2 News International: cooperation
with the Committee and other investigations |
18. Following the convictions of Clive Goodman
and Glenn Mulcaire in 2007, and the Guardian's revelation of the
civil settlement with Gordon Taylor in 2009, the News of the
World and its parent companies made several key assertions,
which have proven to be untrue:
- That phone-hacking was limited
to one 'rogue reporter' working with one private detective/enquiry
- That the affair had been thoroughly investigated
by the organisation, not once or twice, but on three occasions,
and no further evidence of wrongdoing had been found.
- That phone-hacking was limited in time between
2005 and 2006, the years covered by the original police investigation
leading to the criminal charges against Goodman and Mulcaire.
- That potentially illegal intrusion was limited
to phone-hacking, and confined also to the News of the World
among News International's newspaper titles.
19. In 2009, when the Committee re-opened its
inquiry into phone-hacking following publication of the Gordon
Taylor settlement, senior witnesses from the News of the World
recounted their reaction in vivid terms to the original arrests
20. Giving evidence on 21 July 2009, for example,
Stuart Kuttner, former Managing Editor of the News of the World,
said he had never come across cases before where his journalists
had tried to obtain information illegally, or from sources who
would do so. And he added:
The events of the day that the police came and Clive
Goodman was arrested are seared into my brain. It was a traumatic
event and I cannot state too strongly how alarming that was, and
'surprising' is not even an adequate term.
21. In its 2010 Report, Press standards, privacy
and libel, the Committee nonetheless was "struck by the
collective amnesia afflicting witnesses from the News of the
During the inquiry which led to the production of that Report,
the forgetfulness of News International reached new levels on
15 September 2009, when Les Hinton, formerly Chief Executive of
News International, appeared before the Committee and stated that
he did not know, could not recall, did not remember or was not
familiar with the events under scrutiny a total of 72 times.
22. In 2009, witnesses from News International
had noticeably less difficulty remembering the investigative measures
to which the company claimed it had been subject following the
arrest of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire. On 21 July 2009, Andy
Coulson, who had resigned as Editor in 2007 following the convictions,
said: "Obviously we wanted to know internally very quickly
what the hell had gone on. Then I brought in Burton Copeland,
an independent firm of solicitors, to carry out an investigation.
We opened up the files as much as we could. There was nothing
that they asked for that they were not given."
Colin Myler, then Editor of the News of the World, told
us that "I do not know of any newspaperand this is
the fourth national newspaper that I have had the privilege of
editingor broadcasting organisation that has been so forensically
investigated over the past four yearsnone".
He later listed those investigations and said that "if it
comes down to this Committee and others not being satisfied by
those inquiries, I really do not know what more I can say".
At the same evidence session, Tom Crone, then Legal Manager of
News Group Newspapers, told us that:
In the aftermath of Clive Goodman and Mulcaire's
arrest and subsequent conviction various internal investigations
were conducted by us. This was against the background of a nine
month massively intense police investigation prior to arrest and
then a continuing investigation in the five months up to conviction.
[...] At no stage during their investigation or our investigation
did any evidence arise that the problem of accessing by our reporters,
or complicity of accessing by our reporters, went beyond the Goodman/Mulcaire
23. In 2009, News International's lone 'rogue
reporter' defence was based upon the stated thoroughness of two
allegedly independent investigations by solicitors, Burton Copeland
and Harbottle & Lewis, which included an extensive review
of senior staff e-mails; the company's further internal investigation
following the Guardian's revelations in July 2009; on the
Metropolitan Police's investigation into the affair and the unwillingness
of either the police or the Crown Prosecution Service to re-open
the matter subsequently; and on a review by the Press Complaints
Commission, which found not only that the News of the World
had no further case to answer, but which castigated the Guardian
in its conclusions.
The Committee's 2010 Report rejected News International's account,
stating that "evidence we have seen makes it inconceivable
that no-one else at the News of the World, bar Clive Goodman,
knew about the phone-hacking".
On 19 July 2011, Rebekah Brooks told us that "everyone at
News International has a great respect for Parliament and for
this Committee. Of course, to be criticised by your Report was
something that we responded to".
The response at the time was hardly as respectful as this comment
suggests. Indeed, the Committee's conclusions were forcefully
rejected in a press release issued by News International on the
day of publication, which started with:
The credibility of the Select Committee system relies
on committee members exercising their powers with responsibility
and fairness, and without bias or external influence. Against
these standards, the CMS Committee has consistently failed.
The reaction of the Committee to its failure to find
any new evidence has been to make claims of 'collective amnesia',
deliberate obfuscation and concealment of the truth.
