Richard Desmond
Express and Star newspapers owner Richard Desmond told Leveson he doesn't know what ethical means. REUTERS/Chris Pizzello

Owner of the Express and Star newspapers Richard Desmond does not understand the meaning of "ethical", he told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.

Asked by Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, about the ethics of his publications, Desmond replied: "I don't quite know what the word means."

He added: "We do not talk about ethics or morals because there's a very fine line and everybody is different."

Desmond's newspapers have come under heavy criticism for their coverage of Madeleine McCann's disappearance.

The Leveson Inquiry has already heard from Madeleine McCann's parents, who were falsely accused by the Daily Express and Daily Star of murdering their daughter.

Desmond, who also owns the adult entertainment brand Television X, apologised to the McCanns for what the way his newspapers mis-reported their tragic situation.

However he appeared to justify the coverage, which led to a series of succesful libel actions against his newspapers by the McCanns, because the majority of articles did not have legal action taken against them.

He said he felt his newspapers were "scapegoated" by the regulators, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), who singled out Express and Star newspapers for criticism over their coverage, as "every paper was doing the same thing".

The criticism of the PCC, which is a voluntary system that Desmond's papers are not signed up to, continued when he labelled it "useless".

"People sit and talk a lot of rubbish and then be hypocritical and stab you in the back," he said.

"I'd rather get rid of [the PCC], convict [journalists] who have committed offences, and get on with business."

Another justification for his newspapers' often contentious journalism is that if people hold certain opinions in society then it's reasonable to publish those views - even if they are baseless conjecture.

Jay said that could be used as a justification to publish anything.

"Well what are we trying to do in this country? Are we trying to kill this country with every bit of legislation?" said Desmond.

There were some cutting digs aimed at the Express's competitor the Daily Mail and its editor Paul Dacre.

Desmond called the newspaper the "Daily Malicious" and "Britain's worst enemy".

When Jay accidentally referred to Desmond as "Mr Dacre", Desmond said: "Dacre is the fat butcher."

"Their tone on everything is so negative and disgusting," he said.