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News International Ordered Mass Email Deletion as Late as 2010 According to New Court Documents

NewsCorp Rupert Close - H 2011
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Hundreds of thousands of "unhelpful" emails were deleted on nine occasions, the documents reveal.

LONDON - Evidence of a mass email deletion program and a cover-up operation aimed at concealing the extent of phone-hacking at the News of The World emerged Friday.

Court documents released in the High Court by Mr Justice Vos detail that "hundreds of thousands of emails were deleted on nine separate occasions" and that a senior unnamed executive at the News of The World also ordered seven boxes of paper records to be removed from storage.

The court documents were put together by lawyers acting for a series of phone-hacking claimants - based on information they were provided by News Corp.'s investigative arm, the Management Standards Committee.

The papers would have formed the basis for argument in any case brought to the High Court by a phone-hacking claimant.

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So far News Corp. has settled all such cases out of court, but more cases are expected.

Among the highly damaging revelations, perhaps the most damaging are thedetail that emerges about the attempts to illegally destroy evidence.

From 2008 News International had a legal obligation to preserve all evidence relating to court cases that were already in progress.

Instead, it created in 2009 an "email deletion policy" which the court documents said was designed to "eliminate in a consistent manner across News International .... Emails that could be considered unhelpful in the context of future litigation in which News International was a defendant."

Emails in the 48-page document also show that at least six News of the World journalists hacked phones and it contains emails from a senior executive ordering all emails from prior to 2010 to be deleted.

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How come we still haven't done the email deletion program discussed and approved six months ago," says one emailfrom an unnamed senior executive at News Group Newspapers.

News International did not comment, but lawyers for the group told the High Court they were adopting a "neutral" position on the release of the documents.