Phone-hacking committee as-it-happened

Phone-hacking committee questions as-it-happens
Phone-hacking committee questions as-it-happens

Follow today's appearance of key News International employees before the culture, media and sport committee.

By Ian Dunt

10:05 - It's as if the summer never happened. Outside, it's cold and raining. Inside, the phone-hacking scandal is being poked and prodded in parliament, like a... well, probably best not to go down that road. Summer fell on a Tuesday this year, which was nice. The phone-hacking scandal, on the other hand, shows no sign of going away, especially not with a police investigation and independent inquiry set to dominate headlines for the next couple of years at least. Try not to audibly groan. Today, we've got Colin Myler, former editor of News of the World and Tom Crone, former legal manager at the newspaper group. Their testimony could be a killer blow against James Murdoch. You can read my news story on the appearance here. Also giving evidence will be Jonathan Chapman, former director of legal Affairs at News International, and Daniel Cloke, former group HR director. I'm not sure yet whether they will be giving evidence in turn or all at once. The latter option is more likely. The usual disclaimer for proceedings: I will make several typos, not just because of my scant regard for proper spelling and grammar and also because that is the way with live coverage. One somewhat more unusual disclaimer: My computer just crashed, so if there's a lull in proceedings, bear with me and we'll be back up shortly. Kick-off is at 10:30.

10:21 - If you're not quite up to speed on the phone-hacking row, or if you've gotten understandably rusty over the summer, the main item today is the 'for Neville' email, named after News of the World's (NOTW) former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck. That email is alleged to have convinced the legal team that a case against Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association, should be settled out of court. Murdoch said he never saw it, and therefore had no idea phone-hacking was so rife at the newspaper until early this year. But Crone and Myler disagree. It should be very simple today. They sit down, they repeat their statement that he saw the email, the committee concludes that there is a discrepancy between their account and his, and he is recalled to parliament for what could be a devastating evidence session.


10:27 - Parliament's website suggests the two pairs will appear separately, although sometimes these things change. No matter, we'll know in a minute. The split between Myler and Crone on the one hand and the Murdoch clan on the other could prove decisive in the phone-hacking row. Up until the latest phase, News International was solid. It hung one reporter, royal editor Clive Goodman, and one private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, out to dry once they were convicted in 2005. After that it held a strong fort, insisting always on the 'one rogue reporter' line. Once the Milly Dowler revelations came, that strategy fell apart, and more and more individuals were sacrificed to protect the upper echelons of management. Myler and Crone's actions are what happens when you try to pin the blame elsewhere. It will be interesting to see how willing they are to go to war today, or if they limit themselves to their statement, which is incendiary enough frankly.

10:40 - We're off, a little later than expected. Eerie quiet in the room, with Chapman and Cloke up front. All eyes are always on Tom Watson, basically the Braveheart of the phone-hacking controversy, at these things. At the Murdoch grilling, you could basically afford to have switched off after his questioning. John Whittingdale, chair, kicks things off in a standard downbeat style. He rarely looks like he cares about what he's saying, a fine quality for a backbencher. He asks about Goodman's resignation letter to NI, where he suggests phone-hacking was rife and recognised by senior figures, including Andy Coulson. Cloke says that was the first he heard about Goodman's views and about the prevalence of phone-hacking. Cloke says he has his first chat with Crone after the letter.

10:44 - Cloke seems slightly nervous. He says Les Hinton, Murdoch's right wing man, was equally surprised by the letter. Did Cloke not ask Crone why it hadn't been raised before. No, Cloke answers. Crone said it was also a surprise. So according to Cloke no-one but Goodman was aware of the culture he was describing. We move on to snowy-haired Chapman. He maintains that he conducted a thorough exercise on the company to check for phone-hacking and they passed on files to their legal firm Harbottle & Lewis (H&L). He says he can't recollect individual emails. This took place in 2007. Did he see anything suggesting illegal activity after assessing company emails? Chapman says nothing indicated reasonable evidence of phone-hacking.

10:50 - Chapman is relying extensively on his "brief at the time" - phone-hacking in relation to Goodman's appeal. He wavers while discussing other crimes, such as payments to police etc, which he wasn't looking for. He says he can't recall anything - a wonderful legally important phrase. "To my recollection as we sit here today there was nothing that gave me cause for concern," he says. Louise Mensch, yes that one, starts questioning the men. Did Hinton express shock and dismay when they discovered the allegations made in the Goodman letter? Yes, Cloke says, but he never suggested passing it further up the chain (i.e. to James or Rupert Murdoch). Chapman also says he didn't recall that. One doesn't have to be cynical to find their expression of shock at the Goodman letter difficult to believe.

