James Murdoch Questioning May Continue as Hacking Scandal Escalates

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James Murdoch

The House of Commons Committee that compelled the Murdochs to give evidence last week will meet Friday to discuss recalling BSkyB chairman James Murdoch, who is also News Corp.'s deputy COO.

LONDON -- Britain’s House of Commons Culture Media and Sport committee will meet Friday to discuss the recall of News Corp deputy COO James Murdoch -- who is also chairman of pay-TV powerhouse BSkyB -- to answer further questions about the hacking scandal that escalated in London Thursday.

The news comes on the eve of BSkyB’s results and on a day when the BSkyB board Murdoch its unanimous support over his position, despite the mounting allegations.

At the same time, disturbing revelations emerged that News of the World investigators may have hacked into a phone that the newspaper itself gave to Sara Payne -- the mother of a murdered eight year old schoolgirl -- who had jointly campaigned with the newspaper’s editor Rebekah Brooks to introduce a law against pedofiles after her daughter was abducted and killed.

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House of Commons Media Committee member Tom Watson – himself instrumental in summoning James and Rupert Murdoch to answer questions on what they knew on phone-hacking -- said the revelations were "a new low" and told Sky News on Tuesday that James Murdoch still had questions to answer.

“My own personal view is that we should immediately invite James Murdoch [former News of The World editor] Colin Myler and [former News International legal adviser] Tom Crone to address us so we can narrow into the very specific points of what James Murdoch was aware of as well as the wider aspects of the cover up and how the scandal emerged within the company,” Watson said.

James Murdoch told the committee last week that he had not been given key information about payments he issued, which he had signed off on the basis of advice from colleagues, which would have lead him to believe that the phone hacking issue was not an isolated incident. His account was immediately contracted by Crone and Myler, who advised him at the time.

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"Just by way of clarification relating to Tuesday's [July 19] Culture, Media Select Committee hearing, we would like to point out that James Murdoch's recollection of what he was told when agreeing to settle the Gordon Taylor litigation was mistaken,” Crone and Myler said in a statement."In fact, we did inform him of the 'for Neville' email which had been produced to us by Gordon Taylor's lawyers."

The “For Neville” email is thought to be a smoking gun email detailing multiple occasions of phone-hacking, nullifying the News International defense of the next two years that the practise was not widespread.

“News International have had to be forced at every point to revealing information and this seems another example of that,” Watson said. “I don’t know where it is going to end.”

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Earlier Brooks, who edited the newspaper at the time and is thought to have arranged for Payne to have the phone, said she found the allegations that the paper had accessed the phone “abhorrent,” but did not go as far as saying they were untrue.

“These allegations are abhorrent and particularly upsetting as Sara Payne is a dear friend. For the benefit of the campaign for Sarah’s Law [the UK equivalent of Megan’s Law] the News of the World have provided Sara with  a mobile phone for the last eleven years.”

Phoenix Chief Advocates, the child welfare group ayne has worked with, issued a statement saying that Payne had been hit very hard by the news she was given by Scotland Yard’s Operation Weeting, the 60-strong police force now investigating the full extent of phone-hacking.

“Sara is absolutely devastated by this news. We are all deeply disappointed by it and are just working to get her through it. Sara will continue to work with the proper authorities regarding this matter.”