In giving evidence to the Leveson enquiry on media ethics, former News International chairman James Murdoch has denied any cover up of phone hacking within the News of the World but has admitted that the newspaper was ‘cavalier’ about risk.
Giving evidence this morning, Murdoch was questioned about his own role within News International and his knowledge of legal affairs and of discussions over legal settlements with former PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor and celebrity PR man Max Clifford.
Murdoch continued to deny knowledge of widespread hacking within the company by journalists or private detectives News International employed and explained that when consulted about the legal settlement of Taylor’s case, that he had ‘got strong advice on the subject’ that the settlement wasn’t decided in order to protect the company’s reputation, although confidentiality was requested from both parties.
Asked why he hadn’t moved to impose further safeguards that ensured that employees were continuing to carry out illegal practices, he explained; “There were assurances to me that the newspaper had been investigated thoroughly, no evidence was found, and the police who investigated also said that they had no further evidence.”
He added that he left the responsibility with enforcing that journalists followed the code of conduct to the editor of the newspaper.
Discussing the revelations that further employees were involved in such practices that came to light during actress Sienna Miller’s litigation, he responded; “The coming out of the evidence was a great concern and I insisted that the company move to investigate the allegations, suspend those involved and move to bring in new council to get to the bottom of what was going on.”
He concluded the morning session by responding to whether he believed that the News of the World brand was ‘cavalier’; “knowing what we know now about the widespread nature of these poor practices that it must have been cavalier about risk and that’s something that must make sure doesn’t happen again in the future.”