Press standards, privacy and libel - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 1340-1359)


21 JULY 2009

  Q1340  Chairman: Those two documents were both supplied to us last week by the Guardian; so you were unaware of either of those until 2008?

  Mr Crone: Yes. It is possible actually that the first one had been mentioned in the Old Bailey hearing in January 2007—mentioned; but I certainly did not have knowledge beyond that.

  Q1341  Chairman: When you did become aware of these two documents what did you do?

  Mr Crone: We settled the case. We agreed to settle the case.

  Q1342  Chairman: Besides settling the case, what did you do about the fact that there appeared to be two documents which suggested that others beside Clive Goodman were involved?

  Mr Crone: I tasked myself, with Mr Myler's knowledge, with finding out what exactly had happened; what was known; who knew what other documents there might be. My first task on that mission was to contact our IT department and to ask them to conduct a search of the creator of the email files, the junior reporter; and I wanted to find out who else had been sent that email either internally or externally by him. They came back and told me that there was no trace of it having gone anywhere else. I then questioned the junior reporter. He had very little recollection of it, but he did know that about this time he had only just become a reporter; prior to that actually I think he had been a messenger and he was being trained up off the floor. In the early weeks and months of him being trained up as a reporter what he did more than anything else was transcribe tapes of journalists' interviews—whatever tapes were relevant to the News of the World. He does not particularly remember this job in any detail; he does not remember who asked him to do it; and he does not remember any follow-up from it. He saw the email and he accepts that he sent the transcript where the email says he sent it.

  Q1343  Chairman: Does your IT department suggest that this email was sent to Glenn Mulcaire and nobody else?

  Mr Crone: It was sent to something called "shadowmenuk", which turns out to be Glenn Mulcaire.

  Q1344  Chairman: The email says, "Hello, this is the transcript for Neville", suggesting that it was either going to be given to Neville by Mr Mulcaire, or copied from the junior reporter. Did Neville Thurlbeck say that he had ever received it?

  Mr Crone: I questioned Neville Thurlbeck then and I have spoken to him about the same subject since then. His position is that he has never seen that email, nor had any knowledge of it. He says that he was brought into the relevant editorial project, the story, at the end of the story and his task was to go and knock on the door of one of the story subjects, which was either in Blackburn or Manchester, and put the essence of the story to the person in order to get their comments, which is mostly standard practice in what we do. In order to conduct that task he says he was briefed; and when I spoke to him the first time he said he was briefed by one of our executives, Greg Miskiw who was then based in Manchester; and he also said it was very much a Greg Miskiw/Glenn Mulcaire project. He subsequently came back to me and said that he had refreshed his memory and in fact it could not have been Greg Miskiw, because Greg Miskiw left the News of the World on 30 June 2005, which was the day after that email was created. He had worked out his redundancy package, I think, a week or two weeks before that, and he was no longer on active duty. Neville Thurlbeck told me that his refreshed memory told him that in fact the briefing that he received was from the London news desk.

  Q1345  Chairman: So the London news desk was aware of the contents of this?

  Mr Crone: Well, no, I went to speak to the relevant person at the London news desk who told me that he had no knowledge of the email and he had never seen it.

  Q1346  Chairman: Neville Thurlbeck was sent off to ask about a story which came from a transcript which none of them were aware of?

  Mr Crone: I do not know whether the story entirely came from the transcript; but certainly part of it must have come from the transcript, yes.

  Q1347  Chairman: Despite this, the transcript, which was sent in an email to Glenn Mulcaire, as far as you are aware never went anywhere beyond Glenn Mulcaire?

  Mr Crone: I cannot find any evidence that it did.

  Q1348  Chairman: The second piece of paper, the contract between Greg Miskiw and Paul Williams, Paul Williams in this case is Glenn Mulcaire?

  Mr Crone: Yes.

  Q1349  Chairman: Did you ask Greg Miskiw about what this contract comprised and why Mr Mulcaire was referred to as "Paul Williams"?

  Mr Crone: He told me that Glenn Mulcaire had come to him with a view to selling a story as an independent project—that is independent of any work that he did under the general retainer he had with us. His story was based on information he had gained, as I think he is a member of the PFA having been a professional footballer; he had gained it in that context and he was concerned that if his real name was attached to the story he would obviously upset his PFA colleagues et cetera if that ever came out. Therefore he wanted to contract under an alias, and "Paul Williams" was the alias he supplied.

