07/12/2012 04:39 GMT | Updated 07/12/2012 05:44 GMT

Leveson Suggests New Law To 'Civilise' The Internet At Conference In Sydney

Lord Justice Leveson has said new laws may be needed to prevent "mob rule" on the internet, as newspaper editors in Britain try to head off the statutory underpinning of press regulation.

Speaking at a conference in Sydney, Australia, the author of the report calling for tougher regulation of the British press suggested online publications and individuals on Twitter were less afraid of the legal consequences of what they said than the print media.

"The established media broadly conforms to the law and, when they do not, they are potentially liable under the law," he said.

"In so far as the internet is concerned, there has been, and for many, there remains a perception that actions do not have legal consequences.

"There is not only a danger of trial by Twitter, but also of an unending punishment, and no prospect of rehabilitation, by Google."

According to Australian media broadcasters were not allowed to record Leveson's speech to the £950 a head privacy symposium in which he said it was likely "new laws will need to be developed".

"Just as it took time for the wilder excesses of the early penny press to be civilised, it will take time to civilise the internet," he said.

British newspaper editors met on Thursday and said they hoped to implement Leveson's recommendations for independent self regulation without the need for statutory underpinning.

David Cameron is reluctant to take that step, warning it could pose a future threat to free speech, but has told the industry it must act fast to convince politicians and the public that it is not necessary.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and a large number of Conservative MPs are united with victims of press abuses and other campaigners in demanding full implementation.

Leveson was criticised in some quarters for barely mentioning the internet, which described as "a moral vacuum", in his 2,000-page report into the activity of the press published last week.

In his Sydney speech he appeared to recognise the problem faced by nations that attempted to regulate the ability of people to use the internet as a "global megaphone for gossip" akin to "mob rule".

"Bloggers rejoice in placing their servers outside the jurisdiction where different laws apply," he observed.

Leveson, who departed for a tour of Australia soon after his report was published in Britain, has yet to respond to calls by the Commons culture, media and sport committee that he give evidence on his recommendations.

His suggestion of new laws to cover the internet comes in the wake of a series of high profile cases against people for how they use Twitter - most notably the spreading of the unfounded rumour that Lord McAlpine was guilty of sexual offences.