Lawyer: I knew MPs were misled by James Murdoch
NI's European chief held more than one meeting about phone hacking, it is claimed
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Thursday 20 October 2011
Already under threat of a mini-revolution when his company's shareholders meet in Los Angeles tomorrow, News Corp's European boss, James Murdoch, is facing fresh allegations in Westminster that he misled MPs.
Pressure on Mr Murdoch to defend the account he gave to Parliament this summer about how much he knew about phone-hacking inside News International (NI) significantly increased after it was revealed yesterday that he held more than one meeting with senior NI executives following the discovery of a crucial email revealing that voicemail interceptions at the News of the World went beyond one reporter.
Julian Pike, a partner with Farrer & Co, until last week NI's lawyers in civil damages claims, accused Mr Murdoch of "misrepresenting" events.
In previous accounts given to the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, and in later written testimony, the heir-apparent to the Murdoch empire denied he had any knowledge of a key piece of evidence that led to NI agreeing a £725,000 out-of-court settlement for Gordon Taylor.
He has stated previously that the first meeting he attended which discussed the Taylor case was on 10 June 2008. Mr Pike's testimony challenges him to explain why he made no mention of an earlier meeting held on 27 May with the then editor of the NOTW, Colin Myler.
His account of the key June meeting also conflicts with versions given by News International's former legal boss, Tom Crone, and Mr Myler. Both claim that during the 15-minute June meeting they discussed the use of phone-hacking going beyond a rogue reporter – former royal correspondent Clive Goodman – and that this was the reason they were asking Mr Murdoch to approve the massive pay-out.
Mr Pike told the committee he had been copied into a briefing note specifically prepared for Mr Myler by Mr Crone, three days before the NOTW editor was due to meet Mr Murdoch on 27 May. The note contained an update of the Taylor case.
Although it did not specifically mention "For Neville" – understood to refer to the NOTW reporter, Neville Thurlbeck – according to Mr Pike, it revealed that the practice of illegal interceptions had spread beyond Goodman.
The Farrer lawyer said it had become apparent from Mr Taylor's claim against NI that three NOTW journalists had been involved in what he called "illegally accessing information in order to obtain stories". He said he would "take instruction" over whether he could hand over the briefing note to the committee.
Watson to alert shareholders at meeting in US
Tom Watson, the Labour backbencher and scourge of the Murdoch family, will fly to Los Angeles to confront the dynastic bosses at News Corporation's annual meeting tomorrow.
Mr Watson said he had acquired a "proxy shareholder vote" in the parent company of News International, publisher of the defunct 'News of the World', and would address what is expected to be a fractious meeting of shareholders about "the things their company is doing in the UK".
Meanwhile, in LA, News Corp officials are putting the finishing touches to their plans for the meeting, which is being mounted with unprecedented security. In the wake of the phone-hacking scandal and calls to strip the Murdochs of their boardroom roles, News Corp decided to shift the meeting to the West Coast, away from Wall Street where many key investors are based.
For the first time, shareholders were told to pre-order tickets for the event. They will also have to take a company shuttle bus to the Zanuck screening theatre where the meeting will be held.
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