Latest papers put pressure on James Murdoch

News International Chairman and Chief Executive James Murdoch arriving for work in London on July 13.

Story highlights

  • New documents show News of the World senior advisors aware of widespread phone hacking
  • Documents add pressure on Murdoch defense that hacking was work of "rogue reporter"
James Murdoch will come under further pressure from MPs over what he knew about phone hacking at the News of the World, following the release on Tuesday of documents citing the tabloid's own lawyers.
The papers, including a QC's opinion, suggest that some of Mr Murdoch's most senior advisers knew three years ago that the illegal practice was widespread at the now-defunct newspaper.
The newly published documents also show that Colin Myler, NoW's former editor, told an external lawyer that he believed Mr Murdoch would tell him to "get rid" of journalists and "cut out [the] cancer" afflicting the newspaper if he knew about it.
But the documents, released by MPs investigating the phone hacking scandal, do not show that Mr Murdoch, then executive chairman of the paper's parent, News International, was aware of the extent of the brewing crisis at the tabloid.
Michael Silverleaf QC, instructed by lawyers for News Group Newspapers (NGN), said in a formal opinion that, if a privacy suit brought against the company came to trial, they could not hope to maintain the position that phone hacking was the work of only one reporter.
Mr Silverleaf had been asked whether NGN should seek to settle a case brought by Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, and if so, for how much. He said he thought that it was "almost inevitable" that, if the case went to trial, any court would "wish to mark its disapproval" of activities that "will be seen as immoral and repugnant by any judge who is likely to hear the action".
"There is a powerful case that there is (or was) a culture of illegal information access used at NGN to produce stories for publication," he wrote on June 3 2008.
The Taylor case was settled and Mr Murdoch's company continued to advance the "rogue reporter" defence until April this year.
Mr Murdoch is due to appear on November 10 before the Commons select committee on culture, media and sport, which published the documents on Tuesday, and has said throughout that he was never told about evidence of phone hacking.
A person close to Mr Murdoch said he had not seen the QC's opinion until "very recently".