News International strongly rejects these claims.
News International believes that the Select Committee
system has been damaged and materially diminished by this inquiry
and that certain members of this CMS Committee have repeatedly
violated the public trust.
24. A comment piece, published in the News
of the World the following Sunday was, if anything, more vitriolic.
In a full page editorial, headlined 'YOUR right to know is mired
in MPs' bias. But a free press is far too precious to lose', the
Sadly, the victims here are YOU, the public. If these
MPs get their way, our media landscape will be changed forever.
Serious reform of the laws that stop us telling the
truthreform on which this committee should have spent the
vast bulk of its timehas at the very least been delayed.
And, with no hint of parody or irony, it concluded:
So each time you read a revelation in the News
of the World or any paper, bear in mind the forces that are
at work trying to silence us and keep you in ignorance.
They are many and they are powerful. And right now
they're doing their damndest to wreck the most precious of basic
press freedomsyour right to know. As they watched the Select
Committee descent into bias, spite and bile, they'd have been
We'll take no lessons in standards from MPsnor
from the self-serving pygmies who run the circulation-challenged
But we promise this: As long as we have the power
to fight, you can rely on us to keep doing what we do bestrevealing
the misdeeds that influential people are desperate to hide.
And we'll let YOU be our judge and jury.
The Editor of the newspaper at the time was Colin
Myler and the Legal Manager of News Group Newspapers was Tom Crone.
25. The newspaper'sand News International'sdenials
continued subsequently throughout 2010, until disclosures secured
in a civil action by the actress Sienna Miller forced a change
of stance at the end of the year. Notably, in a characteristically
robust response to an in-depth investigation by the New York
Times in September 2010which cited several named and
un-named former staff alleging that phone-hacking was widespreadthe
As a general point, we reject absolutely any suggestion
or assertion that the activities of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire,
at the time of their arrest, were part of a 'culture' of wrong-doing
at the News of the World and were specifically sanctioned
or accepted at senior level in the newspaper.
We equally reject absolutely any suggestion or assertion
that there has continued to be such a culture at the newspaper.
At the time of those arrests, and subsequently, we
co-operated with the authorities in their investigations (which
resulted in criminal convictions which were followed by the then
Editor taking responsibility and stepping down), just as we co-operated
with the CMS Select Committee in its extensive inquiry last year.
No evidence came out of those investigations or that
inquiry that corroborates any such suggestion or assertion.
26. As far as that statement's depiction of our
inquiry was concerned, nothing could have been further from the
truth. We had seen evidence that more than one reporter had been
involved in phone-hacking, and had said so. Conveniently, the
response to the New York Times piece omitted any reference
to our Report's trenchant criticisms of the News of the World.
27. On 10 November 2011, on his second appearance
before the Committee, James Murdoch explained this reaction as
"the tendency for a period of time to react to criticism
or allegations as being hostile, or motivated commercially or
During his two appearances, he apologised for what he termed the
company's 'aggressive defence'.
This apology was certainly a long time in coming.
28. The reality is that News International took
no further investigative or disciplinary action as a result of
the Select Committee's 2010 Report, nor following further civil
actions following the confidential, out-of-court settlement with
Gordon Taylor all the way back in 2008. In oral evidence in 2011,
James Murdoch acknowledged this to have been a mistake: "a
more forensic look at the specific evidence that had been given
to this Committee in 2009 would have been something that we could
have done [...] I look back at the reaction to the Committee's
Report and think that would be one turning point, if you will,
that the company could have taken".
He also told us that "you can imagine my own frustration
in 2010, when the civil litigation came to a point where these
things came out, to suddenly realise that the pushback or the
denial of the veracity of allegations that had been made earlier,
particularly in 2009, had been too strong".
Indeed, as this Report sets out, the conclusions reached by the
Committee in 2010 have been vindicated by evidence that started
to emerge as a result of civil cases later that year and as a
result of our work in 2011. As for its own so-called thorough,
independent investigations, in evidence on 10 November 2011, Mr
Murdoch asked: "did the company rely on those things for
too long? I think it's clear the company did."
29. We stand by the conclusions over phone-hacking
in the Committee's 2010 Report on Press standards, privacy
and libel. As this Report sets out, those conclusions have
been vindicatedand, indeed, reinforcedby evidence
which started to emerge because of civil actions later that year,
from continued pursuit of the matter by the Guardian and
other newspapers, and from further disclosures made as a result
of our work in 2011. Unlike the results of previous police and
Press Complaints Commission inquiries, our conclusions have stood
the test of time. It is a matter of great regret, therefore, that
so much time elapsed before further action was finally taken by
News International and the Metropolitan Police, in particular,
to investigate phone-hacking.