10:54 - Cloke says the emails picked to review were between set individuals between set dates - those were the search parameters set by Goodman for his employment appeal. If you want to see more details of the Goodman letter, which triggered this review and left NI's legal defence in pieces, click here. Mensch asks if the men ever talked to low-level legal managers about concerns over phone-hacking. Chapman says these people would have come under Crone's umbrella. Cloke says it was an employment matter. Mensch says it was an obvious line of inquiry for them to pursue, pointedly. She does her best impression of pointedly, anyway.

10:58 - Interesting passage from Chapman, who says he wanted to broaden the H&L legal advice and they wanted to narrow it (to limit liability). They won that battle, he admits, although obviously it's been blown open pretty broad since then. Cloke is asked about a quote he gave saying there was good news following the H&L conclusion - "no smoking gun or silver bullet". Clone says he can't remember saying that. He adds that yes, there was nothing too disastrous but allegations on both sides were left unproven. Lots of "can't recall" going on today. Clone says this was an issue where one person was making allegations. They interviewed those people, passed on information to a third party and then thought that was a satisfactory conclusion to take. MPs express amazement that nothing further was brought up with Hinton. Cloke repeats his view on having "covered the bases".

11:10 - Stoney-faced refusal to answer questions is the name of the day here. A series of questions on why they didn't look beyond the employment review to suspicions of other illegal activities go nowhere. Cloke makes his covering the bases response for what, I think, is the fourth time. "You keep talking about the Goodman case, everyone understands that, but outside the very, very narrow remit, if there were other things in those emails, they were set outside and nothing was ever done about that," the two NI men are told. Lots of frowns on the MPs' side. It's like a wall of frowns. "I can only refer you to the answer I gave earlier," Clone replies. While typing that he's said it another two times.

11:14 - Dr Thérèse Coffey, who is dressed as badly as any human could possibly dress, is now asking questions. This is a masterclass in trying not to incriminate yourself. Coffey says Cloke decided what would be looked at in the Goodman review. Cloke says he looked at the letter and described the documents (set emails between particular people between particular times). Coffey is alluding to why Mulcaire emails were left off. Cloke says Myler's team looked at invoice payments, if he remembers correctly. He suggests it was a "fishing expedition" from Goodman. Of course, HR bosses at a firm will be keen to disprove a letter as damaging as Goodman's, but Clone makes it pretty obvious he didn't want the allegations to be substantiated.

11:20 - Philip Davies (Con, looks like GP) starts his questioning. Clone is concentrating supremely hard. Who advised to pay legal costs for Goodman, a man brining the company to shame. He's told that's a question for Crone. Davies says they already asked him in 2009, and he said he didn't know. It's extraordinary to pay one of the most expensive lawyers in the country to represent Goodman legal fees and that the HR manager has no role in allowing it, the Tory MP suggests. Davies goes over the story. Goodman is dismissed. Hinton sends a letter saying basically he was a good egg for the company and even though NI didn't have to, it would pay a year's salary - about £90,000. Who decided that was a good idea? Guess what, Cloke says that question should go elsewhere. Hinton said it was on compassionate grounds, Chapman says. "It could be said on the outside to be a strange thing to do," he admits. "Viewed externally it looks strange." Davies is doing well here, much better than usual. If Goodman had pursued his case to tribunal and won it, how much could he have won, he asks? About £60,000, Chapman says. It's "Bizarre in the extreme for a layman like me", Davies says, that if the employment tribunal would have only paid £60,000, not to defend themselves but to pay him off for £140,000, after finding no basis for his allegations.

11:28 - Chapman says they didn't take this decision - Hilton did. The Murdoch's, by the way, said otherwise. He says it was a "pragmatic business decision" to stop people washing their laundry in public. Even if unfounded allegations are made in the context of a tribunal, some believe them. "You paid a quarter of a million pounds to a man for committing a criminal offence," Davies suggests. Chapman says the £90,000 was not part of the settlement.

11:32 - The other £140,000 was notice (i.e. another year's salary) and extras. It was reasonable settlement, Chapman says. At what level would you have taken it to tribunal? Chapman says "not much further". Gripping exchange there, things have become considerably livelier. "I said this was as good as we're probably going to get," Chapman adds. Davies said this was about covering things up. Chapman basically said as much. "We were trying to stop the reputational effect of a tribunal claim," Chapman replies.

