Byline Investigates Big News Part 21: Murdoch CEO ‘Lied’ Under Oath To Leveson – others too, Court Hears
By Graham Johnson
Editor, Byline Investigates
RUPERT Murdoch’s British newspapers supremo Rebekah Brooks has been branded a serial liar in a day of explosive claims at the High Court, Byline can reveal.
The 49-year-old Chief Executive Officer of Murdoch’s News UK is said to have misled the Leveson Inquiry, a Parliamentary committee, and jurors at her own Old Bailey trial, over her use of private investigators.
David Sherborne, barrister for the claimants, said: “Senior figures such as Ms. Brooks lied about this as part of their concealment.”
Mr Justice Mann, sitting at the Rolls Building, heard that Brooks commissioned data thief Steve Whittamore in 2001 to perform the illegal mobile “conversion” of a target in Doncaster when she was editor of the now defunct News of the World.
She has previously and consistently insisted that her use of private investigators was narrowly confined to a period when the paper was publishing the names and details of known paedophiles in support of its campaign for Sarah’s Law, and that she was therefore acting in the public interest (article continues below).
But in July 2009, while dealing with the newly erupting News of the World phone hacking scandal, Brooks – by now News International’s CEO – emailed The Sun’s Managing Editor Graham Dudman ordering him to go to South Yorkshire to investigate her tasking of Whittamore.
Brooks wrote to Dudman: “I need you to go to Doncaster. In 2001 I requested a mobile conversion and two directors searches on [redacted] and an occupancy.”
Brooks was preparing to go before the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiry into press ethics, having learned it was in possession of evidence showing her personal approval of the Doncaster operation.
The committee had reconvened that week to analyse revelations in The Guardian that more than “one rogue reporter” at the News of the World had been involved in hacking because of the existence of the “for Neville” email.
A mobile conversion is turning a phone number into a name, a service which Whittamore himself admits was nearly always done illegally by deceiving the mobile company into revealing it.
The director searches and occupancy search are likely to have been conducted legally via electoral rolls and publicly available Companies House data.
Brooks’s email went on: “I am pretty sure it would be sarahs law but I can’t be certain.”
The ‘name and shame’ campaign for Sarah’s Law – the right for the police to disclose on request whether someone with access to a child has a record for child sexual offences – started in July and August 2000 but quickly ended after vigilante attacks.
Brooks hired Whittamore to do the mobile conversion on the man in Doncaster –– in December 2001, more than 16 months after the name and shame campaign was suspended.
Brooks’ email goes on: “The select committee have this info but I do not know how to find out why I did this? And obviously need to be discreet about it.”
Brooks had previously said, and went on to testify, that she only ever tasked Whittamore to find paedophiles, in the belief it would be justified in the public interest.
But she was so concerned by this matter that she decided to dispatch her most senior executive to Doncaster to investigate.
The email was sent on the evening of Thursday July 16. Twenty minutes later Dudman had cleared his schedule and replied: “Ok – I’ll get the first train in morning and call you when I get there.”
The emails were disclosed by NGN to claimants who are suing the News of the World and the Sun for voicemail interception and data-theft and allege evidence and emails were destroyed as part of a cover-up.
David Sherborne, counsel for the claimants, asked for the further details to be disclosed. He also alleged there was evidence that Brooks, along with former Sun editor Dominic Mohan, current Sun on Sunday editor Victoria Newton, and a prominent former showbiz reporter, might have lied in evidence to the Leveson Inquiry about their use of private investigators.
He told Mr Justice Mann: “It is highly significant that Ms Brooks, then Editor of the News of the World, was personally instructing a private investigator, particularly given the statements made by some of NGN’s executives to the Leveson Inquiry as to their use of private investigators.”
The claimants are now requiring NGN to search Brooks’s and Dudman’s email inboxes to discover the results of his hurried quest to discover the truth about her illegal tasking of Whittamore in 2001.
Lawyers for NGN have denied that voicemail interception took place at The Sun and that claims of a cover-up are not true.
* Byline has more explosive revelations about this story, which it will publish in due course.
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