The arcane niceties of the tort of privacy would not normally pack the grand ballroom of Sydney's Shangri-La Hotel, but when the speaker is a man who has just spent 17 months dissecting the ethics of the British press, a large turn-out is assured.
Popping his head above the parapet for the first time since delivering his landmark report last week, Lord Justice Leveson this morning outlined some of his views on media regulation to a symposium on privacy organised by the University of Technology Sydney.
If the A$950-a-head (£620) audience was expecting insights into the thinking behind his 1,987-page report, they might have felt short-changed. "It may be that some of you are hoping that I will elaborate and take you behind the scenes of the inquiry," said the Appeal Court judge. "I'm afraid you are going to be disappointed."
It wasn't that he was indifferent to the storm unleashed by his report, it was because he regarded the report as a judgment, "and judges simply do not enter into discussion about judgments".
The speech was one of two which Lord Justice Leveson is to give while in Australia; next Wednesday he will talk about "news gathering in a time of change" at an event organised by the University of Melbourne. The two universities have paid his expenses for the trip, which will include a well-earned break for him and his wife, Lynne.
Their holiday destination is not known. Might it be the Great Barrier Reef, to swim with sharks – or would that seem too much like recent experience for the 63-year-old judge? Might it be Australia's Red Centre, a spiritual place where he could meditate on David Cameron's instant rejection of his report's central recommendation: a statutory body to regulate the press?
Wherever they go, it seems understandable that he should want to put as much space as possible between himself and the political row back home.
At the symposium, Lord Justice Leveson noted that the debate about press regulation was nothing new – it dated back to the late 19th century. He spent much of his address talking about the privacy implications of the internet – an area which his £5m report barely touched on. Recent events such as the Newsnight debacle demonstrated that "there is not only a danger of trial by Twitter, but also of an unending punishment, and no prospect of rehabilitation, via Google", he warned.
PM leaning towards royal charter
The Prime Minister is considering issuing a Royal Charter to underpin a new press watchdog as a way of giving the body official power without resorting to passing a controversial law.
Though it is one of a number of options still under consideration – including having the new body overseen by MPs or by a senior judge – it is understood that David Cameron is now leaning towards the choice of a Royal Charter.
A Royal Charter is issued by the Queen, granting powers to organisations or professional bodies performing unique roles in society, such as the BBC, the Bank of England and the Royal Society.
National newspaper editors said yesterday they had "unanimously agreed to start putting in place the broad proposals – save the statutory underpinning – for the independent self-regulatory system laid out by Lord Justice Leveson".Reuse content