11:36 - Myler and Crone would have known a settlement was reached, although possibly not the exact amount, Cloke says. That just about abides by what they told the committee - that they didn't know the amount. Cathy Jamieson (Lab, considerably Scottish) takes over questioning. She focuses on this discrepancy: That Murdoch said Cloke and Chapman authorised the Goodman payouts - but both deny it. What was the amount Chapman could negotiate up to in the payment to Goodman? He mimics his earlier answer. Adrian Sanders (Lib Dem, Harry Potter character) gets one question, but I wasn't paying attention. Jim Sheridan (Lab, bruiser) says he used to work in employment tribunals, says he would have thought you were drunk if you paid someone more than two years salary after they broke the law. Would they have done the same for the cleaner?

11:45 - Chapman is asked if he would expect two year's salary if he broke the law. He says he wouldn't, because the editorial side was more like a family - they took care of each other - unlike the commercial arm. Sheridan suggests that there's little worry about politicians' families when editorial goes about their work. Heh. Chapman appears competent and precise, but it's hard to escape the sense they're busy protecting themselves here. They, like the two men who will follow them, are victims of the Murdoch's and H&L's desperate need to protect themselves. These two are like those Roman troops with the shields up. Sheriden suggests it was crazy that the email went on without senior management knowing about it. Chapman says Hinton knew.

11:49 - There's plenty of mirth from journalists on Twitter about the idea that newspapers are like a family. Yes, if your family is hateful and perpetually angry that may be true. Everyone shut up - Tom Watson is on. Chapman says the CFO (chief financial officer) would have been aware of the review. Who was Myler's team looking at invoice payments? Cloke isn't sure. Watson asks about Chapman saying he was "trying it on" on the H&L conclusion. Did he follow it up? Chapman says any communication was set out in the documents. "I think Mr Murdoch didn't have his facts right, he hadn't been briefed properly," Chapman admits. Watson: "Do you think he was wrong?" Chapman tries to evade. Watson: "Answer the question. Was he wrong?" Chapman: "Yes he was wrong."

11:54 - And with that, the two men are sent off. That last section pretty much guaranteed James Murdoch's appearance.

11:58 - And now we're on Myler and Crone. Whittingdale reminds Crone about the Neville email. Defensive body langauge from the legal manager. "We did not underestimate or mislead you in any way about the importance of that email," he says. Whittingdale asks if that's evidence phone-hacking went beyond Clive Goodman. Crone agrees. "Listen, it was the reason we had to settle the case, and to do that we needed to get Mr Murdoch's authority to settle."There's no record of the conversation, which lasted less than 15 minutes. Given it was so significant a piece of information, surely you would have shown it to Murdoch, Whittingdale suggests. Crone says no. He had to sign a written undertaking saying he couldn't make a copy of the document. Whittingdale says even the committee received a redacted version. "I can't remember whether I showed it to him or not," Crone says.

12:03 - The chair turns to the Goodman letter. He says the grounds for appeal were unsurprising, because Crone had been at all the Goodman legal meetings. Crone says he was still surprised by the letter. It was not true that Crone was at all the meetings, he insists - just one, and then on another occasion for a part of the meeting. "It's also wrong that I ever heard him say anything about anyone else doing it, about it being common practise. Nor, was it put forward in court," Crone says. Combative and cautious performance.

12:06 - Now he's asked about Goodman's allegation he was promised his job back if he didn't incriminate the company. Crone says that was categorically untrue. Myler agrees, saying they was no suggestion he would be re-hired. Crone says Coulson was hoping to persuade the company that Goodman could come back in a non-reporting capacity, perhaps as a sub-editor. It could stem from that. "This was entirely Andy Coulson feeling sorry for Goodman," Whittingdale asks. One of the phrases Crone remembers is Coulson saying "I'm hoping to convince Les [Hinton]". Crone says: "I felt quite sorry for Goodman actually." He believed the company might have relented and taken him back. Watson is on.

12:10 - When did you think Goodman was guilty? At the second meeting, when he said he would plead guilty. A 'part 36 offer' can settle litigation, Watson says. That says that he pays both sides' costs if he wins. So to refuse that offer it means he could pay hundreds of thousands in costs even if he wins. When you met with Murdoch in June 2008 the highest award for privacy was £60,000 in a British court. That was the basis that NI was advised to offer £50,000. Crone says he can't remember offering £50,000. That was rejected, so they offered £100,000 plus costs by way of part 36. Crone says he can't remember, but that it sounds right. "Are you not familiar with the Taylor case, Mr Crone?" Watson says. Electric stuff. Crone says his last active involvement was 2007. He last reviewed the file in 2009. "What on earth were you doing for two years - the entire focus on public inquiry has been on the Taylor payment? Are you seriously telling me you haven't reviewed that file for two years?" Watson says. He argues that if they settled with part 36 the details of the case would not necessarily have remained secret. You can see where he's going here.

