Mail editor Dacre recalled by Leveson after Hugh Grant spat
Row over actor's allegations against the Mail on Sunday makes Leveson 'extremely unhappy'
THE SPAT between Hugh Grant and the Daily Mail has reared its ugly head again at the Leveson Inquiry. So much so, that Lord Justice Leveson has declared himself "extremely unhappy" with the appearance of the paper’s editor, Paul Dacre, at the inquiry yesterday, and demanded that he returns to face more questions later this week.
Leveson said the "obvious conflict" between the actor and the Mail had disrupted his inquiry into press standards.
Back in November, when the inquiry began, Grant accused the Mail on Sunday of phone hacking. He claimed a story about him in 2007 could only have been obtained by intercepting his voice messages. Associated Newspapers responded with an editorial in which it accused Grant of "mendacious smears", and that in turn prompted Leveson to warn the paper over its coverage of the inquiry.
Both sides submitted fresh evidence to the inquiry over the weekend before Dacre's appearance yesterday when Grant's barrister attempted to question the Mail editor in detail over stories about his client.
Dacre claimed that Grant had attempted to "hijack" the inquiry with "a highly calculated attempt to wound my company". He said he would only withdraw the " mendacious smears" comment if Grant withdrew his hacking claim.
This morning Leveson made it clear that he was unimpressed by the row.
"I'm extremely unhappy about the way in which yesterday afternoon did what I perceive to be damage to the appropriate flow of this inquiry," he said. "I'm not prepared to allow what is an obvious conflict between one of the core participants and another to divert attention from my concern about the customs, practices and ethics of the press."
Leveson requested that Dacre returned to the inquiry on Thursday and when the editor’s legal team objected Leveson made it clear that he was not simply asking on the off-chance that he might want to. "I beg you not to ask me to go further," he said, implying that he would force Dacre to appear if necessary.
However, he was also short with Grant's legal team, and warned them they would have "rather less than 30 minutes" to question Dacre.
Although the row over Grant dominated Dacre's appearance at Leveson, the Mail editor did find time to answer other questions. He denied any knowledge of phone hacking at his papers but admitted private detectives had been used by journalists. But he added that he had acted "vigorously" to stamp out their use when he realised they may be acting illegally.
He also said he backed a 'kitemark' system for journalists governed by a regulator with the power to strike them off if they breached guidelines. When a similar idea was suggested by shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis last year it was widely ridiculed.