A year on from hacking trial verdict, has Rupert Murdoch avoided predicted police questioning? - Press Gazette

A year on from hacking trial verdict, has Rupert Murdoch avoided predicted police questioning?

A year on from the hacking trial, both News Corp and Scotland Yard have declined to comment on whether or not Rupert Murdoch has yet been questioned by police.

On 25 June last year, The Guardian reported that News Corp chairman Murdoch had been informed by Scotland Yard that detectives wanted to interview him as a suspect under caution.

It reported that detectives first sought to interview Murdoch in 2013, but they agreed to await the conclusion of the hacking trial – which saw former News of the World editor Andy Coulson jailed.

It was reported that the interview was expected to take place “in the near future” and that James Murdoch (formerly head of News Corp in Europe) could also be questioned.

Press Gazette understands that Murdoch’s lawyers wrote a letter of complaint to Scotland Yard shortly after The Guardian story appeared.

The Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards then began a scoping exercise to  establish whether or not the story came to The Guardian from Scotland Yard.

This was a precursor to a formal leak inquiry.

The DPS emailed The Guardian journalist who wrote the story, Nick Davies, in August.

But after Guardian lawyers declined to agree to a meeting between Davies and detectives to discuss his sources the matter was apparently dropped.

Press Gazette asked the Met Police if it has yet questioned Murdoch senior.

A Met Police spokesperson would only say that "investigations are ongoing" with regard to the allegations of corporate criminality at News International.

News Corp declined to comment on whether or not Murdoch has been questioned.

A number of journalists have been questioned under caution as part of the Met Police inquiry into payments to public officials without any information being made public.

One well-placed source (who declined to be named) said: “I can’t believe that Rupert Murdoch could have been interviewed under caution at a police station somewhere in London, taken into custody with a solicitor, without that coming out. I would be astonished if he had been.”

Since the hacking scandal erupted in July 2011, nine News International/News UK journalists have been convicted of crimes relating to their work. Seven former News of the World journalists have been convicted of phone-hacking. And at The Sun, one journalist has been convicted of handling a stolen mobile phone and one of making illegal payments to a police officer.

Sun reporter Anthony France was found guilty last month of aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office after the paper paid a police officer £22,000 for stories.

Judge Timothy Pontius said: “I think the defendant’s employer bears a measure of responsibility for the structure and system under which Mr France worked.”

And defence barrister Adrian Keeling said: “If there was a wrong culture [at The Sun] it was not of Mr France’s making. It was created by others for their benefit and sustained by others for their benefit.”

He said that the “whole management structure” of The Sun was involved in setting that culture.

He said: “There’s a sense that Mr France, who held the most junior full-time job it's possible to hold at The Sun, now stands to be punished for a system that was not of his creation of which he personally stood to gain very little.”

In February, News Corp was told by the US Department of Justice that it would not be facing a corporate prosecution in America over phone-hacking and payments to public officials in the UK.

Like News UK, Trinity Mirror is also being investigated by the Met Police and could also face a corporate prosecution for involvement in phone-hacking.



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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette