Leveson Inquiry: 'NOTW should have closed earlier', says Rupert Murdoch

 

Rupert Murdoch said today he was sorry he did not close the News of the World years earlier as he claimed that executives at the paper “covered up” the phone-hacking scandal.

He blamed "one or two" senior figures at the now-defunct Sunday tabloid for "taking charge" of hiding evidence of wrong-doing and for misleading him.

But former NOTW legal manager Tom Crone accused Mr Murdoch of a "shameful lie" after the tycoon suggested "a clever lawyer" was behind the cover up.

Finishing his two days of evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, Mr Murdoch said the hacking scandal would be "a blot on my reputation for the rest of my life".

He admitted that he failed to keep a close enough eye on what was happening at the News of the World, which was closed last July after disclosures that it illegally intercepted murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's voicemails.

Mr Murdoch, 81, claimed he was "misinformed" about the scale of hacking at the paper after royal editor Clive Goodman was jailed in January 2007 for listening to royal aides' phone messages.

He said: "I blame one or two people for that, who perhaps I shouldn't name because for all I know they may be arrested yet.

"But there is no question in my mind that maybe even the editor, but certainly behind that, someone took charge of a cover-up which we were victim to and I regret."

He suggested that this attempt to hide the extent of the criminality emanated "from within the News of the World".

He said: "There were one or two very strong characters there who I think had been there many, many years and were friends of the journalists.

"The person I am thinking of was a friend of the journalists, drinking pal, and was a clever lawyer and forbade them to go and see the evidence, or there have been statements reporting that this person forbade people to go and report to Mrs Brooks or James (Murdoch)."

Mr Crone said in a statement after the hearing that Mr Murdoch "could only" be referring to him.

The lawyer went on: "His assertion that I 'took charge of a cover-up' in relation to phone-hacking is a shameful lie.

"The same applies to his assertions that I misinformed senior executives about what was going on and that I forbade people from reporting to Rebekah Brooks or to James Murdoch."

Mr Murdoch said once he knew the extent of the problem at his UK newspapers subsidiary News International, he did everything he could to clean up the company.

"There was no attempt either at my level or several levels below me to cover it up," he said.

"We set up inquiry after inquiry, we employed legal firm after legal firm and perhaps we relied too much on the conclusions of the police."

The billionaire told the Leveson Inquiry his company has spent "hundreds of millions of dollars" investigating activities at all of its newspapers in the wake of the hacking scandal.

Internal investigators have been through 300 million emails and passed anything "faintly suspect" to police, he said.

"We are now a new company, we have new rules, we have new compliance officers, and I think we are showing in The Sun that we can still produce the best newspaper without the bad practices that were disclosed," he said.

Mr Murdoch told the inquiry that in hindsight he should have spoken personally to Goodman when the former royal editor claimed the practice of phone hacking was widespread.

He said: "I should have gone there and thrown all the lawyers out of the place and seen Mr Goodman one-on-one - he had been an employee for a long time - and cross-examined him myself and made up my mind, maybe rightly, maybe wrongly, was he telling the truth.

"And if I had come to the conclusion that he was telling the truth, I would have torn the place apart and we wouldn't be here today.

"But that's hindsight, which of course is a lot easier than foresight."

The media mogul said he "panicked" when he took the decision to close the News of the World but was "glad" he did.

He added: "I am sorry I didn't close it years before and put a Sunday Sun in."

Separately, the inquiry heard that Mr Murdoch has had 67 confirmed meetings with British prime ministers since 1988.

He met Baroness Thatcher seven times, Sir John Major eight times, Tony Blair 31 times, Gordon Brown 17 times and David Cameron four times.

A list of the billionaire's meetings with opposition leaders was also released, showing that he met Mr Blair at least five times and Mr Cameron at least 13 times.

Mr Murdoch today rejected Mr Brown's claim that he was wrong when he said the former prime minister "declared war" on the tycoon's media empire after The Sun switched support to the Conservatives in September 2009.

The Leveson Inquiry, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, was adjourned until May 9.

PA

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit