Conduct of witnesses before a select committee: Mr Colin Myler, Mr Tom Crone, Mr Les Hinton, and News International Contents


Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiries

64.Between 2006 and 2012 the Culture, Media and Sport Committee conducted a number of inquiries into press regulation and related matters. The first Report appeared in 2007 and was on Self-Regulation of the Press.70 The next dealt with Press Standards, Privacy and Libel,71 (the “2010 Report”). The third, News International and Phone Hacking,72 was published on 30 April 2012 (the “2012 Report”). The background to the CMS Committee’s inquiries was a number of events, prosecutions and reports which suggested that certain sections of the press were willing to bend or break the law; for example, in May 2006 the Information Commissioner had published a report entitled What Price Privacy based on its Operation Motorman, in which it investigated “the activities of a particular private investigator, Stephen Whittamore, at whose home were discovered numerous records of transactions involving data illegally obtained from British Telecom, DVLA and the Police National Computer.”73

65.On 8 August 2006 Clive Goodman, the Royal reporter of the News of the World (NOTW) and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator working for the paper, were arrested,74 and on 26 January 2007 they were sentenced for phone hacking offences.

66.In November 2008 the CMS Committee launched its inquiry into press standards, privacy and libel. On 8 July 2009, while that inquiry was still continuing, the Guardian reported that NGN had “paid out more than £1m to settle legal cases that threatened to reveal evidence of his journalists’ repeated involvement in the use of criminal methods to get stories”.75 The CMS Committee arranged extra evidence sessions to examine these claims, and as summarised in the 2012 Report, concluded that it:

was not convinced by assurances given to it that phone-hacking had been the work of a single ‘rogue reporter’ and was frustrated by what it described as the “collective amnesia” that seemed to afflict witnesses from News International. It also criticised the Metropolitan Police for failing to pursue its own investigation into phone-hacking. The Committee made it clear that it regarded some of the contentions made by witnesses as straining credulity but, faced with a repeated insistence that wrongdoing was not widespread, and the unwillingness of police and prosecutors to investigate further, it was not possible to conclude definitively that we had knowingly been given evidence which was deliberately misleading or false, either by individuals or by News International itself.76

67.A series of events in the first half of 2011 prompted the CMS Committee to start the inquiry leading to its 2012 Report: the suspension of Ian Edmondson, Assistant Editor NOTW; the announcement by the CPS of a review of the evidence; the re-opening of the police investigation; an adjournment debate on the floor of the House led by Chris Bryant MP; the arrests of Ian Edmondson and Neville Thurlbeck; and the public statement by James Murdoch on 7 July 2011 announcing the closure of the News of the World in which he stated that “the paper made statements to Parliament without being in the full possession of the facts. This was wrong”.77

Dramatis personae

68.A list of the individuals who gave evidence to the CMS Committee is set out in the 2012 Report.78 Aside from News International (for which an organisational chart is provided on page 106 below), the three individual inquiry subjects are:

69.In addition, the following individuals are relevant to the CMS Committee’s inquiry and their evidence to the CMS Committee is of particular importance to this Committee’s inquiry and conclusions:


70.A detailed chronology is set out at the end of this Report (see annex). A fuller history of phone hacking and the response of NOTW, NGN and NI is set out in the Leveson Report, Volume 1, Part E. The focus of the CMS Committee and this Committee is on the timeline of events following the arrest of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire. That timeline can be split into five phases.

71.When considering the evidence, we have borne in mind the evidence and documentation that was available to the CMS Committee at each stage of their inquiry and how it might affect the questions being put to witnesses. We have also looked to ensure that answers provided by witnesses are set within the context of the chronology set out below. The distinction between the criminal charges, which focussed upon the act of hacking or conspiracy to hack, and civil cases (in general arising from the use of the products of that hacking) has also been taken into account in order to place answers within their legal context.

Phase one—Arrest to sentencing of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire (August 2006 to January 2007)

72.This phase comprises the arrest of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire on 8 August 2016, their guilty pleas on 29 November 2006, and sentencing on 26 January 2007.

73.During this time, on 16 August 2006, NGN had instructed a firm of solicitors called Burton Copeland to act for them. Precisely what Burton Copeland were instructed to do was an area of conflicting evidence before the CMS Committee, with some witnesses stating that the role of Burton Copeland was a more active and investigatory role than it in fact was. Burton Copeland told the CMS Committee for the 2012 Report that they were instructed to assist in dealing with requests from the MPS for information relating to their investigation of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, and that their instructions were concluded on 25 September 2006: “BCL was not instructed to carry out an investigation into “phone hacking” at the ‘News of the World’.”84

74.Tom Crone had attended some of Clive Goodman’s conferences with his legal team ahead of the sentencing hearing on 26 January 2007. He had also had some access to the documents in the criminal case. He had drafted a memorandum (“the December 2006 Memo”), a draft version of which was seen by Andy Coulson, setting out some of the risks and difficulties arising and likely to arise from the conviction of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire. He attended their sentencing hearing.

Phase two—Clive Goodman appeal against dismissal (February 2007 to July 2007)

75.On 5 February 2007, Les Hinton wrote to Clive Goodman and dismissed him from his employment with NGN for gross misconduct. A payment of 12 months’ base salary (less tax and national insurance—approximately £90,000) was made to Clive Goodman in recognition of “many unblemished, and frequently distinguished, years of service to the News of the World. [… ] and in recognition of the pressures on your family”.85

76.Clive Goodman appealed against his dismissal by letter of 2 March 2007 and Colin Myler was asked to hear the appeal. In his 2 March 2007 letter, and in a letter of 14 March 2007, Clive Goodman stated that the decision was perverse because his actions were “carried out with the full knowledge and support” of Andy Coulson86 and Neil Wallis87, with payments arranged by Stuart Kuttner.88 He stated that Ian Edmondson89 and other staff were carrying out the same illegal procedures, and that the practice was widely discussed at the daily editorial conference until explicit reference was banned by the Editor. He also requested a number of documents, including various emails where the sender or recipient was Andy Coulson, Stuart Kuttner, Neil Wallis, Jules Stenson,90 or Ian Edmondson. He did not name Neville Thurlbeck, Greg Miskiw,91 James Weatherup92 or Dan Evans,93 all of whom pleaded guilty to phone hacking in October 2013.

77.As part of the appeal process, Jon Chapman and Daniel Cloke reviewed approximately 2,500 emails. They found no evidence to support Clive Goodman’s claims. Acting on Les Hinton’s instructions, Jon Chapman instructed Harbottle and Lewis, a firm of solicitors, to carry out an independent review of the emails. As set out below, unfortunately the partner in charge of this work, Lawrence Abramson, failed to review all of the emails which had been highlighted for his review by his team—according to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, “due to genuine, major, but inadvertent oversight”.94 As a result, certain emails which indicated phone hacking had taken place were not brought to NI’s attention. During the Leveson Inquiry these emails came to be known as the “toxic emails”. Instead, a letter was sent confirming that Harbottle and Lewis had not found anything in the emails which appeared to be reasonable evidence that Clive Goodman’s illegal actions were known about or supported by key figures in the NOTW newsroom or that others were carrying out similar illegal procedures.95

78.Glenn Mulcaire had issued a claim in the Employment Tribunal, stating that he was an employee of NGN, not a contractor, and had been unfairly dismissed. The employment law at this time, since repealed, required employers to follow statutory dismissal and grievance procedures, regardless of the grounds for dismissal. Failure to do so meant that the dismissal was rendered “automatically unfair”. This is one of the reasons put forward by NI for the settlements that they agreed with Clive Goodman (in the sum of £140,000 plus £13,000 in legal costs) and Glenn Mulcaire.

Phase three—Gordon Taylor settlement (April to June 2008)

79.Gordon Taylor was and is the Chief Executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association. He was one of the five non-Royal household phone hacking victims whose name appeared on counts 16 to 20 of the indictment to which Glenn Mulcaire pleaded guilty and was convicted.

80.In 2007 he issued proceedings against NGN and Glenn Mulcaire jointly for breach of confidence, misuse of private information and invasion of privacy.96 On 7 December 2007 he obtained an order for third party disclosure against the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). The documents disclosed by the MPS included:

a)“For Neville” email—an email containing a transcript of voicemail messages left and received by Gordon Taylor. The transcript had been typed up by a junior reporter at NOTW and sent by email to Glenn Mulcaire on 29 June 2005. The email opens with the words “This is the transcript for Neville”.

b)4 February 2005 Contract (2005 Contract)—Glenn Mulcaire, using the pseudonym Paul Williams, and Greg Miskiw, then Assistant News Editor at NOTW, signed a contract under which NOTW agreed to pay Glenn Mulcaire £7,000 on publication of a story based on information about Gordon Taylor, to be provided by Glenn Mulcaire.

81.The “For Neville” email had been found as a paper copy at Glenn Mulcaire’s house when it was searched following his arrest on 8 August 2006. Evidence from the MPS and CPS explained to the CMS Committee that there was no record of the “For Neville” email being submitted by Glenn Mulcaire to Neville Thurlbeck.97 These two documents were served on Farrer & Co, the firm of solicitors acting for NGN, on or around 2 April 2008. Whilst it was known from counts 16 to 20 for which he was convicted, and also the hacking of Rebekah Brooks’s and Andy Coulson’s phones, that Glenn Mulcaire had hacked into other people’s phones, witnesses to the CMS Committee’s inquiries stated that these two documents were the first pieces of evidence that the products of non-Royal household phone hacking had passed through the NOTW newsroom, that is, phone hacking beyond Clive Goodman (and the Royal household phone hacking).

