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Les Hinton: Goodman letter on hacking 'wasn't evidence'

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By Noel Young, Correspondent

October 24, 2011 | 3 min read

Les Hinton, former executive chairman of News International, speaking to MPs on an international video link today, rejected suggestions that company executives have been "untruthful" with MPs on phone hacking.

Les Hinton

He accepted that previous evidence that the practice only involved one reporter had proven inaccurate. But he told Parliament's Culture Committee that a letter from Clive Goodman - copied to him - alleging it was widespread had not constituted "firm evidence".

The letter is at the end of a lengthy legal document posted on the Committee's website: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/culture-media-and-sport/PH20.2.pdf

In a 70-minute grilling, Les Hinton said there was "no reason" for his successor James Murdoch to resign, he added. The committee will re-examine Mr Murdoch on November 10.

Asked if what happened at the News of the World was that "a small group got together and decided to keep the matter themselves and that Rupert Murdoch would never know" Hinton said the story was still unfolding, "I can't answer that now."

Chairman John Whittingdale wants to bring back James, the current executive chairman, after hearing conflicting evidence about how much he knew about the extent of hacking at the News of the World.

Former legal manager Tom Crone told MPs he was "certain" he told Mr Murdoch about an email which indicated phone hacking at the paper went beyond ex-royal correspondent Clive Goodman.

Together with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, Goodman was jailed in 2007 for hacking voicemail messages.

Another former legal adviser, Julian Pike, said News International was told in 2008 that three journalists other than Mr Goodman were involved in phone hacking.

Mr Hinton, who worked for the company for more than 50 years, had been recalled for questioning about the letter written by Goodman to News International after he was dismissed.

In the letter, he alleged the practice of phone hacking was widespread at the News of the World. Mr Hinton said he had seen the letter in 2007.

But he denied misleading the committee at a previous appearance in 2009 when he said there was "never any firm evidence provided or suspicion provided" of more than one NoW reporter being involved in hacking.

"I didn't regard Mr Goodman's letter as evidence," said Mr Hinton.

"We acted, I think, very responsibly to what Mr Goodman had claimed and at the end of it, we discovered no basis to what he was claiming, so I think therefore my statement is valid."

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