Phone hacking: Murdochs savaged by Harbottle


Goodman letter alleges hacking 'widely discussed' at NoW

Harbottle & Lewis, the media law firm, has launched a withering attack on News International and the Murdochs in written evidence it has given to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

News International and the Murdochs have said they relied on the advice of Harbottle & Lewis in their failure to investigate the full exent of alleged criminal behaviour at the News of the World till this year.

But Harbottle says that for a fee of £10,000 it provided very narrow advice in a letter on whether the News of the World's royal editor Clive Goodman, who was dismissed after being found guilty of phone hacking, could make credible allegations in an employment tribunal that phone hacking was widespread at the now closed Sunday tabloid.

Harbottle says this letter was never supposed to be published or given to the Culture, Media and Sport committee - which happened in 2009/10 - to reinforce News International's claims (of the time) that it had identified and dealt with limited examples of wrongdoing at the News of the World.

Harbottle says it had no access to witnesses and saw very few documents.

It therefore rejects the assertion by James Murdoch, the chairman of News International, that News International relied on or "rested on" Harbottle's work for his and News International's mistaken belief that Mr Goodman was a lone rogue reporter.

Update, 14:49: What is also embarrassing for the Murdochs is that Jon Chapman, the former director of legal affairs at News International, has corroborated Harbottle & Lewis's contention that its now famous letter that says it could not find evidence of widespread phone hacking at the News of the World was not based on a general inquiry or investigation into the issue of voicemail interception at the News of the World.

Robert Peston: "The letter written by Clive Goodman is one of the most remarkable smoking guns that has emerged about a company that I've come across in my career."

Mr Chapman says: "to characterise and hold it out as such now, and to refer to it on several occasions in the same context as a major police investigation and an inquiry by a regulatory body" - which is what James Murdoch did in his evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee - "seems to me to be very misleading".

But for News International and its parent company, News Corporation, the most devastating evidence published today is the letter written on 2 March 2007 by Clive Goodman to Daniel Cloke, News International's human resources director, in which Mr Goodman says that "other members of staff were carrying out the same illegal procedures [as he was]", and that phone hacking was "widely discussed in the daily editorial conference until explicit reference to it was banned by the editor".

And then there is this explosive claim by Mr Goodman: "Tom Crone and the Editor promised on many occasions that I could come back to a job at the newspaper if I did not implicate the paper or any of its staff in my mitigation pleas [in the criminal trial]".

Update, 18:40: Clive Goodman was jailed in January 2007 and News International wanted to sack him for alleged gross misconduct.

So why did it pay Mr Goodman £244,000 after he left the company (in two instalments: £90,502.08 in April 2007 and £153,000 between October and December 2007, of which £13,000 was for his legal fees)?

News Corporation sources tell me Mr Goodman's pay at the time of his imprisonment was circa £90,000.

Robert Peston Article written by Robert Peston Robert Peston Economics editor

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  • Comment number 203.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    By the time this all unravels Cameron will have to go, probably by the end of the year, then Hague will take over on a temp basis until a new General Election in May 2012.


  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    lawyers only do what the client asks them to do
    If you ask them to look at documents in-relation to wrong-full dismissal charge then that is what they will do and as far as any thing else go's they are required to keep quite on what else is in the documents
    all Business know that and it is a easy way to hide information from the law

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    SH 195

    It`s not summary justice is it.On the other hand the longer Akers stays her hand the more evidence is uncovered and the more secure any convictions become.

    Akers is straight and shrewd.She knows these characters have friends and resources.If she charges them and fails to get a conviction their friends will turn on her.She has to play a long game.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.


    Yates and Hayman were accused of inaction over phone hacking which is not a chargeable offence

    The parliamentary committee said Yates closed the file on phone hacking without proper scrutiny,previously Hayman`s investigation was "flawed" and he was dining with NI executives while carrying it out.

    Delighted they were exonerated by the IPCC.,English justice at its best.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    feedbackloop @190
    Bit of an Idea...
    Fairness learned: from personal reward in proportionate to effort, reward for all in proportion to effort, recognition that sustenance cannot be left to chance for self or others, recognition that 'competitive games' of effort or luck are rarely 'fair'...
    At day's end, 'labourer is worthy of hire': society shares-out work, & should not penalise for difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    the ipcc is the most discredited organisation in the uk, a farce.
    the inquery into police corruption is what matters.
    the government has appeaed a judges order to open government files on the hilsborough disaster - they are not i9nterested in justice or openess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    The former Metropolitan Police commissioner has been cleared of misconduct in his handling of the phone hacking inquiry by the police watchdog.

    The Independent Police Complaints Commission said Sir Paul Stephenson had not committed any criminal acts.

    Sir Paul said the outcome was 'as he would have expected it to be'

    As the whole country would have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    strange how a couple of blokes can be arrested interview taken to court and sentenced to 4 years within one week but the hackers get two and three days notice of arrest, anda three month wait before a court date.
    this is the kind of double standards the cause discontent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    re cameron and coulson
    its only just begun, perhaps andy has been using a camcorder.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.


    Both government and Murdoch wished to avoid the fit person test.

    My interest is how far NI leads into the political class with Coulson in Downing Street,BSkyB on the table,political support for the Tory government and a police force quiescent in the face of illegality.

    Cameron downplayed the scandal,then tried to refuse an enquiry.Must be more that loyalty to Coulson.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    Seems the solicitors Harbottle and Lewis, at the very least, produced a fraudulent document for a tribunal hearing so the employee couldn't challenge his dismissal. How many other law firms bow to such pressure from the big companies, and fight against employees who they know can't afford to fight back. Shameful.

  • Comment number 191.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    180 All for All - those who have managed to secure a level of economic prosperity usually want to conserve it and those that havent (or their representatives) wish to progress towards it - often by re-distributing the wealth of the first lot. These are the basics of conservative/progressive politics. Isnt dressing this conflict with morality, 'fairness' etc a bit of an abstraction ?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    The banks get us into £2,000,000,000,000 of debt and the culprits keep their jobs and perks. Thats robbing each man, woman and child in this country of £33,000, what is the penalty for that crime?

  • Comment number 188.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    #132 FBL - Actually tapping of MPs is all important in the inability and/or willingness of successive governments to take on Murdoch and insist that justice be done. It took a coalition government in its infancy with insufficient controls on the levers of power to prevent the truth emerging.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    129 FBL "The japanese can still do some good sackcloth and ashes - but its much less fashionable west of eden these days."

    Except when it comes to the Chinese anyway...

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    "101 BluesBerry

    Why is it that rich elite fight shamelessly when backed into a corner?"

    To hide the full extent of their crimes. Because if they admitted they did this as the truth, they would be scorned at their numerous dinner parties, because the savagery of the excesses of capitalism would be revealed, because in enjoying power, they know the full extent of what they will be losing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Genuine error. of course!

    @180 "Nasty, brutish, and short"

    Due optician (british?) this morning!


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