12:17 - The context of the Taylor case was that during sentencing of Goodman and Mulcaire, five more charges were levelled against the latter - Taylor was one of them. Mulcaire pleaded guilty to all five. Only one of the five pursued civil proceedings - Taylor. Crone says his job was to manage litigation in a cost effective manner. Part of that is that if you can avoid litigation, you should. If it went public with Taylor, the other four could come. So if they paid a lot to Taylor to settle one case that was a sensible course of action because it avoided four more lawsuits. Watson says that in 2009, at this committee, he categorically denied confidentiality was a motivation. "Would you accept you misled the committee in 2009?" Crone: "Not without seeing the exchange. He is handed them and asked to read them out. "Secret is not the word I'd use," Crone says.

12:21 - Watson basically shouts at him to stop talking. "Are you misleading us now," Watson asks. "I think there is a difference between secrecy and confidentiality," Crone replies. Watson says they paid the Taylor settlement to conceal widespread lawbreaking at NOTW. "When you went to Mr Murdoch and raise this matter did you explain a relatively modest part 36 offer could settle the case?" Watson asks. Crone evades furiously. "At the time you knew Goodman was not a lone rogue reporter because you'd seen the 'for Neville' email didn't you," Watson asks. "Yes, because I'd seen the email," Crone replies. He says he informed Murdoch of the email. Murdoch knew a member of staff transcribed an intercepted message, Watson concludes. Did they apply the company's zero-tolerance attitude to wrongdoing? "None of you do anything about it, including James Murdoch?" Watson says.

12:26 - Why did Murdoch agree to settle? That was his advice from himself (Crone) and outside lawyers. "And why did he agree to settle for so much money?" Watson says. "In order to get out the case," says Crone. "The imperative at that time was to settle the case, get rid of it, contain the situation and get on with our business." Watson says settling at that value would keep the 'for Neville' email private. "There's nothing covering up," Crone insists. "It was a Met police document. How can we be accused of covering up something that has reached us from the police?" Watson says Chapman says a confidentiality clause wouldn't have stood up against a criminal investigation. Crone repeats that the document came from the police. "It's not as if it hasn't been looked at," Crone says. Watson insists that if a crime had been committed Taylor's lawyers couldn't keep them to a confidentiality clause. Surely he knew that as a media lawyer.

12:30 - Watson is absolutely clearing up here; it's a tour-de-force. Does Crone admit he lied when he says he investigated and was satisfied with the answers he got (from H&L etc). Crone: "The chairman has suggested we lied too. You, Mr Watson say it on frequent occasions. You say this is devastating evidence of a cover up. It wasn't contradiction in any way shape or form. We did not contradict ourselves when we put out our evidence." Whittingdale reminds him he said there was no evidence that anyone but Goodman was involved. Very tense atmosphere. "It's not remotely surprising we paid for Clive Goodman's lawyers. You're certainly going to start off by providing a legal representation, that's the proper and right thing to do." Watson: "Was it right to pay him in prison, after he'd been found guilty in a court... after hacking into the voicemails of the royal family. What's your view of that?" Crone: "My view's irrelevant. Watson says that he thought it was normal conduct and wanted to conceal the crime. Crone keeps repeating "not true". This is like a Hollywood film. Watson again insists Murdoch agrees the Goodman payment to keep it all under wraps. He presses hard.

12:35 - How much did you receive in your package terminating your employment, Watson asks. Crone says he's expecting a package but hasn't got it yet. There's a 90 day consultation period. Watson frantically tries to see if Crone is preventing saying anything due to an NI contract, but not getting anywhere. Jonathan Rees comes up. Watson asks if he knew about his surveillance activity. The shotgun questions continue with a new one every five seconds. Crone's answer to everything is "no". Watson: Why did you tell the committee the legal team had conducted a thorough investigation when they say they didn't do an investigation into phone-hacking at all? Crone: They were instructed to liaise with police. They were actively involved in that role throughout the period until late autumn. More questions. Crone says he never met Glenn Mulcaire. He never met his lawyers. Did he advise them on disclosure? No, Crone says. "Did you ever order surveillance?" Watson asks. Long pause. "No I don't think I did actually," Crone replies. Suddenly he changes his mind. "I may have in litigation, probably did in fact." This was before the last few years. "It's not unusual for lawyers to use private investigators." More shotgun questions from Watson. Did he advise Goodman to plead guilty? No, Crone, says. And with that Watson ends his questioning. Phew.