  Q1350  Chairman: This story did not require any phone hacking or activity of that kind?

  Mr Crone: I am unaware that it did. The contract was in February 2004—the holding contract. It has a very brief description of what the story is. As I understand it, from the end game on that project, which actually was a legal letter that we received in early July 2005, the story went beyond what was written on that original contract. There were other factors, which actually took it very much into the public interest. I was completely satisfied about that.

  Q1351  Chairman: As far as you are concerned, the fact that the News of the World agreed to pay £7,000 to Glenn Mulcaire for a specific story which related to Gordon Taylor, and Glenn Mulcaire then hacked into Gordon Taylor's telephone and provided or received a transcript of those—those two things are unrelated?

  Mr Crone: I can only tell you what I have found out since, because at the time I certainly did not know about the original February 2005 contract. I certainly did not know about the email and the transcript. Let me just put this in context: when the door knock took place, which I think was July 2—I was on holiday that week—I came back the following week and one of the legal complaints that was on my desk by about Wednesday, I think, was a complaint from one of the story's subjects. I went and made enquiries of Neville Thurlbeck actually, because I knew that he was the reporter on the story; and I was told that it was based on a source and he had gone up and had a conversation with the person whose door he knocked on; there were stringent denials; the legal letter that was in front of me contained stringent denials. I went and spoke to the Editor, Andy Coulson. I said, "It seems to be based on a source, but if it's true the source is probably never going to come forward"; and Andy Coulson told me to "Forget it. Tell them that we won't be running the story", and that was the end of it. That is the last I heard of that story until the email was produced in April 2008.

  Q1352  Chairman: Glenn Mulcaire was being paid £100,000 plus bonuses by the News of the World. We know that he hacked into the voicemails of quite a number of people and the police chose only to prosecute on five out of quite a large number. The information he obtained by hacking into other people besides members of the Royal household and Gordon Taylor, did that end up at the News of the World?

  Mr Crone: Not to my knowledge, no. Just one small point of information: you said "quite a large number"; Mr Andy Hayman, who was heading the investigation, wrote an article about all this—he is retired now—and he says it is perhaps "a handful"; that was the phrase he used. I think John Yates said something similar the day before.

  Q1353  Chairman: The police prosecuted and he admitted, I think, to eight individuals who have been identified for the purposes of the prosecution's case; but the police did then say that they were a selection of the ones where the evidence was strongest?

  Mr Crone: Sure, and the head of the inquiry says that is perhaps "a handful". It is on record. We can give you what he said actually; it is in a pack that we want to give you eventually.

  Q1354  Chairman: Let us just continue on this theme. Let us agree there were at least a few more whose phone messages were hacked into. As far as you know, no information regarding those other individuals ever reached the News of the World?

  Mr Crone: I have seen no evidence of that.

  Q1355  Chairman: Was Mr Mulcaire, do you think, working for somebody else when he was doing this?

  Mr Crone: I think he was working for other people, yes.

  Q1356  Chairman: The fact that he was being paid £100,000 by the News of the World, that sounds like a full-time job?

  Mr Crone: It may be, but I believe he was working for other people.

  Q1357  Paul Farrelly: The Sunday Times in quite a forensic piece went beyond perhaps a handful and said "fewer than 20", which is not necessarily inconsistent, but they also named Boris Johnson and an unnamed senior BBC executive?

  Mr Crone: I have read that article. I do not know where it came from.

  Q1358  Paul Farrelly: You would cast doubt on the accuracy of the Sunday Times article?

  Mr Crone: I am not going to speculate on it.

  Q1359  Paul Farrelly: Just to cover more loose threads before I come to Mr Myler and the investigations and the basis of your evidence to the PCC: how long does the IT department of News International keep records of emails?

  Mr Crone: This is not something that has been in my mind until you are asking these questions but my understanding is that if the individual reporter deletes, as opposed to leaves the email on the system, it disappears after 30 days; if he leaves it there it goes automatically into archives after a period and is kept.

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