UK press standards judge dismisses row over lawyers' affair

23rd April 2013, Comments 0 comments

British judge Brian Leveson on Tuesday denied that his landmark report into media standards had been tainted by an alleged affair between one of his colleagues and a lawyer representing victims of press intrusion.

He dismissed concerns there may have been a breach of trust or a conspiracy as a result of the relationship between Carine Patry Hoskins, a lawyer on his supposedly independent team, and David Sherborne, who represented celebrities such as actor Hugh Grant.

The revelation in the past week that the pair are dating has sparked accusations of a conflict of interest, with the case dubbed "Loverson" by the press.

Leveson was asked by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2011 to investigate the ethics and standards of the British press after the phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid.

His report last year paved the way for an overhaul of press regulation agreed by political leaders last month, which has been strongly opposed by many major newspapers.

A lawmaker from Cameron's Conservative party wrote to Leveson asking him to investigate reports that Patry Hoskins and Sherborne went on holiday together in August, shortly after Leveson ended public hearings but three months before he published his report.

In a letter replying to the MP Rob Wilson, Leveson said there was no evidence of impropriety.

Patry Hoskins, a barrister with 13 years experience, became a Twitter sensation during the televised hearings, earning her own hashtag, #womanontheleft.

But Leveson said that after the hearings ended in August, she was largely involved in proof reading and had "absolutely no input" into his conclusions about the treatment of victims of press intrusion or his proposals for regulation.

"There was simply no room for a 'breach of confidence or other conspiracy' as a result of personal relations between her and Mr Sherborne," Leveson wrote.

Wilson has also asked the Bar Standards Board, the professional body for barristers, to consider if there was any breach of its code of conduct.

Patry Hoskins and Sherborne reportedly claim they were not in a relationship when they went on holiday and only began dating after the Leveson report was published in November.

Proposals for a tough new system of regulation of the press are currently being debated in parliament, after the leaders of all three major parties agreed a late-night deal last month.

The plans provide for a new independent body organised by the press to regulate their activities and provide redress for victims of abuse, but critics say it threatens freedom of speech.

© 2013 AFP

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