NEW DOCUMENTS SHOW that News International was warned three years ago that there was “overwhelming evidence” that senior journalists were involved in phone hacking at the now defunct News of the World.The revelations in the documents released by a UK parliamentary committee investigating the phone hacking at the newspaper are likely to put further pressure on James Murdoch, News International’s CEO in Europe and Eurasia, who has insisted he was not aware that the practice went beyond one rogue reporter at the newspaper.
Murdoch is due to give more evidence to MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport select committee on 10 November.
The documents released largely pertain to the case involving the former head of the Professional Footballer’s Association Gordon Taylor who settled with the News of the World for over £700,000 in the summer of 2008 after it emerged that his phone had been hacked.
Murdoch has told MPs he signed off on this settlement and was told that phone hacking had been confined to one “rogue reporter” in the form the News of the World’s former royal editor Clive Goodman and the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, both jailed in 2007 for targeting members of the Royal Family.
How much Murdoch knew is crucial to the whole hacking inquiry which rocked the British establishment earlier this year and has led to the resignation of a number of senior News International executives, the Prime Minister’s director of communications and two senior Metropolitan police officers.
The documents released yesterday included advice handed down to News International executives by barrister Michael Silverleaf QC who advised that:
- “There is overwhelming evidence of the involvement of a number of senior NGN (News Group Newspapers) journalists in the illegal enquiries”.
- There was a “culture of illegal information access” in the newsrooms of The Sun and the News of the World.
- That any trial arising from the Gordon Taylor affair would be “extremely damaging” to the publisher’s reputation because of what would come out in it.
- The Taylor case should be settled as the former PFA chief had obtained evidence that questionable practices were “prominent” and being carried out by at least three journalists at NGN titles.
The documents also detail the crucial meeting on 10 June 2008 between Murdoch, News of the World legal head Colin Myler and the paper’s former editor Tom Crone where the account of what happened is disputed by the parties involved.
Myler and Crone maintain that Murdoch was made aware of the infamous ‘For Neville’ email which indicated hacking was widespread whilst the News Int executive maintains he was not told about it before he authorised the payout to Taylor.
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