MPs condemn NI 'wilful blindness' and 'blatant contempt'

The behaviour of News International and certain staff in giving evidence to MPs betrayed ‘contempt’for the Commons, the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee said today.

Its report into the hacking scandal also found that former News International chairman Les Hinton, former News of the Lawyer Tom Crone and former News of the World editor Colin Myler all misled the committee.

The report does accuses James and Rupert Murdoch of ‘wilful blindness”.

The report recommends that the House of Commons decide whether a contempt of Parliament has been committed and whether punishment should be meted out.

Here are the key conclusions from today’s report:

  • “Les Hinton misled the committee in 2009 in not telling the truth about payments to Clive Goodman and his role in authorising them, including the payment of his legal fee. He also misled the committee about the extent of his knowledge of allegations that phone-hacking extended beyond Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire to others at the News of the World.
  • ‘Tom Crone misled the Committee in 2009 by giving a counter-impression of the significance of confidentiality in the Gordon Taylor settlement and sought to mislead the Committee about the commissioning of surveillance.
  • ‘Tom Crone and Colin Myler misled the Committee by answering questions falsely about their knowledge of evidence that other News of the World employees had been involved in phone-hacking and other wrongdoing.
  • ‘Corporately, the News of the World and News International misled the Committee about the true nature and extent of the internal investigations they professed to have carried out in relation to phone hacking; by making statements they would have known were not fully truthful; and by failing to disclose documents which would have helped expose the truth. Their instinct throughout, until it was too late, was to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing and discipline the perpetrators, as they also professed they would do after the criminal convictions.
  • ‘In failing to investigate properly, and by ignoring evidence of widespread wrongdoing, News International and its parent News Corporation exhibited wilful blindness, for which the companies’ directors–including Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch–should ultimately be prepared to take responsibility.
  • ‘The integrity and effectiveness of the Select Committee system relies on the truthfulness and completeness of the oral and written evidence submitted. The behaviour of News International and certain witnesses in this affair demonstrated contempt for that system in the most blatant fashion. Important lessons need to be learned accordingly and we draw our Report to the attention of the Liaison Committee which is considering possible reforms to Select Committees.
  • “We note that it is for the House to decide whether a contempt has been committed and, if so, what punishment should be imposed. We note that it makes no difference– in terms of misleading this Committee–that evidence was not taken on oath. Witnesses are required to tell the truth to committees whether on oath or not. We will table a motion inviting the House to endorse our conclusions about misleading evidence.”

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