Corporate-criminality law firm may hold the key


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The Independent Online

During several hours of questioning by MPs last month there was a name that did not pass the lips of either Rupert Murdoch or his son James.

That name was BCL Burton Copeland, a firm of city lawyers specialising in helping companies facing accusations of breaking criminal law.

It has always been known that News International retained BCL Burton Copeland to liaise with the police over hacking at the News of the World, but documents released yesterday show the extent of its involvement – and make the Murdochs' silence on the subject all the more surprising.

In his written evidence to the Culture Media and Sport Committee, News International's former head of legal affairs, Jon Chapman, suggests Burton Copeland should be its focus. "I do not understand why the Burton Copeland investigative exercise is no longer referred to by News International," he says.

This is backed up by Harbottle & Lewis, which suggests it is Burton Copeland that would know about any widespread criminality at News International. And the firm adds that the committee should ask News International to waive its client confidentiality to establish what Burton Copeland knew. "Given that News International has waived privilege over its instructions to and advice from Harbottle & Lewis, the committee might consider asking News International to similarly waive privilege over its instructions to and advice from Burton Copeland."

The committee now intends to write to Burton Copeland asking for information relating to its inquiries and may call a senior member of the firm to give evidence. It will also ask News International to waive client confidentiality. One thing is for sure: Burton Copeland is a name we'll be hearing a lot more of.