He may be pompous, self-satisfied and, with his wonderfully twee ideas about sex, a bit of a prude, but the sinister aspect of Paul Dacre's speech to the Society of Editors on Sunday is the sheer intellectual dishonesty of his comments about the law on privacy.
He tells us that privacy laws come, not from parliament and the democratic process, but from one judge, Sir David Eady. He must know this is untrue. Parliament passed the Human Rights Act in 1998. Judges enforce it, just like other laws. The main precedents on privacy have been set by the court of appeal and the House of Lords, not by Mr Justice Eady. He interprets and follows those precedents. Anyone unhappy with his interpretation can go to a higher court.
So why this thoroughly disingenuous attack on a high court judge? During his speech, Dacre let the real reason slip. Without scandal, tabloid sales will decline. To keep this squalid industry afloat, an unrestricted right to publicise the sex lives of others is necessary, so the judiciary must be silenced.
No reasonable adult will ever object to (or even be interested in) what others do in their bedrooms provided it is consensual, lawful and in private. So how in a civilised society can we allow a life to be wrecked and a family to be destroyed for no better reason than to sell a few newspapers?
The reason Dacre offers is "morality". He tells us the newspapers must uphold decent moral values. But whose morality? Dacre does not seem to realise that modern Britain is home to myriad religious, ethnic and cultural groups, each with its own morality. How can the law be other than neutral, or as Dacre has it, "amoral", between them? The courts are there to uphold the law, not to give force to a particular set of values.
It is unusual for editors like Dacre to admit that they scandal-monger to sell newspapers. They like to claim, for instance, that a celeb's sexual indiscretions should be made public because he or she is "a role model": an absurd argument when publicity is likely to convince admirers to imitate, not refrain. Or that an activity is criminal: well, inform the police - at least the police would allow the person concerned to offer a defence. Another line is the exposure of hypocrisy - yet when the editor of the Sun, Rebekah Wade, spent a night in police cells after allegedly assaulting her husband, Dacre did not feel the need to draw his readers' attention to the campaign the Sun was then running against domestic violence.
We are told that privacy laws are unnecessary because the industry regulates itself; if editors overstep the mark they will be sacked. Yet the News of the World editor responsible for my case is still there despite admitting in the witness box to a grotesque breach of the editors' code and failing to make the most basic checks before publishing. And who is in charge of the editors' code? Why, it's Dacre again. As one Guardian blogger put it: "Being lectured about ethics by Paul Dacre is like listening to Sweeney Todd giving a class in haircutting."
To expose in a newspaper the most private elements of someone's personal life is to impose on them and their family a terrible penalty. No civilised community should do this without very good reason. The lower reaches of the tabloid press have shown themselves wholly indifferent to the suffering they cause their victims and their victims' entirely innocent families. The courts can ensure that no one is made to suffer in this way unless the public interest truly requires it. No tabloid editor can be trusted to do so.
To Dacre, the private pursuit of S&M among like-minded adult enthusiasts is "unimaginable depravity". His misplaced moral outrage reminds me of the prejudices once targeted at the gay community, not least by the Daily Mail.
The News of the World's unfortunate QC learned to his cost that the women involved, far from being exploited, were modern, independent minded and very intelligent. However much Dacre would like to argue otherwise, the Victorian notion that they are not in control of their lives was left in tatters.
In the end Dacre is just a bully. He delights in attacking those who cannot hit back. In open debate, which he always avoids, the intellectual and moral demolition of his position would be swift and complete. In the meantime, his championing of the Sun and the News of the World as society's moral guardians reveals the bankruptcy of his position.
Max Mosley, president of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile).