Leading article: The police must treat the cover-up as seriously as the crime

Share
Related Topics

James Murdoch has a great deal of explaining to do.

The former head of News International told the Commons media committee this week that the first inkling he had that phone hacking at the News of the World went further than a single rogue reporter was in December 2010. Mr Murdoch claims that when he authorised out-of-court payments to a high-profile hacking victim in 2008, he was kept in the dark by subordinates about the full scale of the illegality that had been taking place at the newspaper.

But this week, two of those executives took issue with that narrative. On Thursday, the former News of the World editor, Colin Myler, and the newspaper's legal manager, Tom Crone, released a statement saying that in 2008 they drew Mr Murdoch's attention to an email that blew a large hole in News International's claims about hacking being the work of one rogue reporter.

So who is telling the truth? Colin Myler and Tom Crone? Or James Murdoch? If it turns out to be Mr Murdoch who is dissembling, then he is in serious trouble. For that would imply that he has lied to the public, misled Parliament, knowingly covered up gross illegality at News International and perhaps even obstructed the course of justice.

It will have wider implications too. The News Corp chairman and chief executive, Rupert Murdoch, told the Commons media committee this week that his company takes a zero tolerance approach to wrongdoing. Yet the possibility now arises that the former head of News Corp's British subsidiary was prepared to sweep serious wrongdoing under the carpet. And, of course, James Murdoch has since been promoted to a senior position in News Corp (and is often spoken of as the successor to his father as head of the company). If this is what has happened, can News Corp, under its present management, seriously be considered "fit and proper" to own media organisations in the UK?

Two things must now happen. The committee's chairman, John Whittingdale, says Mr Murdoch has agreed to write to him to explain his testimony further. But this discrepancy demands more than an exchange of letters. Mr Murdoch, along with Mr Crone and Mr Myler, must be called to testify again before the committee to get to the truth. This should happen within weeks, despite the fact that the summer recess has begun.

Mr Murdoch also needs to be questioned by the police about his testimony. The focus of the Metropolitan Police's Operation Weeting has apparently been on the narrow issue of phone hacking. And that is a big enough job. According to Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, who is leading the investigation, only 170 out of some 4,000 phone-hacking targets have so far been contacted. Yet as well as pushing on with that, the police must not neglect to probe this suspected cover-up.

From the start, the phone-hacking affair has been as much a scandal of the apparent immunity of the Murdoch empire as it has been about illegal eavesdropping. For a long time it looked as if one newspaper group was, in effect, above the law thanks to its connections at the very top of politics and policing. That any institution or individual should be in such a position is incompatible with democracy. This is why it is now so vital that the police investigate with the utmost seriousness the possibility that James Murdoch has broken the law.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
 

Never underestimate the power of the National Trust

Boyd Tonkin
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss