James Murdoch Recalled to Parliament for More Phone-Hacking Questions

 Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty Images

LONDON - James Murdoch will have to return to the House of Commons to face another tricky questioning session about phone-hacking, but not until the committee hears from former Wall Street Journal boss Les Hinton.

Committee chairman John Whittingdale told Sky News there were "more questions" he wanted to put to Murdoch, but that others would testify first to give a fuller picture of events.

Hinton was chief executive of News International during the period that hacking has been revealed to be extensive, and authorized the payment of legal fees and other payments to former staff members including Andy Coulson, jailed reporter Clive Goodman and jailed former investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

The payments continued well after the employees had left the company.

Hinton is the most senior News Corp. staff member to have resigned over the growing crisis - which opened a new front Tuesday with the disclosure that a cache of new documents numbering thousands of documents potentially relevant to phone-hacking victims had come to light.

It came during a preliminary hearing at The High Court, where Mr Justice Vos - the judge hearing civil cases against the News of The World - said he would take five "lead cases" in the actions that will be heard in the new year.

These could potentially include comedy actor Steve Coogan, the parents of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, and the mother Christian Small, who was killed in the 7/7 terrorist bombings in London.

All are thought to have been phone-hacking victims.

The test cases will be heard in January in a bid to estimate the scale of damages likely to be claimed by more than 3000 possible victims of phone-hacking by investigators at the now shuttered News of The World.

James Murdoch is expected to be recalled in November to clarify evidence he gave at a session on July 19, when he claimed he was unaware that phone-hacking had been widespread at the newspaper as far back as 2007.

In his evidence session and in a subsequent statement, Murdoch said his recollection was "very clear" that he had not been informed that illegal practices were widespread.

The News Corp. deputy COO's evidence had been contradicted by former News International legal manager Tom Crone and former News of The World editor Colin Myler.

Giving evidence last week, the pair said that the matter had been discussed at a meeting with Murdoch, and that the implication  that phone-hacking was not restricted to one reporter had been "clear."

However, neither was able to give a clear recollection of what was discussed at the meeting or explain why no further action had been taken, given that the conclusion that illegal phone-interception had been known about in 2007. News International bosses had maintained until early this year that no such evidence existed.

"It was the reason that we had to settle the case, and in order to settle the case we had to explain it to Murdoch and get his authority to settle, so it would certainly have been discussed," Crone told the Parliamentary select committee last week.

"I cannot remember the detail of the conversation and there isn't a note of it. The conversation lasted for probably less than fifteen minutes…what exactly was said I cannot recall."

However, following the evidence session on Sept. 6, James Murdoch  issued a statement dismissing Crone and Myler's testimony as "unclear" and stating that he stood by his earlier evidence.

 

 

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