Monday 27 March 2017

James Murdoch was told of explosive phone hacking email – lawyer

News International head of legal affairs, Tom Crone, appears before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee, as the probe into the phone-hacking scandal is resumed following the summer recess. Photo: PA
News International head of legal affairs, Tom Crone, appears before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee, as the probe into the phone-hacking scandal is resumed following the summer recess. Photo: PA

Andrew Woodcock, Joe Churcher and Sam Lister

The former legal chief of News Group Newspapers today told MPs he was "certain" he told James Murdoch about an explosive email which proved that knowledge of phone-hacking was more widespread at the News of the World than the company had claimed.

Mr Murdoch Jr, who was then chief executive of NoW publishers News International, has previously told the Commons Culture Committee he was not aware of the notorious "For Neville" document, which blew apart the company's stance that hacking was the fault of a single rogue reporter - former royal correspondent Clive Goodman.



Former NGN legal manager Tom Crone today told the committee he informed Mr Murdoch about the document - a transcript of hacked private information about Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor - in a 15-minute meeting, also attended by then NoW editor Colin Myler in 2008.



However, he said he could not remember whether he had shown him a copy of the email.



It was at that meeting that James Murdoch authorised him to reach a settlement with Mr Taylor, who was eventually paid £425,000, the committee heard.



But Mr Crone insisted that there was no "cover-up" by the company, as the email had been provided to them by the Metropolitan Police after it was seized from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed with Goodman in 2003 for hacking into the phone messages of members of the royal household.



A confidentiality clause included in the settlement was insisted upon by Mr Taylor's lawyers to avoid sensitive information about his personal life becoming public, said Mr Crone.



In a bruising clash with committee member Tom Watson - the Labour MP who has led the charge over phone-hacking - Mr Crone denied that Mr Murdoch demanded a confidentiality clause and authorised the large financial settlement in order to prevent the exposure of "widespread criminality" at the News of the World.



The former NGN legal chief said his priority was to avoid cases being launched by four other individuals whose phones Mulcaire had admitted hacking.



"The imperative or the priority at the time was to settle this case, get rid of it, contain the situation as far as four other litigants were concerned and get on with our business," said Mr Crone.

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