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.

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    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.


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