After conducting a year-long, fraught and complex inquiry into the British press, Sir Brian Leveson is taking a busman’s holiday – to Australia.
He is flying 10,000 miles away from the UK newspaper industry, still reeling from his 1,987-page report, to the University of Technology in Sydney, where he will give the keynote address on ‘Privacy in the 21st century’ next Friday.
Five days later he will again display his expertise on restraining the press’s base instincts in another talk, on 'News Gathering in a Time of Change', at Melbourne University’s Centre for Advanced Journalism, on 12 December.
Longer term, Sir Brian is tipped as a future Lord Chief Justice, the head of the judiciary in England and Wales.
As an experienced judge and the current head of the Sentencing Council for England and Wales, Sir Brian, 63, would already have been in the frame for the job. His stewardship of the Leveson Inquiry, however – a public duty which he undertook at the request of the Prime Minister, David Cameron – may assist his progress.
For his Australian hosts, Sir Brian, barrister, appeal court judge and, now, battle-weary guardian of Fleet Street morals, is an ideal expert to hold sway on the behaviour of the media in the modern age.
For Sir Brian, the change of country may be welcome after a gruelling 12 months of intensive interrogations of senior politicians, police officers and journalists in which, brows furrowed, he has had to repeatedly express his belief in the freedom of the press.
Margaret Simons, director of Melbourne University’s Centre for Advanced Journalism, said that Lord Leveson’s talk would “raise issues that must be at the heart of any discussion about the way journalists go about their work: how do we protect the vital role that journalists have in our liberal democracies and, at the same time, hold them to account for the ways in which they do their work?”
Though she was somewhat surprised he agreed to give it, saying: “Frankly, when I invited him I thought it was a million to one, but he said “yes”.”
After addressing the Australians, Sir Brian will return to the UK and his day job, sitting in the Court of Appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand.
The Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, will head the process of selecting the successor to Lord Igor Judge, who aged 71, has announced he will retire at the end of September 2013.
The appointment would then have to be approved by David Cameron and the Queen, as head of state.
If Sir Brian gets the job – and it is not clear what his intentions are, since he made only a brief statement yesterday and does not give interviews - he will be informed in April next year and will formally take over from Lord Judge when the new legal year begins on 1 October 2013.