UK

Hacking: NoW executives 'were aware of practice'

The News of the World
Image caption The News of the World closed as a result of the phone hacking scandal

Phone hacking by News of the World journalists was known about by senior executives even as it was being denied, new evidence suggests.

News International documents released by a Commons committee say some journalists carried out illegal practices between 2001 and 2003.

But in 2008 the parent company was denying the practice went beyond one "rogue reporter".

One document suggested the position was "fatal to our case".

The evidence from the Commons committee investigating the scandal shows how the News of the World tried to keep the phone hacking case involving Gordon Taylor - the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association - under wraps.

It also shows the company was warned by its own lawyers that senior journalists at the News of the World and its sister publication the Sun had broken data protection laws several years earlier.

'Damning email'

In May 2008 the paper's editor, Colin Myler, was told by the tabloid's then legal chief Tom Crone: "Our position is very perilous."

Mr Taylor had obtained a "damning email" with transcripts of his private voicemails as well as evidence from the information commissioner of other illegal activities by News of the World journalists, Mr Crone said.

Among the documents from the information commissioner is a list of named News of the World journalists and a detailed table of data protection infringements between 2001 and 2003.

"A number of those names are still with us and some of them have moved to prominent positions on NoW and The Sun. Typical infringements are 'turning around' car reg and mobile phone numbers (illegal)," Mr Crone wrote.

"This evidence, particularly the email from the News of the World, is fatal to our case."

The "damning email" referred to has become known as the "for Neville email" which proved that phone hacking at the News of the World was more widely known about than originally suggested.

In another email to solicitor Julian Pike, Mr Crone said that Mr Myler was to use the memo "as the basis for his chat with chief exec James Murdoch" - suggesting that Mr Murdoch was made aware of the issues at that stage.

Mr Murdoch has said he did not recall being briefed about the Gordon Taylor case until June 10 2008.

'Overwhelming evidence'

He is scheduled to appear before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee - which has released the documents - for a second time on 10 November.

The newly released documents also show a leading barrister warned the News of the World on 3 June 2008 that there was a "powerful case that there is (or was) a culture of illegal information access" at the News of the World.

Michael Silverleaf QC said that the allegations would be "extremely damaging to NGN's (News Group Newspapers) public reputation".

He wrote that there was "overwhelming evidence of the involvement of a number of senior NGN journalists" in "illegal enquiries" into an individual whose name is blanked out.

Illegal information culture

"In addition there is substantial surrounding material about the extent of NGN journalists' attempts to obtain access to information illegally in relation to other individuals," he said.

"In the light of these facts there is a powerful case that there is (or was) a culture of illegal information access used at NGN in order to produce stories for publication."

Labour MP Tom Watson, who is on the Commons committee, said these were "yet more explosive revelations".

"Here is a very important, leading barrister telling them their house was not in order and nobody did anything about it," he said.

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