by Ray Fleming

The questioning of Rupert Murdoch at the Leveson Inquiry has been fairly routine with occasional points of interest in his admissions and apologies.

But at about noon yesterday it sprang into dramatic life as Robert Jay QC raised the case of Max Mosley's exposure by the News of the World for participating in an alleged orgy with prostitutes in 2008.

Subsequently Mr Justice Eady had described as “blackmail” the newspaper's threat to the women that if they did not cooperate in reporting the story they would themselves be exposed.

When Mr Jay asked Mr Murdoch for his opinion of Mr Justice Eady's conclusion; he began by saying “I'm not as shocked as he is by that” but was quickly asked by Mr Jay whether he had read the Eady judgement. He said he had not.

At that point Lord Justice Leveson intervened, speaking very calmly but pointedly, to say he wanted to know whether “it is the culture and practice of the press that it is acceptable to perpetrate blackmail”. And he added: “Mr Murdoch, I would like to know, I really would.” Murdoch, looking like a scolded schoolchild said he would study the matter and provide his opinion in writing. This exchange went to the heart of the ethical issues in the Leveson Inquiry and it is unlikely that Mr Murdoch will be able to provide an acceptable response.

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