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James Murdoch Knew About Extent of Phone-Hacking, News of the World Lawyer Tells Inquiry

James Murdoch
Bloomberg/Getty Images
James Murdoch

Tom Crone says “the damning email" was "certainly discussed.”

LONDON -- James Murdoch’s claim that he knew nothing about a culture of illegal behavior at News International was flatly contradicted by the News of the World’s in-house lawyer Wednesday.

Former News of the World editor Tom Crone said Murdoch was briefed about phone-hacking at a meeting in June 2008. As a result he concluded that an expensive legal settlement had to be paid out in order to prevent knowledge of widespread phone-hacking from becoming public.

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“What was certainly discussed is the email … the ‘For Neville” damning email and what it meant… what was relayed to Murdoch is that this document was certainly direct and hard evidence.”

Crone said he went into the meeting with the briefing note that had earlier been emailed to Murdoch by former News of the World editor Colin Myler, as well as multiple copies of the immensely critical legal opinion by News International barrister Michael Silverleaf QC, which concluded there was a “culture of criminal behavior” at the News of the World.

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“I think he was made aware of the situation ….which involved counsel opinion – I don’t think he may have seen the copy but there was not any major element of it that was not told to him.”

Crone said he doesn’t remember whether he gave a copy of the briefing to Murdoch, but said that the News International CEO seemed to know about the contents.

“I can’t remember if they were passed across the table to him – but I’m sure I waved it at him. I’m also sure that he pretty much knew about it, which the other documents that have come out also suggest.”

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The lawyer’s comments, which were made under oath, came a day after Murdoch was forced to admit that he had received -- and responded -- to an email detailing a phone-hacking “further nightmare scenario” for News International.

Murdoch yesterday told Parliament that he “did not review” the full email, which contained extensive legal briefings about how the newspaper needed to keep details of multiple instances of phone-hacking from becoming public.

The News Corp deputy COO, who remains chairman of News International, has continued to maintain that he did not know that phone-hacking had occurred in multiple cases despite the new evidence which only emerged in the past week.

He has since told Parliament that he stands by his earlier testimony in July and November when he told the committee he was unaware of any other criminal activity at the newspaper, beyond that which had already been legally dealt with.

“I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm my past testimony that I was not aware of evidence that either pointed to widespread wrongdoing or indicated that further investigation was necessary," he said.

Murdoch, who told the Parliamentary committee earlier this year that he was “mislead” by Crone and Myler, who he blamed for concealing the evidence of widespread phone-hacking from him.

He has not withdrawn that accusation, even though the evidence now exists showing that Myler had sent him the relevant information.