James Murdoch back in hot seat after email release

Nov 2, 2011
The Mole

News International execs were warned by counsel about phone hacking culture in June 2008

JAMES MURDOCH will be asked to explain contradictions in his evidence to the Commons culture committee when he appears next week, according to the committee's chairman, John Whittingdale

And that is putting it mildly. The MPs are frankly furious at the way they have been treated - to use a term ruled "unparliamentary" last week by Speaker Bercow - as a bunch of mugs by Murdoch Jnr and his father Rupert.

The cause of their fury is an internal e-mail, written in the summer of 2008, which shows that senior senior executives at News International were warned by their own barrister that there was "overwhelming evidence of a number of senior ... journalists" being involved at the company in "a culture of illegal information access" techniques (i.e. phone hacking) contrary to claims by the Murdochs that they knew nothing.

The memo was one of a number of documents made public for the first time without warning by the committee late yesterday, catching many Westminster hacks off guard.

The phone-hacking warning was included in a legal opinion prepared by Michael Silverleaf QC, News International's counsel, for the News of the World's legal officer, Tom Crone, on 3 June 2008 and handed to the committee by the company's former legal advisers Farrer & Co.

In his legal opinion, Silverleaf said there was "overwhelming evidence" of the involvement of "at least three" journalists in repeated attempts to access private information relating to Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association.

Greg Miskiw, a former news editor at the paper, and Ross Hindley, a reporter, were named by Silverleaf as being apparently "intimately involved". A third name given by Silverleaf is redacted.

Silverleaf also cautioned that it would be "extremely damaging" to the publisher's public reputation if the information were ever to reach court as part of a legal action brought by Taylor.

The Guardian reports today that News International claims James Murdoch did not see Silverleaf's opinion.

That will not stop members of the culture committee piling the questions on Murdoch Jnr next week. As Channel 4's Michael Crick said last night, James will be asked what did he know and when did he know it.

At this rate, how long will it be before someone in management at News International is asked what is his or her favourite brand of porridge?

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