James Murdoch admitted today that he was aware of an incriminating email transcript in 2008 – but he told MPs he was not made aware of its significance.
Appearing before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee for the second time, News International‘s executive chairman rejected claims by the paper’s former editor, Colin Myler, and legal manager, Tom Crone.
They have contradicted previous evidence given to MPs by Murdoch and said that they met with him in June 2008 to discuss the settlement of Gordon Taylor’s privacy claim against the paper. James Murdoch previously told MPs: “I have no recollection of ‘Thurbeck’ or a ‘For Neville’ email.”
Myler and Crone’s contention is that this email, of hacked mobile phone transcripts, was discussed with Murdoch at the June 2008 meeting. This email appeared to prove that involvement in voicemail interception at the News of the World extended beyond “rogue reporter” Clive Goodman.
Murdoch said: “The meeting, which I remember quite well, was a short meeting, and I was given at that meeting sufficient information to authorise the increase of the settlement offers that had been made. But I was given no more than that.”
He said the “For Neville” email had been important for two reasons, the first of which was that it represented evidence that messages had been transcribed for the News of the World. The second was that it named another journalist working for the newspaper.
“That second part, that importance, was not described to me in detail or at all,” Murdoch said.
“It was not described as the For Neville email, and I want to be very clear. No documents were shown to me at that meeting or were given to me at that meeting.”
Documents released by News International’s former lawyers Farrer & Co last week suggested there was an earlier discussion between Myler and Murdoch, around 27 May 2008, at which the “For Neville” email might have been raised.
A briefing note prepared at the time by Crone said that its discovery left the company in a “very perilous” position.
Murdoch said he could not recall discussing the Gordon Taylor case with Myler before 10 June 2008.
“The first and only substantive meeting or conversation that I recall about the matter was the 10 June meeting with Mr Crone and Mr Myler, although I cannot rule out whether or not he called me or stopped me in the hallway, or something like that, for a brief conversation,” he told MPs.