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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 March 2007, 20:33 GMT
No injunction regrets - Goldsmith
Lord Goldsmith
Lord Goldsmith said his "primary duty" was "to the law"

The attorney general has described as "preposterous" any suggestion the injunction barring a cash-for-honours report was politically motivated.

Lord Goldsmith said he did not regret Friday's court move on behalf of the police to block the BBC's report.

The injunction was later dropped after the Guardian newspaper published its own cash-for-honours story on Tuesday.

The BBC is arguing in the High Court that the reasons for granting the BBC injunction should be made public.

'Media-style trial'

The BBC story concerned a document in which senior Downing Street aide Ruth Turner said she was concerned that an account given to her by Lord Levy of his role in drawing up the Honours List had been untrue.

The BBC has not seen the document containing her concerns but has been told about it by more than one source.

The primary duty is to the law, never to party loyalties
Lord Goldsmith

Neil O'May, from Lord Levy's solicitors Bindman & Partners, said Lord Levy "categorically denies any wrongdoing whatsoever".

He said that the "current round" of media reporting was "partial, contradictory, confused and inaccurate" and could be perceived as a "media-style trial".

Lord Goldsmith told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "Of course there's a public interest in freedom of the press.

"But there's also a public interest in the administration of justice and if a very senior police officer says I fear that if certain revelations are made at this stage, it will prevent us continuing properly with an important inquiry in a sensitive case, I think that's something that needs to be taken very seriously."

'Professional lawyer'

Asked about whether his links to Labour conflicted with his role as attorney general, Lord Goldsmith said: "I don't actually agree with all these statements about mine being a political role.

"I mean I come to this as a long-time professional lawyer, not as a career politician at all."

The attorney general is appointed by the prime minister, but Lord Goldsmith said: "That's always been the way.

Lord Levy confronted by camera crews
Lord Levy was met by cameramen at his home on Wednesday

"What matters to me and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be able to say this, is the primary duty is to the law, never to party loyalties.

"And that is why I acted on Friday as everyone now understands, not at the request of Downing Street, actually at the request of the Metropolitan Police - and they haven't been the best of friends recently you might think on this particular issue - because of the risk to the administration of justice.

"And my duty is to the law first and it's preposterous for anyone to suggest - I'm glad to see that most people don't suggest this - that my acting was anything to do with politics."

Transcripts

In the High Court, lawyer Manuel Barca, acting for the BBC, said there was no "justification for putting on ice" an explanation for the injunction.

He added that it was "a question of 'trying to put off the inevitable" and that the issue had "generated acute public concern".

But Philip Havers, acting for the attorney general, said: "It is vital, for reasons I won't go in to, that both sides are clear what can and cannot be reported about Friday's hearing."

BBC political editor Nick Robinson
Never before have I spent so much time talking to lawyers...
BBC political editor Nick Robinson

Mr Havers has applied to the court for the hearing to be put back for two days while both sides look at a transcript of the earlier court proceedings.

He argued that the case should be heard by Justice Wilkie, who granted the original injunction on Friday night.

The cash-for-honours probe began a year ago. Police are investigating allegations that honours were exchanged for loans to the Labour Party.

The probe switched its focus recently from the question of cash-for-peerages to allegations of a cover-up.

All involved in the inquiry deny any wrongdoing.




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