Sunday 21 January 2018

Letter from lawyers in phone-hack scandal was 'rewritten'

Mark Hughes in London

A LETTER that News International used as a defence against allegations that phone hacking was widespread at the 'News of the World' was repeatedly rewritten to make it appear that there were no other crimes being committed at the paper, it has been alleged.

The letter, by lawyers Harbottle & Lewis, was written after the law firm had examined emails from six people including the paper's former editor Andy Coulson and Clive Goodman -- the royal reporter jailed in 2007 for phone hacking.

It was used by News International to rebut claims of widespread wrongdoing.

Last month, however, the former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord Macdonald said that when he looked at the emails he saw evidence of criminal activity "within minutes".

The 'New York Times' claims early drafts of the letter were rejected by News International as they were not broad enough. A source told the paper: "They (News International) wanted Harbottle & Lewis to give them a letter to indicate there was nothing incriminating in the file." The final wording of the letter from Harbottle & Lewis to News International read: "I can confirm that we did not find anything in those emails which appeared to us to be reasonable evidence that Clive Goodman's illegal actions were known about and supported by both or either of Andy Coulson, the editor, and Neil Wallis, the deputy editor and/or that Ian Edmondson, the news editor, and others were carrying out similar procedures."

But the emails allegedly show discussions between Mr Coulson and Goodman, both of whom have been arrested by police investigating payments to police. Goodman is said to complain about cuts on cash payment to sources, saying that he needed to pay his contacts in Scotland Yard's royal protection unit. He also says he does not want to go into details about payments because everyone involved "could go to prison for this". The emails are said to include a request from Goodman to Mr Coulson for £1,000 (€1,140) to buy personal telephone numbers of Royal family members.

A spokesman for Harbottle & Lewis said that the firm could not make any comment on the allegations except to the police and to parliamentary committees. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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