Tuesday 24 October 2017

Video: James Murdoch: ‘I was never told about the NOTW hacking practices’

James Murdoch
James Murdoch

JAMES Murdoch accused former News of the World editor Colin Myler and legal chief Tom Crone today of misleading MPs about what he knew about phone-hacking.

The News International boss said he "disputed vigorously" the version of events put forward by the company's ex-employees.

The comments came as Mr Murdoch gave evidence to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee on the scandal for the second time.

Mr Murdoch denied that he had known as long ago as 2008 that phone hacking had not been limited to a single reporter at the newspaper.

He rejected Mr Myler and Mr Crone's suggestion that they had made him aware of the contents of the so-called "For Neville" email - indicating the wider extent of phone hacking at the paper - at a meeting in June that year.

Asked by Labour MP Tom Watson whether he had personally misled the committee in his previous evidence, Mr Murdoch said: "No, I did not."

He added: "I believe this committee was given evidence by individuals either without full possession of the facts, or now it appears in the process of my own discovery... it was economical."

Pressed on whether that meant Mr Myler and Mr Crone had misled the committee, Mr Murdoch replied: "Certainly in the evidence they gave to you in 2011 in regard to my own knowledge, I believe it was inconsistent and not right, and I dispute it vigorously."

He added: "I believe their testimony was misleading and I dispute it."

Mr Murdoch said the meeting with Mr Myler and Mr Crone had been to discuss increasing an offer to settle a legal claim brought by the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association Gordon Taylor.

"The meeting, which I remember quite well, was a short meeting, and I was given at that meeting sufficient information to authorise the increase of the settlement offers that had been made," he said.

"But I was given no more than that."

He said the "For Neville" email had been important for two reasons, the first of which was that it represented evidence that messages had been transcribed for the News of the World.

The second was that it named another journalist working for the newspaper.

"That second part, that importance, was not described to me in detail or at all," Mr Murdoch said.

"It was not described as the For Neville email, and I want to be very clear. No documents were shown to me at that meeting or were given to me at that meeting."

He also denied that he was shown advice from leading legal counsel that indicated the extent of phone hacking was greater than the sole reporter - royal editor Clive Goodman - who had been jailed.

Mr Murdoch said it was important to put the News of the World "in context" as a small part of the wider media empire.

But he said he regretted that the company mounted an "aggressive defence" following a critical report published by the committee in 2009, rather than taking a "forensic look" at the evidence.

"The company at the highest level should have had a good look at the evidence that was given to you in retrospect... and followed the trail wherever it led."

Mr Murdoch confirmed that he had not been arrested by police investigating phone-hacking allegations.

He said he was given "incomplete" information in 2008 and 2009 about the extent of phone hacking at the News of the World.

He suggested that Mr Myler, who was brought in as editor in 2007 to investigate the scandal and clean up the paper, should have informed him of how widespread the practice was.

Mr Murdoch said the information he was given about the Gordon Taylor case in 2008 was "incomplete" and he was not fully briefed when further allegations were published the next year.

"The full extent of the knowledge within the business or the evidence within the business as well as with the Metropolitan Police was not made clear to me, and that is something that I am very sorry for," he said.

Mr Murdoch told the MPs: "It's important to remember that after the resignation of (former News of the World editor Andy) Coulson in 2007, (then News International chief executive Les) Hinton brought Mr Myler in as an outside person who had a responsibility and a remit to clean up the issue, investigate the issue and move the company and the newspaper forward in a way that made sure that these things couldn't happen again.

"If he had known, which is an if, that there was wider-spread criminality, that there was evidence or sufficient suspicion of that, I think he should have told me of that."

Mr Watson read from a note of a meeting in 2008 between Mr Myler and solicitor Julian Pike to discuss the allegations made by Mr Goodman, who was convicted of phone-hacking.

He quoted Mr Myler saying that Mr Goodman had "sprayed around horrid allegations", adding: "James would say get rid of them, cut out cancer."

Mr Murdoch said: "I think he was worried about raising these issues with me because I would have said get rid of them all and I would have said cut out the cancer - ie people who are suspected of wrongdoing we would pursue, we would hold accountable and that was the way that I would approach it.

"I think it speaks volumes and I think it is also why perhaps I was given a narrower set of facts than I might have liked at the June 10 meeting."

Mr Murdoch acknowledged that he had been made aware of the existence of the "For Neville" email, although not its full contents, when they were discussing the settlement of Mr Taylor's case.

"The so-called 'For Neville' email - now referred to as the 'For Neville' email but not then referred to as the 'For Neville' email - was mentioned to me as evidence that was important with respect of it being a transcript of a voicemail interception that came through, that proved it was on behalf of the News of the World," he said.

"It was not shown to me, nor was it discussed with me its other feature - that it was 'For Neville', and that it might indicate wider-spread knowledge or wider-spread activities of phone hacking."

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