Leveson threatened to quit after public attack by Gove

 

The judge leading the investigation into media ethics in the wake of the phone hacking scandal was poised to quit following a public attack on the probe by the Education Secretary, it was reported today.

Lord Justice Leveson complained to Downing Street's most powerful civil servant about claims made by Michael Gove that the inquiry had created a “chilling atmosphere” towards freedom of the Press, according to the Mail on Sunday.

In a telephone call with Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood he called for the Tory to be “gagged” and warned the inquiry was being undermined, it said.

Sir Jeremy is reported to have told Prime Minister David Cameron about the conversation.

“Our clear impression was that he was spitting tacks with Gove and was ready to resign unless the Minister was told to shut up,” a Government source told the newspaper.

Mr Gove, a former journalist at the News Corporation-owned Times, told a Parliamentary Press Gallery lunch in February that he saw “dangers” in the inquiry into press cultures, practices and ethics.

Lord Justice Leveson instructed his officials to compile a full report of the comments and he phoned Sir Jeremy within 24 hours, it was reported.

Called to give evidence at the inquiry last month, the Conservative Cabinet Minister went on to make an even more robust assessment about the potential outcome of the probe, warning the judge that inquiry recommendations were often “applied in a way that the cure is worse than the disease”.

The pair then clashed when Mr Gove raised concerns about restraints on the “precious liberty” of freedom of speech. In an apparent slap down, Lord Justice Leveson said: “I do not need to be told about the importance of freedom of speech, I really don't.”

Earlier this week he opened the hearings by warning it was “essential” cross-party political support for his investigation was “not jeopardised”.

A Leveson Inquiry spokesman said: “Lord Justice Leveson is conducting a judicial inquiry and, in that capacity, will not comment on press stories outside the formal proceedings of the inquiry.”

Downing Street, the Cabinet Office and Mr Gove's spokesman all refused to comment.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links