Phone hacking: News of the World pair in contempt of Parliament

Colin Myler and Tom Crone Image copyright PA
Image caption Colin Myler and Tom Crone appeared before the Commons committee together

The former editor and legal manager of defunct newspaper the News of the World (NotW) have been found in contempt of Parliament over evidence they gave to MPs about phone hacking.

The Commons privileges committee said Colin Myler and Tom Crone had misled the Culture, Media and Sport Committee by "answering questions falsely".

It recommended that the Commons should "formally admonish" the pair.

Both men have rejected the findings and denied giving misleading evidence.

It is believed to be the first time in decades that anyone has been found in contempt of Parliament and a senior MP has said legal action against the pair should be considered.

Mr Myler and Mr Crone had appeared before the culture committee in 2009 and 2011, to answer questions about the extent of phone hacking at the newspaper.

The paper had initially claimed that the illegal practice was limited to a single reporter and a private investigator with whom he worked. But evidence emerged that hacking was more widespread and the paper was forced to close in 2011 because of the scandal.

The privileges committee found that Mr Myler misled the culture committee by denying that he was aware of phone hacking or other wrongdoing by staff, apart from royal correspondent Clive Goodman who had been jailed in 2007 for hacking-related offences.

It said Mr Crone misled the committee on the same issue and also with regard to the "significance of confidentiality" in a settlement reached between the paper and Professional Footballers' Association boss Gordon Taylor.

Mr Myler, the former editor, said the findings were "profoundly disappointing".

"Had the appropriate standard of proof been properly applied, the privileges committee could not have reached a finding of contempt against me, given that the report identifies evidence which plainly contradicts their conclusions," he said.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Colin Myler edited the final edition of the News of the World

Former legal manager Mr Crone said he did not accept the findings made against him and stood by his evidence on both issues for which he was criticised.

"In particular, I accepted clearly and unequivocally at the outset of my evidence... that the problem of phone hacking... went beyond" just Clive Goodman, he said.

"That is a matter of record which is beyond challenge."

The privileges committee did not uphold similar allegations of misleading MPs against Les Hinton, the former executive chairman of News International, which owned the NotW.

It also found that the parent firm did not commit contempt as a company.

Court process?

Mr Hinton said: "After more than four years, the committee of privileges has thrown out the charges that I was guilty of contempt of Parliament and a cover-up of phone hacking.

"Its findings are too little and too late, coming so long after I was vilified by MPs."

Acting chairman of the culture committee Damian Collins told the BBC the case "poses the question now about what action Parliament should take".

"I think we should look now at what sanctions should be applied to people who are guilty of contempt of Parliament and deliberately misleading Parliament. Should there be a sentence, should there be a court process following the work of the privileges committee?" he said.

"It is the first time in decades that people have been found guilty of contempt of Parliament and misleading Parliament. The house has to look at this report and say, should there be a real penalty, a real sanction in law for people who are guilty of this offence?

"The presumption of all of the work we do has got to be that witnesses in front of committees believe they have to tell the truth."

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