THREE Chief Executives of Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper empire have been accused of a mass cover-up of phone hacking, the High Court in London has heard.
The bosses include Mr Murdoch’s own son James, current head of News UK Rebekah Brooks, and the ex-Chief Executive of the prestigious Wall Street Journal, Les Hinton.
The allegations form part of an explosive document deployed at the High Court today, touted by lawyers as the most important paperwork to come out of ten years of litigation facing the Murdoch empire.
It centres on a plan allegedly hatched to start deleting emails three weeks before the company informed the police it had found evidence that disproved its own public “one rogue reporter” defence to phone hacking, according to barrister David Sherborne. who represents 49 claimants currently suing The Sun and News of the World for alleged phone hacking and unlawful information gathering, with a further 83 in the pipeline.
They are arguing that not only were they harmed by unlawful intrusions into their privacy by journalists, but the damage was aggravated by the alleged concealment and destruction of evidence by their employer.
On the January 6, 2011, the company’s IT bosses informed corporate lawyer Jon Chapman that they had found ‘incriminating emails,’ Mr Sherborne told Justice Mann at the High Court in London on Wednesday, May 20, 2020.
The messages involved former news editors Ian Edmondson, James Weatherup and Neville Thurlbeck – who had been instructing the paper’s in-house hacker Glenn Mulcaire.
The emails contained the names of targets, mobile phone numbers, pin codes and transcripts of voicemails.
The major discovery blew a hole in the company’s ‘one-rogue-reporter’ alibi, which had – until that point – saved Murdoch’s company from a widespread police investigation.
The next day on January 7, 2011, a police officer called Dean Hayden emailed the company, to ask if there was any new material that could be handed over to officers, in the light of recent newspaper stories.
Under the law, Chapman had a duty to hand over evidence to a live police investigation, and the first victims of phone hacking, including actress Sienna Miller, who were lodging letters of claim with the company as Defendant.
However, it is alleged that Chapman did not tell Hayden the three emails had turned up. Instead, according the Claimants, a group of executives started allegedly deleting emails.
The systematic deletion of millions of emails, at the height of the phone hacking scandal, was very serious, according to Claimants’ counsel David Sherborne.
The emails allegedly implicated all of Murdoch’s top people in widespread criminal activity – including his son James, two other Chief Executives and two high-powered lawyers.
The bosses are accused of industrial scale phone hacking, and unlawful use of private investigators, going back two decades, or at least knowing about it.
Three weeks later, once the ‘targeted deletions,’ were underway the company decided to inform the police.
Neither the executives, the lawyers or their company News Group Newspapers (NGN) have admitted or responded to the allegations.
Under the law, executives are obliged to preserve evidence of wrong doing, once legal proceedings are underway, or risk charges of perversion of the course of justice.
The alleged plot members named in the legal document, according to Mr Sherborne, read like a who’s who of the most powerful members of the British media.
They include three former Chief Executives of News International Les Hinton, James Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks.
John Chapman was the Director of Legal Affairs for News International, between July 2003 until July 2011.
And Tom Crone, was the Legal Manager for both News Group Newspapers and News International, responsible for The Sun and The News of the World.
The key document, in which the allegations have been made, is known as the Generic Particulars of Claim of Concealment and Destruction (GPoCD).
The submission, according to Mr Sherborne, details all of the known allegations of an alleged cover-up, which are to due to be heard at a trial scheduled for October.
NGN deny or do not admit that criminal activity went on. Their lawyers state that there is not enough evidence to back-up Mr Sherborne’s claims, or his requests for more disclosure.
- The case continues…