News International Disputes Police Evidence in Phone Hacking Investigation

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The company's lawyer Rhodri Davies says that the number of "News of The World" journalists involved was "far fewer" than the 28 that the Inquiry was lead to believe.

LONDON - News International came out fighting at the Leveson Inquiry Tuesday, disputing earlier claims that 28 News of The World staff had been involved in phone hacking and rejecting the allegation that Jude Law’s phone was hacked by a reporter from The Sun.

Rhodri Davies QC - giving opening statements on behalf of News International at the Judicial Inquiry into press standards headed by Lord Justice Leveson - said the information supplied by Leveson Inquiry QC Robert Jay needed to be "rechecked."

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On Monday the inquiry heard from Robert Jay QC, counsel for the Inquiry, that the names of 28 identifiable reporters had been found within the notebooks of former News of The World private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who had meticulously noted details of 2,266 incidences of being asked to hack phones while working with the now-shuttered newspaper.

News International's QC Davies said that while News International had never actually seen the full set of Glenn Mulcaire's notebooks - which were seized by police in 2006 - the publisher did not believe that 28 reporters were involved.

The suggestion "occasioned some surprise on our side," Davies told Lord Leveson, adding that the newspaper believed that it knew of five reporters named in the journals and that a few others had been identified by the police, "but our understanding is that it does not add up to 27."

Davies also said that News International  "disputed" the suggestion that Jude Law's phone had been hacked by The Sun, saying that "the claim is disputed and we do not accept that the [Glenn Mulcaire] documents support it."

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Davies was more fulsome in his apology to victims of phone-hacking and to those who suffered surveillance - including the members of the Culture Media and Sport committee and the lawyers bringing phone-hacking claims against News International.

"I should repeat on behalf of News International the apologies which have been made to all those whose phones were hacked by or at the behest of staff working at the News of the World," he told the Inquiry.

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"Phone hacking was wrong; it was shameful; it should never have happened. News International apologizes for it unreservedly. Nothing which is said on its behalf during this inquiry is intended to detract from it in any way."

He went on to add that the incidents of surveillance were "unacceptable" and "were not journalism at all."

The Leveson Inquiry is hearing opening statements from British newspapers this week and will begin hearing evidence from witnesses under oath in the weeks to come.

James Murdoch, Rebakah Wade, the parents of Milly Dowler, Hugh Grant and Sienna Miller are expected, eventually, to give evidence to the Inquiry.