Hacking 'discussed' at News of the World, Clive Goodman letter says

John Whittingdale and Tom Watson on why they may need to speak to James Murdoch again

A letter from a journalist jailed for phone hacking, which alleges senior News of the World figures knew what was going on, has been released by MPs.

Former royal editor Clive Goodman wrote the letter to News International as he appealed against his dismissal in 2007.

Mr Goodman said hacking was "widely discussed" at the paper and that he had been promised his job back if he did not implicate it in court.

In a separate move, the Commons culture committee may recall James Murdoch.

'Constructive and open'

Committee chairman, Tory MP John Whittingdale, said that it might recall Mr Murdoch to give further evidence because it needed to ask more questions on what he knew about hacking.

Other former News International executives are already expecting to be called to give evidence to MPs in September.

Responding to the release of Goodman's letter, a News International spokesman said: "We recognise the seriousness of materials disclosed to the police and Parliament and are committed to working in a constructive and open way with all the relevant authorities."

Start Quote

Clive Goodman

The editor promised on many occasions that I could come back to a job at the newspaper if I did not implicate the paper”

End Quote Clive Goodman

Goodman is the only journalist so far to have been convicted of intercepting voice mail messages.

He was jailed for four months in January 2007 after pleading guilty to hacking phones.

News International said at the time that Goodman had acted alone and no other journalists were involved in hacking.

In early February of that year, Goodman was told he had been dismissed for gross misconduct, prompting his appeal to News International's director of human resources, dated 2 March.

The letter, published on the MPs' committee website, was copied to Les Hinton, News International's then executive chairman, and Stuart Kuttner, the then managing editor of the News of the World.

Appealing against his dismissal, Goodman wrote: "The decision is perverse in that the actions leading to this criminal charge were carried out with the full knowledge and support of [redacted] … payment for Glenn Mulcaire's services was arranged by [redacted].

"The decision is inconsistent because [redacted] and other members of staff were carrying out the same illegal procedures.

"This practice was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference, until explicit reference to it was banned by the Editor. As far as I am aware, no other member of staff has faced disciplinary action, much less dismissal."

An excerpt of Goodman's letter

Former Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson quit as News of the World editor following Goodman's conviction.

But Goodman's letter does not reveal the date of these editorial discussions or name those involved.

Continuing his appeal, Goodman went on: "My conviction and imprisonment cannot be the real reason for my dismissal.

"The legal manager Tom Crone attended virtually every meeting of my legal team and was given full access to the Crown Prosecution Service's evidence files."

Goodman said that Mr Crone and other senior staff knew he would plead guilty but he had not been sacked prior to trial.

"Tom Crone and the Editor [Andy Coulson] 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 plea," wrote Mr Goodman. "I did not, and I expect the paper to honour its promise to me."

In a separate submission to the committee, James Murdoch, the deputy chief executive of News Corp, said payments worth £243,502 had been made to Goodman in relation to his claim of unfair dismissal, including £13,000 in legal fees.

Out-of-court settlement

The letter was supplied to the MPs by a firm of lawyers initially instructed by News International to look into the Goodman affair. The committee has published a second version of the letter, supplied by News International, in which references to the daily editorial conference, editor and Mr Goodman's claims of a deal over his job have been blanked out.

Excerpt of Goodman's letter

Earlier, the committee confirmed it was likely to recall James Murdoch and former News International executives for a further grilling.

Analysis

Clive Goodman wrote his letter to News International at a time when he had been convicted, jailed and disgraced.

But for the MPs doggedly investigating hacking, his allegations are an extraordinary development which raise more questions than they answer.

News International's position in 2007 was that Goodman was a rogue reporter.

Editor Andy Coulson fell on his sword while simultaneously arguing that he knew nothing about hacking.

Goodman does not comment on whether his hacking had been wrong - but he does describe his dismissal as "perverse".

The subtext is a novel case for unfair dismissal on the grounds that his activities were normal, rather than gross misconduct.

In other words, he says he took the hit for the team, agreed to keep quiet and feels stabbed in the back. Within a year, News International had paid Goodman some £240,000 in settlements.

If Goodman's 2007 claims of "widespread discussions" are true, then they utterly contradict News International's then defence that he was acting alone: they can't both be right.

Mr Murdoch, his father Rupert and former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks all gave evidence to the committee in July.

During his evidence to MPs, Mr Murdoch said that when he sanctioned an out-of-court settlement with Gordon Taylor, the Professional Footballers' Association chief executive, he had not been aware of an email which appears to suggest another News of the World journalist knew of hacking.

Two of the NoW's former executives, editor Colin Myler and Tom Crone, later said that they had informed Mr Murdoch of the document.

Mr Murdoch has said he "stands by his testimony" - but Mr Whittingdale said the committee would be asking Mr Myler, Mr Crone and Jon Chapman, former legal director, to give more evidence.

Speaking to the BBC, the MP said: "When we have all that information and answers to the questions, I think that it would be likely that we will want to speak to James Murdoch again."

Labour leader Ed Miliband said the disclosures showed that David Cameron had been wrong to hire Mr Coulson as his communications director after Mr Coulson left News International and to employ him in government: "Every bit of new evidence shows how catastrophic his judgement was."

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