30. Throughout the course of our current investigation,
witnesses from News International have made protestations of their
willingness to provide assistance to the Committee. On 10 November
2011, James Murdoch, for example, told us that "since the
end of 2010, as the company has found things out and discovered
the extent of what has been suspected of happening [...] we have
sought to be as transparent as the company can be".
It is true that News International has cooperated more fully with
our current investigation than it did with our inquiry in 2009,
although the standard was hardly very high at that time. We note
for example, the willingness of the newly-established Management
and Standards Committee to provide the Committee with unsolicited
copies of recently unearthed e-mail exchanges that are of relevance
to the events under investigation.
31. The most significant evidence received by
the Committeewe note in particular Clive Goodman's letter
appealing his dismissal; Tom Crone's memorandum of May 2008; and
Michael Silverleaf QC's opinion on the Gordon Taylor casehas,
however, been provided by other witnesses.
Unlike the recently unearthed e-mails, these documents have been
in the company's possession all along. At no point did the company
itself provide them or refer to them, either in 2009 or in 2011.
In subsequent chapters, we examine the significance of these and
other documents, including the recent letter to us from Surrey
the News of the World's hacking of the phone of murdered
teenager Milly Dowler, the revelation which immediately precipitated
the closure of the News of the World last July.
32. Despite the professed willingness of witnesses
from News International to assist the Committee, the company has
continued to downplay the involvement of its employees in phone-hacking
by failing to release to the Committee documents that would have
helped to expose the truth.
33. Other inquiries also faced similar problems
with News International's 'aggressive defence'. Despite the 'co-operation'
it subsequently professed to have extended to the Metropolitan
Police, our 2010 Report documented the reality of its approachwhich
was described in evidence to us by one of the chief investigating
officers as 'robust'.
Senior Metropolitan Police officers have since then been less
circumspectto us, the Home Affairs Select Committee and
the Leveson inquiry as to how, far from co-operating, the News
of the World deliberately tried to thwart the police investigation.
34. The Press Complaints Commission has also
been a further, major casualty of the phone-hacking affair. In
November 2009, following its own review, the self-regulatory body
produced a report exonerating the News of the World of
materially misleading it, while criticising the Guardian's
reporting. In our 2010 Report, we were critical of the PCC for
so doing and its then Chairman, Baroness Buscombe, has since recognised
it was not told the truth by the News of the World.
35. Both Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire pleaded
guilty to the criminal charges and did not, therefore, give evidence
in court. To date, no civil claim over phone-hacking has gone
to a full trial. In settling the claims, News International's
subsidiary News Group Newspapers (NGN) has not only been willing
to pay out huge sums of money, but it has also finally had to
make some wide-ranging admissions in doing so.
36. The willingness of News International
to sanction huge settlements and damaging, wide-ranging admissions
to settle civil claims over phone-hacking before they reach trial
reinforces the conclusion of our 2010 Report that the organisation
has, above all, wished to buy silence in this affair and to pay
to make this problem go away.
15 Published in Press standards, privacy and libel,
Volume II, Q1685 Back
Press standards, privacy and libel, para 442 Back
Press standards, privacy and libel, Vol II, Qqs 2107, 2111,
2114, 2117, 2118, 2119, 2121, 2123, 2126, 2134, 2135, 2140, 2141,
2143, 2149, 2150, 2154, 2155, 2156, 2157, 2161, 2167, 2171, 2173,
2174, 2175, 2176, 2177, 2178, 2188, 2189, 2191, 2196, 2199, 2201,
2202, 2206, 2207, 2208, 2213, 2220, 2228, 2230, 2234 and 2236 Back
Press standards, privacy and libel, Vol II, Q 1719 Back
Press standards, privacy and libel, Vol II, Q 1406 Back
Press standards, privacy and libel, Vol II, Q 1487 Back
Press standards, privacy and libel, Q 1339 Back
PCC report on phone message tapping allegations, November 9 2009,
Press Complaints Commission. This report was subsequently withdrawn
by the PCC on 6 July 2011. Back
Press standards, privacy and libel, para 440 Back
Q 559 Back
News International statement, 23 February 2010 Back
News of the World, Sunday 28 February 2010 Back
Q 1477 Back
Q 1483 Back
Q 373 Back
Q 1480 Back
Q 1657 Back
Ev 271 Back
Ev 216, Ev 240 and Ev 247 Back
Ev 274 Back
2 Sept 2009, Q1939 Back