The Parliamentary Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport has today released its report on News International and Phone Hacking, which is available here. The report deals with the question as to whether witnesses had misled select committees previously.
It concludes that the Committee’s Report to the House in February 2010 on Press standards, privacy and libel was partially based on false evidence which had been intended to cover up the extent of the phone hacking scandal.
Although the report refrains from drawing conclusions about the evidence of any individuals who had been arrested in the wake of the scandal in order to not risk prejudicing future trials, a number of damning criticisms were made. A supplementary report on those under investigation will be produced after any criminal proceedings are finished.
The Committee’s conclusions included the following:
- Les Hinton (former Executive Chairman of News International) misled the Committee in not telling the truth about payments to Clive Goodman and the extent of his knowledge that phone hacking at the NotW extended beyond Goodman and Mulcaire.
- Tom Crone (former legal manager of News Group) had misled the Committee by giving the wrong impression about the significance of confidentiality in the Gordon Taylor settlement, and sought to mislead them about commissioning surveillance.
- Tom Crone and Colin Myler (editor of the News of the World from 2007 until it ceased publication in July 2011) had lied under questioning about their knowledge of evidence regarding other NotW employees involved in phone hacking.
- The News of the World and News International were concluded to have misled the Committee as a corporation about the nature and extent of the investigations they professed to have carried out into phone hacking. They made statements they would have known were not fully truthful and had failed to disclose documents which would have exposed the truth. It was noted their instinct throughout was to cover up the problem rather than seek out and discipline the perpetrators.
- In failing to investigate the evidence of wrongdoing properly, News International and News Corporation exhibited “wilful blindness” and the Committee stated that the companies’ directors – including Rupert and James Murdoch – should take ultimate responsibility for this failure.
James Murdoch in particular was criticised for authorising a large payment to Gordon Taylor on the basis of “scant” information and without wanting to see the “For Neville” email despite being informed of its serious implications. It was suggested that at the least this brings his competence into question.
In view of the arrest of Rebekah Brooks the Committee has withheld its findings on her conduct in giving evidence, but she is mentioned repeatedly in the report in reference to her involvement in the scandal.
The report also describes Rupert Murdoch as an “unfit person” to run an international company and has called on Burton Copeland to waive legal privilege and disclose its work in advising News International on complying with police requests for information. However, the MPs on the Committee were unable to reach unanimous agreement on the report, with no Conservative members on the panel endorsing it. Louise Mensch identified the bone of contention as the inclusion of the comment on Rupert Murdoch’s suitability to run News Corp.
The report will be put to the Commons when it reconvenes next week.
The report has been extensively discussed in the media, including the following:
- BBC “Phone hacking: Culture committee’s verdict on Murdochs and other key players“
- Guardian “”Select committee phone-hacking report: what they said about key figures“
- Independent “Rupert Murdoch ‘not a fit person’ to run News Corporation“
- Financial Times “Murdoch ‘unfit’ to run global company“
Laura Sandwell is a law graduate with a background in publishing