Internal emails show that News International tried to influence the prosecution of former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman for phone hacking, the Leveson Inquiry heard today.
Goodman was sacked in February 2007 after being jailed along with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire for intercepting voicemail messages left on royal aides' phones.
He appealed against his dismissal, alleging that named News of the World employees knew he was hacking phones and supported him, and that other staff were involved in the practice.
Lawrence Abramson, then a partner with leading law firm Harbottle and Lewis, was asked by News International in May 2007 to examine some 2,500 emails looking for any evidence supporting Goodman's claims, the inquiry into press standards heard.
He reported back on May 29 with a formal opinion that he found no "reasonable evidence" that the ex-royal editor's actions were known about at the newspaper.
But Mr Abramson did raise concerns about around a dozen of the emails because they could have embarrassed the company if they were disclosed at an employment tribunal hearing, the inquiry heard.
"They showed confidential sources, concerns not to reveal sources, they revealed cash payments," the lawyer said.
"They revealed quite an active involvement in Clive Goodman's prosecution, they showed trying to influence the way the prosecution was being conducted or the defence was being conducted."
He added: "I felt that these documents showed News (International) in an unfavourable light, and were the sort of emails that I had to flag up to them that, 'if this came to a tribunal and we had to disclose these, they could result in adverse publicity for you'."
The inquiry heard that News International later handed a further batch of earlier emails, dating from 2003, to Harbottle and Lewis but Mr Abramson did not see them at the time.
Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, asked the lawyer: "Had you seen those emails back in May 2007, would your advice have been the same or different?"
Mr Abramson replied: "Different."