12:43 - Well that was pretty gripping stuff, better really than anything in the Murdoch session. Myler has said nothing. Crone is getting it full on. We must keep our sceptics' hats on, of course, but in the mean time, if someone could find a way of cloning Watson we could have an excellent select committee system.

12:45 - Crone tries to pass on the pain. "Mr Myler was there as well, perhaps he can help." Exasperated MPs tell Crone that he's being very vague about seemingly simple issues. On Murdoch's part there should have been no ambiguity that wrongdoing extended beyond Clive Goodman - is that true? Crone says he can't explain on Murdoch's part. Myler speaks! There was no ambiguity about the document police handed to Taylor's legal team," Myler admits. The choices were settle or fight and fighting meant going to trial. Myler won't say it was clear to Murdoch, but says "it was certainly clear to other people". Surely there was no wrong for ambiguity, given it suggested widespread law breaking in the company. There are two issues - settling the case, or what settling it meant for the company. Neither of the men has made it clear that they made the wider implications clear. Myler: "Murdoch was chief executive of the company. Everybody perfectly understood the signficance of what we were discussing." That should clinch it. It's really too late for Murdoch, anyway. Here's Crone quote from earlier: "I told him about the document and the effect of that document clearly is it goes beyond Clive Goodman."

12:52 - In hindsight we know how "devastating" the evidence the police had was, Myler says. More buck passing. It's funny how robust everyone's language becomes when they're discussing other people's failures in this. He really lays it on the police, saying they chose not to interview anyone. "I am a journalist, I am not a detective and I am not a lawyer I would have assumed that... if you remember the phrase Andy Hayman said - 'no stone was left unturned'. That wasn't the case... by some measure. I did what I thought I had to do and I did what I did." He then moves on to Goodman, saying his appeal against dismissal was bizarre, given what he'd done. He said there was no evidence of the allegations, however, even if it now appears some of them were true.

13:03 - Isn't it extraordinary that everyone understood the significance of what Murdoch was told but it was never discussed again? Myler: "The responsibility regarding the corporate governance of a company goes beyond my pay grade. An editor's life is a bit like a football manager's job. You stay when you perform and you go when you don't." We're back to Cathy Jamieson.

13:06 - She didn't reveal anything interesting except for her own inability. We're back on Philip Davies. He suggests the outside advice to Crone was to pay up to £250,000 to Taylor. Crone says the advice was to settle and to go for the best figure available. He reminds Crone that he told the committee in 2009 that if it went to court, it could have cost more - that wasn't true. It was, Crone says. The court costs ruin you even if damages are low. Sounds entirely believable. Davies moves on to the for Neville email meeting with Murdoch. "I can't imagine how you could go through all that and the implications of it in less than 15 minutes," he says. Crone has nothing to add. Now we're on the Goodman payments. "What you didn't tell us in 2009 but admit now is that you authorised that the Goodman fees for News International," Davies says. "You should have a re-read," Crone says. "Maybe you should too," Davies replies. They both eye each other nastily. Who authorised your decision to pay the legal fees, Davies asks. Crone says he can't remember - it might have been Coulson.

13:17 - As far as you're aware, Coulson and Hinton knew about the legal fees up until the court case? Basically, yes, Crone replies. Myler says he, for one, was unaware of any financial payment between Goodman and the company. He sat for the appeal as the editor because he had to, he says. "Whatever action was taken, all I know was that Mr Cloke said to me: 'Good news, there's no smoking gun or silver bullet in the emails'. I remember that quire clearly. It's not something I would have said if I did not recall it." Why wasn't he more inquisitive, Davies asks? "If I have fallen short I will take responsibility for that and you will not find me falling short in any kind of humility," Myler adds. I'm not sure what that means. He says his job was to change the culture and systems in the paper - to "get it back on track".

