News Corp backs Rupert Murdoch – but 'witchfinders' trawl emails of staff at Wapping


News Corp's board of directors came out in full support of Rupert Murdoch last night, more than 24 hours after a parliamentary committee described the company's chief executive as unfit to run a major international business.

News Corp said in a statement that the board had full confidence in Mr Murdoch's fitness and support his ability to lead News Corp as chairman and CEO.

"The board based its vote of confidence on Rupert Murdoch's vision and leadership in building News Corporation, his ongoing performance as chairman and CEO, and his demonstrated resolve to address the mistakes of the company identified in the select committee's report," the statement said.

The backing came as it emerged that News Group Newspapers has drawn up a list of 52 staff who it believes may be part of the evidence trail for phone hacking or the illegal gathering of information. Lawyers acting for NGN have said they are searching the emails and documents of the 52 for evidence of criminality relating to thousands of claims by alleged hacking victims. Not all of those included in the searches will be suspected of wrongdoing.

The company is trawling 5.5 million emails and documents belonging to these 52 "data custodians". It is not clear whether all the 52 have direct connections to the News of the World.

News Group originally claimed the hacking scandal was confined to the actions of Clive Goodman, the royal editor who was jailed in January 2007.

Since then, the degree to which his colleagues and bosses were aware of such activities has been the subject of conjecture. A witness statement, written by Linklaters lawyer Christa Band, argues that NGN is doing everything that can reasonably be expected in searching for evidence on behalf of those who claim to have been victims of phone hacking. But lawyers acting for recent litigants are understood to be unhappy that NGN has limited its search to a set list of individuals which the company drew up.

The Linklaters statement makes clear that News Group is struggling to cope with the weight of litigation against it, with 58 different firms of solicitors representing hacking claimants.

The claimants have already incurred £1.73m in common costs plus in excess of a further £10m in individual costs. "NGN remains very concerned at the unrealistically high costs which are being incurred in this litigation," warns the statement.

It also makes clear how hard NGN is fighting cases brought by those who were named in the notebooks of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who was used to carry out phone hacking on a wide variety of targets. "Not every individual who is contacted by the [Metropolitan Police] and informed that they can be identified from Mr Mulcaire's notebooks will have a claim," it states. It notes that Mulcaire might have tracked people down using "conventional forms of inquiry such as internet and electoral roll searching, interrogating databases or making telephone inquiries".

Those whose numbers are listed in Mulcaire's notebooks will have to fight hard to prove they were hacked. "This [number] could have been given to Mulcaire. Equally, it could have been obtained by him as a result of other inquiries," the statement explains.

Lawyers acting for alleged victims have asked NGN to trawl for further evidence but it says the search requests are too broad and that the computer system, which is being operated by PricewaterhouseCoopers, has been struggling to cope.

In a letter to News International staff, Mr Murdoch claimed the company has "gone beyond what law enforcement authorities have asked of us" in investigating phone hacking and other illegality. He said an inquiry into The Times and The Sunday Times by the Management and Standards Committee had found "no evidence of illegal conduct" other than a case of computer hacking which had led to the disciplining of an employee.

News International said last night: "Searching against the number of 52 custodians does not mean that it is considered likely that all of them have relevant documents."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot