Thursday 10 November 2011

James Murdoch giving evidence for a second time to the MPs' select committee

james murdoch phone hacking
James Murdoch giving evidence for a second time to the MPs' select committee, during which he claimed News of the World's former editor Tom Myler and lawyer Tom Crone did not tell him about 'widespread criminality' at the newspaper. Photograph: AFP/Getty

James Murdoch has accused the News of the World's former editor and senior lawyer of not telling him about suggestions of wider phone hacking at the newspaper in 2008.


Giving evidence for the second time about the News of the World phone-hacking scandal before MPs on the Commons culture, media and sport committee, Murdoch insisted that the context of the bombshell "for Neville" email was withheld from him by Colin Myler and Tom Crone when they discussed the payout to Gordon Taylor, the Professional Footballers' Association chief, in June 2008.


Murdoch, who oversees the now-defunct News of the World's publisher News International as News Corporation's deputy chief operating officer, told MPs that Crone and Myler had misled parliament with their testimony in the summer.


Crone, the former head of legal at the Sunday red-top, said in a written letter to the committee earlier this week that recently published emails appear to show that Murdoch knew about the "for Neville" email in May 2008 – more than two years before he maintains he was told about widespread hacking at the paper.


"After the resignation of [former News of the World editor Andy] Coulson, [former News International chairman Les] Hinton brought Myler in to clean things up and bring newspaper forward," Murdoch told MPs. "If he had known that there was wider-spread criminality I think he should have told me."


He later insisted that Myler and Crone did not "discuss elements of widespread criminality" with him in the 2008 meetings. He added that previous evidence given to the committee by Crone and Myler was "inconsistent and not right".


Murdoch said: "I've had time to reflect on all of these events and it is appropriate to reflect and to think that the whole company is humbled by this and learn why we couldn't get to grips with it as fast as we would have liked."


In a fractious and detailed line of questioning halfway into the session, Labour MP Tom Watson revealed that he had met the former NoW chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck on Thursday morning immediately before the hearing and he had told him that Crone had intended to show Murdoch the "for Neville" email in May 2008.


The "for Neville" in the subject line of the email in question is believed to refer to Thurlbeck. He maintains that he was not involved in or aware of phone hacking at the News of the World.


Watson quoted Thurlbeck as saying: "This is not some vague memory, I was absolutely on a knife edge. Tom took it to him. The following week I said 'did you show him the email?' He said 'yes I did'. Now he can't remember whether he showed it to Mr Murdoch or not."


Murdoch replied: "I remember what I was told at the time and I was not told at the time."


Ending his questioning, Watson likened News International to the mafia and asked Murdoch whether he had every heard of the phrase "omertà", which means a mafia vow of silence.


An audibly irritated Murdoch replied that he had not. Watson then accused the News Corp executive of being "the first mafia boss in history" who did not know what was going on in his organisation.


Murdoch responded by telling Watson, who has persistently pursued News Corp over the phone-hacking scandal for the past two years, he thought the comment was "inappropriate".