Newspaper's current editor drawn into scandal over inquiry evidence

 

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The Independent Online

The current editor of the News of the World was last night dragged into the phone hacking scandal after he was accused of giving misleading evidence to Parliament.

Colin Myler was put in charge of the original News International internal investigation into the extent of hacking at the paper, after the resignation of Andy Coulson and the arrest of the paper's royal correspondent Clive Goodman.

Two years later he gave evidence to a House of Commons committee, saying that he had found "no evidence" that anyone other than Mr Goodman had been involved in the hacking, having overseen a trawl through "thousands" of company emails.

Yesterday the chairman of that committee John Whittingdale said that in the light of the new police investigation, Mr Myler's evidence was "very difficult to believe".

"What he told us looks deeply implausible," Mr Whittingdale said. "The assurances that there was a thorough investigation at the time that revealed absolutely no evidence do look very difficult to believe." Answering questions put to him by the House of Commons Culture Committee in 2009, Mr Myler categorically denied there was any evidence that hacking had been more widespread.

He was asked if he agreed that phone interception carried out by "one rogue maverick journalist" was "a discredited theory". Mr Myler replied: "No evidence has been produced... to suggest that what you have said is the truth. I conducted [this] inquiry with our Director of Human Resources – over 2,500 emails were accessed because we were exploring whether or not there was any other evidence to suggest essentially what you are hinting at. No evidence was found; that is up to 2,500 emails."

He was backed up by Les Hinton, then chief executive of News International, who told the committee: "When it all happened my first detailed conversation was with Andy Coulson and I said, 'Andy, we have got make certain the extent to which this has been going on.'

"We brought in a firm of solicitors and there were many, many conversations with the police. There was never firm evidence provided or suspicion provided that I am aware of that implicated anybody else other than Clive within the staff of the News of the World. It just did not happen and had it happened then we would have acted."

He also said: "When Colin Myler took over as Editor he continued studying the events there... and I know from recollection he went through thousands of emails. He never delivered any evidence that there had been anyone else involved."

Mr Whittingdale said the committee would not re-open its investigation into hacking as it had been superseded by the fresh police investigation. But he said that the committee had never been convinced by Mr Myler and Mr Hinton's evidence in the first place.

Privately News International sources admit that the emails that led to the sacking of Ian Edmondson and the fresh police investigation "had been in the building" at the time of Mr Myler's evidence. However, they insisted it was a question of "not knowing" rather than trying to mislead the committee.