War of attrition: Phone-hacking scandal begins new phase

Police outside the News International offices in east London. What weren't they told?
Police outside the News International offices in east London. What weren't they told? Photo: 2011 AFP

By Alex Stevenson

Attempts to disprove the evidence given by Rupert and James Murdoch last week are seeing the phone-hacking scandal enter a new phase this week.

The News Corporation chairman and his son have insisted they did not know that phone-hacking was widespread at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid.

Attention is now focusing on News International's lawyers and what they did - and did not - communicate to police officers investigating at the time.

The Guardian newspaper said it had seen a letter which undermined News International's repeated claim that it cooperate with police during the 2006 investigation into private investigator Glenn Mulcaire's links with News of the World journalists.

It quoted a letter from BCL Burton Copeland, dated September 14th 2006, which stated: "Very little documentary or other material in relation to Mr Mulcaire, Nine Consultancy Limited [Mulcaire's company] or Mr Goodman exists.

"This is entirely consistent with normal business practices in relation to the use of such consultants."

The lawyers insisted "extensive searches" had taken place before adding: "No documents exist recording any work completed by Mr Mulcaire, monitoring of Mr Mulcaire's return of work, reporting structures or any persons for whom Mr Mulcaire provided information."

The Guardian said the tabloid had an agreement to pay 'Paul Williams', a pseudonym of Mulcaire, in their possession.

Long summer of scrutiny

Parliament has risen for the long summer recess, but the home affairs committee is continuing its probe into allegations of phone-hacking at the News of the World.

News International's law firm, Harbottle & Lewis, have named the lawyer who originally advised the Murdochs' company.

Committee chair Keith Vaz has responded by requesting that they disclose the advice and the News International emails they were asked to examine in 2007.

"The evidence taken by the committee has raised significant questions," Mr Vaz said.

"We must ensure all avenues of inquiry are followed through."

Rupert Murdoch faced criticism from Sir Hugh Orde, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, at the weekend.

"What we have seen over the last few days is police officers standing up, explaining their actions and decisions and being held to account for them," he wrote in Jane's Police Review.

"Across the country, in serving our communities, police officers expect to have to do no less. It is a stark contrast to the way in which others have sought to meet their responsibilities."

He clarified his point on BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show, highlighting Metropolitan police commissioner's decision to take responsibility by resigning.

"Compare that to Rupert Murdoch – complete denial of any responsibility of his organisation," Sir Hugh added.


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