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

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Ashdown Group: Senior .Net Developer - Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A long-established, technology rich ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Women are less likely to become scientists and engineers  

International Women's Day: How much could be achieved if we scrapped the idea of 'male' jobs?

Anne Richards
Dame Maggie Smith stars in Downtown Abbey as Countess Violet  

We need to see Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon on stage again

David Lister
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
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