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

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

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn