Murdoch knew phone hacking went wider: lawyer

A committee investigating allegations that hacking occurred on an industrial scale and was covered up by senior executives was told that Rupert Murdoch’s son James had been made aware the practice was more widespread than thought but had failed to take any action.

Lawyer Tom Crone also claimed that News Corp’s British newspaper arm had hired freelance journalists to snoop on the private lives of lawyers currently representing hacking victims, casting doubt on the company’s recent apologetic stance.

“I saw one thing in relation to two of the lawyers,” he told a parliamentary committee. When asked whether he knew the source of the information, he said: “Freelance journalists employed by News International,” referring to News Corp’s UK newspaper unit.

News Corp has been engulfed by the phone-hacking scandal since it was revealed in July that the illegal practice extended beyond celebrities and politicians to murder victims including schoolgirl Milly Dowler, and British war dead.

Crucial email

Crone repeated that he had explained to James Murdoch in 2008 the significance of a key email obtained by a hacking victim, which contained transcripts of intercepted voicemails unrelated to the scapegoated reporter who had already gone to jail.

“This document meant there was a wider News International involvement,” Crone told the committee, when asked to explain what he had told Murdoch in a meeting in which Colin Myler, the tabloid’s last editor, was also present.

Myler and Crone said the so-called “for Neville” email was the only reason Murdoch had approved a $1.1 million payout to the victim, soccer executive Gordon Taylor.

“Since he gave us the authority we were asking for in the context of what we’d said to him, I would take it that he understood that for the first time he realised the News of The World was involved, and that involvement involved people beyond Clive Goodman and on that basis he authorised the settlement,” Crone said.

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