Former News Int lawyer denies Murdoch cover-up claim

Former News International legal manager Tom Crone has denied suggestions that he was involved in a cover-up over hacking at the News of the World.

Crone said an unnamed lawyer to whom Rupert Murdoch referred at the Leveson Inquiry could “only” refer to him, and said the claims made were untrue.

Murdoch told the Leveson Inquiry yesterday that he and senior executives were not informed, misinformed and “shielded” from what was going on as part of a cover-up, and went on: “I blame one or two people for that, who perhaps I shouldn’t name because for all I know they may be arrested yet.

“But there is no question in my mind that maybe even the editor, but certainly behind that, someone took charge of a cover-up which we were victim to and I regret.”

Asked by counsel to the inquiry Robert Jay QC where the “cover-up” emanated from, the tycoon replied: “I think from within the News of the World.

“There were one or two very strong characters there who I think had been there many, many years and were friends of the journalists.”

He added: “The person I am thinking of was a friend of the journalists, drinking pal, and was a clever lawyer and forbade them to go and see the evidence, or there have been statements reporting that this person forbade people to go and report to Mrs Brooks or James (Murdoch).”

But Crone said in a statement issued after the hearing: “Since Rupert Murdoch’s evidence today about a lawyer who had been on the News of the World for many years can only refer to me, I am issuing the following statement.

“His assertion that I ‘took charge of a cover-up’ in relation to phone-hacking is a shameful lie. The same applies to his assertions that I misinformed senior executives about what was going on and that I forbade people from reporting to Rebekah Brooks or to James Murdoch.

“It is perhaps no coincidence that the two people he has identified in relation to his cover-up allegations are the same two people who pointed out that his son’s evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee last year was inaccurate.

“The fact that Mr Murdoch’s attack on Colin Myler and myself may have been personal as well as being wholly wrong greatly demeans him.”

Crone and former News of the World editor Colin Myler told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in September last year that they informed James Murdoch in 2008 about the so-called “For Neville” e-mail which proved hacking went beyond a single “rogue reporter” at the paper.

James Murdoch denied the claims.

In December, emails were published showing that he was sent details in 2008 of claims phone-hacking was “rife” at the News of the World.

But James Murdoch told the House of Commons Culture Committee that he did not read the e-mail exchange forwarded to him by Mr Myler, the newspaper then editor.

Today his father, Rupert Murdoch, said he had not paid close enough attention to the situation at the now-defunct Sunday tabloid and apologised for what had happened, and to the staff who lost their jobs when he closed the newspaper last July.

“I have to admit that some newspapers are closer to my heart than others but I also have to say that I failed. And I am very sorry about it.”

Tom Crone’s statement in full:

“Since Rupert Murdoch’s evidence today about a lawyer who had been on the News of the World for many years can only refer to me, I am issuing the following statement.

“His assertion that I ‘took charge of a cover-up’ in relation to phone-hacking is a shameful lie. The same applies to his assertions that I misinformed senior executives about what was going on and that I forbade people from reporting to Rebekah Brooks or to James Murdoch.

“It is perhaps no coincidence that the two people he has identified in relation to his cover-up allegations are the same two people who pointed out that his son’s evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee last year was inaccurate.

“The fact that Mr Murdoch’s attack on Colin Myler and myself may have been personal as well as being wholly wrong greatly demeans him.”

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