David Cameron accused of 'ripping heart and soul' out of Leveson probe

David Cameron

The Leveson inquiry into British media ethics has proved to be a double whammy for Prime Minister David Cameron as the report has exposed divisions within the ruling coalition while the victims of press abuse accused him of "ripping the heart and soul" of the judge's key recommendation.

Lord Justice Brian Leveson yesterday called for setting up a new independent media watchdog - which he said should be underpinned by legislation.

Leveson found that behaviour of the British media was "outrageous" and "wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people".

He said the press - having failed to regulate itself in the past - must create a new and tough regulator but it had to be backed by legislation to ensure it was effective.

Currently, the British press is self-regulated through the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

But Leveson, who based his report on eight months of testimony from hacking victims, politicians and media figures, said that a statutory body such as Ofcom should take responsibility for monitoring an overhauled PCC.

However, the 2,000-page report exposed divisions in the coalition government, with Cameron opposing statutory control, unlike his deputy Nick Clegg, who wants a new law introduced without delay.

Cameron had set up the inquiry last year after it emerged that journalists at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid of Rupert Murdoch had hacked the phone of Milly Dowler, a 13- year-old murdered schoolgirl, as well as targeted dozens of crime victims, celebrities and politicians.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Cameron said he broadly welcomed Leveson's principles to change the current system but that he had "serious concerns and misgivings" over bringing in laws to underpin any new body.

Cameron threatened to veto the central recommendation of the Leveson Inquiry as new press laws would "cross the Rubicon" and undermine the centuries-old principle of free speech.

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