82.Gordon Taylor’s claims were settled in June 2008 for a payment of £425,000 in damages plus costs.98 The evidence provided by Tom Crone and Colin Myler in relation to the “For Neville” email and Gordon Taylor settlement form key parts of the criticism levelled against the two men by the CMS Committee. Key documents in relation to the NGN internal advice and deliberations are a memorandum of 24 May 2008 drafted by Tom Crone for Colin Myler, an Opinion drafted by Michael Silverleaf QC (dated 3 June 2008) and records of emails and phone conversations between Tom Crone, Colin Myler and Julian Pike (of Farrer & Co).

Phase four—Guardian article 8 July 2009

83.On 8 July 2009 The Guardian published an article revealing details about the Gordon Taylor settlement. The CMS Committee were conducting an inquiry at the time into privacy and libel. Upon publication of the article, the CMS Committee held an evidence session with journalists from The Guardian and were provided with a copy of the “For Neville” email and the 4 February 2005 Contract. As a result, the Committee commenced a new strand within their existing inquiry to look at phone hacking. They concluded in their 2010 Report:

493. [ … ] a culture undoubtedly did exist in the newsroom of News of the World and other newspapers at the time which at best turned a blind eye to illegal activities such as phone-hacking and blagging and at worst actively condoned it. [ … ]

495. In seeking to discover precisely who knew what among the staff of the News of the World we have questioned a number of present and former executives of News International. Throughout we have repeatedly encountered an unwillingness to provide the detailed information that we sought, claims of ignorance or lack of recall, and deliberate obfuscation. We strongly condemn this behaviour which reinforces the widely held impression that the press generally regard themselves as unaccountable and that News International in particular has sought to conceal the truth about what really occurred.99

It is evidence given to the CMS Committee in 2009 for the 2010 Report that forms the majority of the criticisms and conclusions in the Committee’s 2012 Report.

Phase five—Civil claim by Sienna Miller (late 2010)

84.Sienna Miller’s claim is important, because it was one of the first claims by a victim of phone hacking whose name had not been included within counts 16 to 20 for which Glenn Mulcaire had been convicted and sentenced in January 2007. Sienna Miller successfully sought third party disclosure against the MPS, but also an order that Glenn Mulcaire be required to name names at NOTW for whom he had worked. Skylet Andrew (whose name was within counts 16 to 20) successfully sought similar orders at around the same time. Glenn Mulcaire had been ordered to name names as part of Max Clifford’s claim in early 2010. That claim had been settled by NGN before Glenn Mulcaire had been required to comply with the order.

85.The Sienna Miller claim documents which were disclosed by the MPS implicated Ian Edmondson, News Editor at NOTW; he was suspended. At the same time, the emails sent to Harbottle and Lewis were retrieved from storage and reviewed. The “toxic emails” were found, and NI opened a new internal investigation. NOTW closed (on the direction of Rupert Murdoch) on 10 July 2011. On 13 July 2011, the then Prime Minister announced a two-part inquiry investigating the role of the press and police in the phone-hacking scandal. Lord Justice Leveson was appointed as Chairman of the Inquiry. Part 1 of the Inquiry examined the culture, practices and ethics of the press (the Leveson Inquiry).

71 Second Report of Session 2009–10, HC 362-I (CMS 2010 Report)

74 On 9 August 2006 Goodman and Mulcaire were charged with conspiracy to intercept communications, contrary to section 1 (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977, and eight substantive offences of unlawful interception of communications, contrary to section 1 (1) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. The charges related to accessing voice messages left on the mobile phones of members of the Royal Household. In addition, and also in August 2006, five further counts were added to the indictment against Mulcaire alone based on his unlawful interception of voicemail messages left for Max Clifford, Skylet Andrew, Gordon Taylor, Simon Hughes and Elle MacPherson. CMS 2010 Report, HC 362-II, Ev 455.

77 News International press release, 7 July 2011, quoted in CMS 2012 Report

79 Transcript sentencing hearing 26 January 2007

80 Transcript sentencing hearing 26 January 2007

86 Found guilty of conspiracy to intercept communications on 24 June 2014 and sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment on 4 July 2014. Transcript of sentencing remarks 4 July 2014

87 Neil Wallis was acquitted of phone hacking related charges on 1 July 2015

88 Stuart Kuttner was acquitted of phone hacking related charges in June 2014

89 Changed his plea to guilty on 3 October 2014 and was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment on 7 November 2014.

90 Pleaded guilty on 12 December 2014 to conspiracy to intercept communications and was sentenced on 6 July 2015 to four months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.

91 Pleaded guilty in October 2013 and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment on 4 July 2014

92 Pleaded guilty in October 2013 and was sentenced to four months imprisonment suspended for 12 months and an order to do unpaid work for 200 hours on 4 July 2014

93 Pleaded guilty and gave evidence as a prosecution witness in the R v Brooks, Coulson and others trial. Sentenced to ten months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months on 24 July 2014.

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13 September 2016