When I saw the Daily Mail's breathless account of the affair between the two lawyers from the Leveson Inquiry, I have to admit that my first reaction was to be unmoved. The Mail have taken a characteristically implacable stance in opposition to Lord Justice Leveson and all his works, and I believed this to be another story, pumped up with sensation and outrage, which fed into a campaign to discredit the Inquiry.
How wrong I was. Whether, in the end, it does discredit the Inquiry is open to question, but there is no doubt that what happened in camera between David Sherborne, who represented the victims of press intrusion, and Carine Patry Hoskins, junior counsel for the Inquiry and the woman renowned for her google-eyed attentiveness to Hugh Grant, looks iffy at best, and could even be a matter for the Bar Council.
Perception is all. That was one of the issues during the Inquiry when it came to the Press Complaints Commission. Even if the quality of its work was unimpeachable, the fact that current editors served on the commission undermined its credibility, and gave the impression that its independence was compromised. Surely, a similar judgement could be applied in this matter. No one is suggesting that Mr Sherborne and Ms Patry Hoskins behaved with anything other than scrupulous attention to any potential conflict of interest, but who is to know what happens when the wigs come off?
And the perception of impropriety can only have been enhanced with the knowledge that, as soon as full time was called at the Royal Courts of Justice, they flew off together to the Greek island of Santorini, where, among the whitewashed villas and the olive groves, the lovestruck legal eagles "discussed the possibility of a future relationship".
Yes, that was what they expected us to believe was the purpose of their Hellenic mini-break. What do they take us for? Nevertheless, let's go along with this idea. Sherborne: "I put it to you, Ms Patry Hoskins, that although you are clearly an admirer of the work of Mr Hugh Grant, you have given me enough encouragement during our long hours together in court to believe you may countenance a future relationship with me. I wonder if you would accompany me to the island of Santorini to discuss this possibility. As you probably know, Santorini is very nice this time of year, and Easyjet fly there regularly." Patry Hoskins: "I take your point, Mr Sherborne. When discussing the possibility of future relationships, I always find it better over a dish of taramasalata, with a cheeky Retsina at hand and the sound of the Mediterranean gently caressing the rocky shoreline in the background. I am hopeful that we will be able to reach agreement. Can you ensure we have speedy boarding?"
Well, you will be pleased to know that, under a moonlit sky, the love that had been suppressed over such a long time in Court 73 indeed bloomed for these fortunate souls. And the other very good news is that Lord Justice Leveson broke his silence to say that "there was simply no breach of confidence or other conspiracy" as a result of this relationship. So that's cleared it all up, then.