ethics. Instead, the government has proposed an organisation that ultimately gains its authority from the state.

Miller intends to submit a proposed royal charter within days, leaving little time to reach a compromise agreement.

However, yesterday editor of The Times John Witherow told BBC’s Radio 4 that a group of national newspapers and other publishers “still intend to go ahead and set up a self-regulation body. Whether we put it up for [government] recognition is something we can deal with further down the road, but we intend to apply the criteria we put out for our royal charter for this self-regulator.”

Leveson yesterday repeatedly refused to comment on whether this is the best interpretation of his report’s conclusions. “I examined the facts, I set them out in what might be described as extremely tedious details,” he said. “I reached a series of recommendations which was my very best shot.”

The judge was recently made head of the Queen’s Bench division, making him the third most senior judge in England and Wales.  But he has repeatedly refused offers to talk on press regulation since his report was published.