13:21 - Davies says that in 2009 Myler said there was no evidence against the one rogue reporter theory. Today, he says the 'for Neville' email showed exactly that. Those statements are contradictory. Myler said the police had the evidence, which is irrelevant. We're now back with Thérèse Coffey. She gets in a strop with Myler, who insists on expanding on why he never saw the Goodman related emails. She asks if he undertook any review of invoices as mentioned by Chapman. Myler said he took on a wider review, reducing cash payments. The appeal process had no investigation of invoices then, Coffey suggests. "I'm taking away from today that you, or someone working for you, did not look at specific invoices," she says. "I don't recall any financial transactions that were being investigated but if we went back to any notes at the time I think we can clarify that. If that was asked of me it would have been done."

13:30 - They're back on the for Neville email. I don't really see the point, unless they want to make them slip up. There's more than enough to get Murdoch back now. It's been made clear. "There were just three of you at the meeting and the purpose was to say the emails been revealed, we don't believe there's a point in defending the case, we should settle," Coffey summarises, pointlessly. She says she's confused about why he had not previously mentioned that the email also meant that the phone-hacking was more widespread. Was there a discussion about people beyond Goodman and Mulcaire. "There was not a discussion about anyone else," Myler replies. She now suggests to Crone that he felt more things were discussed at that meeting. "The meeting was all about settling the case." He says the Goodman charge related just to Mulcaire, not Goodman. The for Neville email in spring 2008 settled that. Crone is asked what other actions he was involved in - Sienna Miller and all that. He was until about three months ago. Whittingdale picks it up. "You accepted it was a genuine email and implicated a junior reporter," he says. Crone says yes.

13:37 - We're back with Mensch. Did the email reveal there were "two rogue reporters" or simply that phone-hacking was widespread? Crone says it implicated the NOTW and Gordon Taylor without any doubt. Mensch: So it proved the paper as a corporate body had knowledge, but did it prove that there were many reporters? No, Crone says, just that it went through a junior reporter - and that that junior reporter was not alone, because they were being told transcribe it. Whittingdale says it suggests Neville Thurlbeck, a senior reporter knew, because his name was on the top of the email. Yes, Crone says, but Thurlbeck doesn't accept that.

13:42 - Interesting stuff from Mensch, who shows that a Milly Dowler story was pulled after the first edition. The story concentrates on voice mails. Mensch wants to know who the lawyer was who recommended it was spiked. Crone says he doesn't know, so a committee member hands him the reports. As the two men read them, Mensch says both journalists with by-lines on it say they have no idea about it. For his part, Crone says he has no memory of giving that advice. "I can only remember to the best of my advice. I absolutely promise you I can't remember that particular story." Mensch: "You will forgive me if I put it to you that since this is the murder victim Milly Dowler it is not credible you don't remember. Crone: "I'm quite aware of how serious this is. I have no recollection of advising on that story." Mensch says if it wasn't him it must be another lawyer. Crone says that's not necessarily true. It could have been a police source. The detail suggests it's a police briefing. What could have happened is that the police see the first edition and call up to stop it.

13:49 - Mensch is suggesting that the police leak would have been given "word-for-word" is nonsense. Whittingdale suggests this is now speculation. Mensch turns to Crone. "Your evidence [on the 'for Neville' email meeting] has been as clear as mud on this point."The MPs' problem is that the men have been so vague that a decisive response from Murdoch will get him out of trouble. I think they've been clear enough to avoid that eventuality, but I can see why Mensch is being extra-cautious. "Did he [Murdoch] say 'clearly this has been more widespread we must do something about it'?" Mensch asks. "I would take it that he understood, for the first time he realised the News of the World was involved and that involved people beyond Clive Goodman," Crone says. Mensch: "Would you admit your credibility has been damaged by the question my colleague Tom Watson asked you [on secrecy]." Crone says it was all clear. "Of course it was a factor and we've never hidden that but it wasn't secrecy." Mensch: "Seems contradictory to me."

13:56 - Watson again. He asks if Crone saw dossiers on the private lives of claimant lawyers. He says he has. Absolute silence in the room. Watson says he avoided that answer in his last round of questions and has now been accurate. Crone says it was a freelance journalist who wrote it for NI. Who commissioned it? "I don't think we should do that because of the police investigation," Crone says, but he clearly knows. Is Crone aware of civil cases with computers or others using tracking devices? Crone says no to both.

14:02 - And with that, the session ends. Three and half hours later, my fingers feel somewhat bruised. Thanks for sticking with us. We'll get a news story up for you in a moment. It is inconceivable to think that Murdoch won't be called back now. He doesn't have to appear - he's not a UK citizen - but to refuse would be politically suicidal. It would also be foolish: not enough has been said to ruin him, only enough to cast serious doubt on his version of events. He will have to be careful, but Murdoch can still get out of this.
 

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