In what one MP called “devastating” documents, several former News Of The World employees and a law firm contest parts of James Murdoch’s testimony to Parliament, and allege that he knew more about the extent of the scandal than he has claimed.
Colin Myler and Tom Crone, former editor and the former legal manager for the tabloid, said in a letter to Parliament that they informed Murdoch that another reporter appeared to have engaged in phone hacking at a crucial point in the scandal’s timeline.
Gordon Taylor, then the chief executive of the PFA, sued News Of The World for phone hackings that took place in 2005. Myler and Crone say that they decided to settle after Taylor’s lawyers showed them an e-mail now referred to as the “for Neville” e-mail.
The e-mail, from 2005, contained transcripts of 35 hacked phone messages from Taylor’s phone, and identified them as “the transcript for Neville.” The Guardian identified “Neville” as News Of The World reporter Neville Thurlbeck.
According to Murdoch’s testimony to Parliament, he gave the go-ahead for the settlement without knowing about the “for Neville” e-mail, and believed the phone hacking to be limited to “rogue reporter” Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who had both already been convicted.
But Crone and Myler allege that in a June 2008 meeting, they told Murdoch of the e-mail. Crone, who wrote the letter to Parliament, said that he does not have any notes from his meeting with Murdoch at the time, but the “sole reason” for the meeting was to explain the reason for settling — which was the e-mail. “My invariable practice when seeking authority for settlements would be to take a file of the relevant documents with me to such meetings so that, if asked or if necessary, I could illustrate whatever I was saying by reference to something in writing,” Crone wrote.
“Since the ‘for Neville’ document was the sole reason for settling and, therefore, for the meeting,” he continued, “I have no doubt that I informed Mr. Murdoch of its existence, of what it was and where it came from. I do not recall if I produced it and showed him a copy of it.”
Murdoch said in his own letters to Parliament that he recalls a June 10, 2008 meeting in which he was briefed on the settlement by Crone and Myler, but doesn’t recall “either Mr. Crone or Mr. Myler referring to, or showing me, any documents during the meeting.”
“Let me reiterate that I have no recollection of any mention of Thurbeck or a ‘for Neville’ email,” Murdoch wrote. “Neither Mr. Myler nor Mr. Crone told me that wrongdoing extended beyond Mr. Goodman or Mr. Mulcaire. There was nothing discussed in the meeting that led me to believe that further investigation was necessary.”
Parliament’s document dump Tuesday also included a 2007 letter from former News Of The World reporter Clive Goodman, shortly after he was released from prison for the phone hacking. In the letter, Goodman alleges that phone hacking was “widely discussed” among reporters and editors at the tabloid, and that the editor Andy Coulson tried to cover up the extent of the practice (more on that here).
The law firm Harbottle & Lewis also wrote to Parliament to dispute parts of the Murdochs’ testimony, particularly the claims that News International had “rested on” the firm’s assessment of a number of e-mails that were said to be related to phone hacking. The firm said it was asked to investigate whether the e-mails contained information that showed the practice of phone hacking had the “the full knowledge and support” of senior staff members at NOTW, as Goodman’s letter claimed.
Harbottle & Lewis called it “self-serving” that Rupert Murdoch’s claims News International had hired the firm “to find out what the hell was going on,” and that it relied on its findings as evidence that the hackings were contained to Goodman.
“The firm was not being asked to provide some sort of ‘good conduct certificate’ which News International could show to parliament,” the firm wrote. It continued: “If the firm had initially been given a retainer as broad as instructions ‘to find out what the hell was going on’ or (to put it more formally) to undertake an investigation which News International could use for broader purposes, such as laying it before Parliament as independent support for the ‘one rogue reporter’ theory, the firm would have refused the instructions.”
All of the documents are posted here.
Via The Guardian, News International put out a statement Tuesday in response to the documents:
News Corporation’s board has set up a Management and Standards Committee, chaired by independent chairman Lord Grabiner, which is co-operating fully with the Metropolitan Police and is facilitating their investigation into illegal voicemail interception at the News of the World and related issues.
We recognise the seriousness of materials disclosed to the Police and Parliament and are committed to working in a constructive and open way with all the relevant authorities.
John Whittingdale, who chairs Parliament’s culture, media and sport committee, said that James Murdoch will likely be recalled to explain why his testimony was “contradicted by evidence which we’ve had from others.” The Guardian reports that this could be in October.
“James Murdoch is there to respond on behalf of the company and I suspect we will want to put all that to him,” Whittingdale said.
Labour MP Tom Watson called the information in the documents “devastating revelations,” but added the committee has “not drawn a conclusion” as to whether Murdoch misled them. The committee announced Tuesday that it would call Tom Crone, Colin Myler, Daniel Cloke and Jon Chapman to give testimony on September 6, and that it is writing to former editors Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks, former managing editor Stuart Kuttner, and former News International chief executive Les Hinton to ask for any responses to the new evidence.