Fair hearing

 

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If anyone thought the three people accused of misleading the Culture, Media and Sport Committee during their hacking inquiry would respond by saying "it's a fair cop, guv", they can think again.

The Commons has just voted overwhelmingly to refer the case to its ethics watchdog, the Standards and Privileges Committee. That will allow the accused to put their defence; and the former News International Chairman Les Hinton has already fired off a detailed rebuttal of the Culture Committee's findings in a letter to its chair, John Whittingdale; copied to the Speaker, the chair of the Liaison Committee, Alan Beith, and the chair of Standards and Privileges, Kevin Barron.

Mr Barron will preside over hearings to determine whether the committee was indeed misled.

Even now there are senior MPs who're worried that the procedure is not ideal; that MPs who have seen colleagues put under surveillance by News International may not be an ideal jury to decide whether or not one of their select committees was knowingly deceived.

And Mr Hinton's defence is that he did not mislead the committee.

Here are some of the choice extracts from Mr Hinton's letter:

"I take very seriously the Committee's accusations that I misled it and was complicit in a cover-up at News International. These allegations are unfair, unfounded and erroneous. They are based on a misreading of evidence, and on a selective and misleading analysis of my testimonies to your Committee.

"I have always told you the truth. This includes what I knew and remembered about payments to Clive Goodman and my role in authorising them; the payment of Goodman's legal fees; and the extent of my knowledge of allegations that phone hacking extended beyond Goodman to others at the News of the World.

"The Report observes that a 'select committee is not a judicial process but the same principles of fairness and impartiality should apply, particularly where so much is at stake for specific individuals.' The Report also states that 'it is incumbent on the Committee to produce a report on the evidence before us" and to be "particularly careful to separate out fact from opinion.'

"My attached statement to you shows that the Report time and again falls well short of these standards by relying on a series of highly selective references to the record and logical fallacies to render what appears to be, by all fair accounts, a partisan, predetermined judgment. It is hard to avoid the view that the Committee has sometimes allowed preconceived judgments to cloud its objectivity and sense of fairness.

"I have apologized publicly for the misconduct at the News of the World when I was executive chairman of News International. As a consequence, I resigned from News Corporation last year after a career that began 52 years before. My criticism of the Report should in no way be taken as an effort to minimise the harm that has occurred as a result of the events at News of the World. But if this Committee is going to accuse me of misleading Parliament or being complicit in a cover-up, it should get its facts right and conduct a fair process. The Committee has done neither.

"I realize that this episode has confronted the Committee with immensely important and difficult issues. I am aware that there are strong feelings among Committee members. As you can see from this letter and the attached document, I also have strong feelings about the manner in which your Report treats me. I understand that the next steps in this matter are procedurally uncertain, but expect my individual rights to be respected by Parliament and your Committee...

".....Finally, given the seriousness of the Committee's inquiry and its conclusions about me, it is disappointing to have to note the highly unusual spectacle that a Committee member has seen fit to publish a self-proclaimed controversial book in advance of the Report where he and a co-author prejudge that I and others at News International misled Parliament. For instance, Tom Watson writes: 'In 2007, Murdoch's chief lieutenant Les Hinton failed to tell the Commons Culture Committee about Goodman's claims that hacking was routine, and failed to call in the police to investigate those claims; instead he sanctioned hush payments for Goodman and Mulcaire.' The book further notes that 'Hinton... misled Parliament by suggesting that Clive Goodman was a rogue reporter. . . .' I am aware of no precedent where a judge of fact has so publicly sought to align himself with, and presumably profit from, a particular take on events in advance of the publication of 'official' findings."

 
Mark D'Arcy, Parliamentary correspondent Article written by Mark D'Arcy Mark D'Arcy Parliamentary correspondent

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 5.

    Hinton may or may not be a good guy, but his points seem correct. The issues seem to have been prejudged by some of the Committee members, who did a very good impression of people out for revenge on the anti-union, and sometimes anti-Labour, Murdoch group. The problem is that these MPs were meant to be acting in a quasi-judicial role, a role which appears to have been abused in this case.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 6.

    I must admit to being unclear about the legal status of a Select Committee.
    As I understand it they act in a quasi-judicial role rather than a judical role.
    In the courts one has the opportunity for legal address.
    If Hinton thinks he has been misinterpreted or misrepresented then IMO he should have the right to try and correct matters.
    Alan

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 7.

    Why is it thought necessary to tell the truth TO politicians when they feel it quite acceptable to lie to and mislead the electorate who employ them?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 8.

    What about Tom Watson's book sleaze - when is he going to be before a Committee as to his dealings with his book?

    Has broken code of conduct for MP's as not registered/ declaring his personal interest in his book; in the H of C register of interests?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 2.

    Irrespective of what Hinton thinks of the Committee, if he believes that Watson in a published work is in error and this affects his standing or reputation, then there is a redress at at law.

    He should take it and get the matter over and done with. It may also get the Committee off the hook in determining his (at least) guilt or innocence.

 

Comments 5 of 10

 

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