Leveson on warpath after Indy editor slams his 'diatribe'

Chris Blackhurst goes public on letter from Leveson trailing his media ethics inquiry findings

Column LAST UPDATED AT 09:45 ON Thu 30 Aug 2012

LORD JUSTICE Leveson has attacked Chris Blackhurst, the editor of The Independent, for speaking out about a confidential 100-page letter Leveson has sent to Fleet Street editors.

It is certain to lead to demands by MPs when they return to the Commons after the summer recess for Leveson's letter to be published, given the importance of its contents and the fact it is now being publicly discussed by the media.

Blackhurst said on the BBC Media Show that Leveson's letter was a "diatribe" against all sections of the press and is an alarming signal of worse to come in the final report on the judge's inquiry into media ethics following the phone-hacking scandal.

Blackhurst was clearly enraged at the Indy being classified with the Murdoch red tops by Leveson. He said he felt "shock and anger" at how "one-sided" Leveson's letter is.

But Leveson's wrath at Blackhurst for having the temerity even to discuss his letter could have wider implications for the media and Government ministers such as Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, who bluntly warned Leveson at his hearing against statutory controls on the press.

So far, the contents of the Leveson letter remain secret - Blackhurst did not reveal the details - but Leveson's tone is enough to start the alarm bells ringing. Blackhurst said it was "a damning indictment of my industry".

He added: "The best way I can describe it is he is loading a gun, and this document - well over 100 pages - is all the ammunition. And believe you me, there is plenty of ammunition. You read the ammunition and just gulp."

In a statement after Blackhurst went public on his 'Rule 13' letter, Leveson said he was "disappointed" it was being openly discussed by the media. He warned that as his letter was covered by Rule 13 of the Inquiry Rules 2006, editors like Blackhurst are covered by the confidentiality clause.

If Leveson is serious about censoring all debate about his letter, he could take proceedings against Blackhurst for contempt. But perhaps he recognises that would be turning his loaded gun on himself. ·