News International chairman James Murdoch has accused former News of the World editor Colin Myler and ex legal chief Tom Crone of misleading MPs when they gave evidence to the Culture Media and Sport committee earlier this year.
Murdoch today insisted that at no point in 2008 or 2009 was he told about the extent of phone-hacking at the newspaper or shown any evidence to suggest widespread criminality on the now defunct title.
Instead he claimed that both Myler and Crone had kept evidence from him – which explained his ‘incomplete’knowledge of the £1.2m settlement with Professional Footballers Association chief Gordon Taylor for breach of privacy in 2008.
Asked who should have told him about the evidence that phone-hacking was more widespread, Murdoch replied: ‘I think it’s important to remember that after the resignation of Mr Coulson in 2007, Mr Hinton brought Mr Myler in as an outside person, who had a responsibility and a remit to both clean up the issue and move the company forward – and the newspaper forward – in a way that made sure these things couldn’t happen again.
‘If he had known, which is an ‘if’, that there was widespread criminality or that there was evidence or sufficient suspicion of that, I should think he should have told me those things.”
He added: ‘On the contrary I was not shown those things in 2008, and in 2009 I received the same assertions about the quality of those investigations and the lack of evidence that this committee received. That’s a matter of regret.”
Murdoch told the committee that he was never shown the ‘For Neville’which implicates other journalists in the scandal, or a memo sent from Crone to Myler in which he acknowledged that ‘our position is very perilous’and described the email as “damning” evidence.
Murdoch also denied being shown a written opinion on the case by Michael Silverleaf QC in which the barrister said there was a ‘powerful case’to show there was a ‘culture of illegal information access used at NGN [News Group Newspapers] in order to produce stories for publication”.
Contradicting evidence they gave to the committee in September, Murdoch insisted that neither Crone or Myler had discussed phone-hacking or allegations of widespread criminality at a meeting held to discuss the Taylor settlement on 10 June 2008
Asked by Labour MP and phone-hacking campaigner Tom Watson whether Crone and Myler had misled MPs, Murdoch replied: ‘I believe their testimony was misleading and I dispute it.”
He added: ‘If I knew then what I know today with respect to the relevant leading counsel’s position and the detail and import of the ‘For Neville’ documents, the company would have acted differently and probably in a way similar to that with which we’ve acted in the last year – to really move as aggressively and determinedly as we can to sort this out and make sure we put it right.’