News Corp‘s Rupert Murdoch told the Leveson Inquiry that he was “appalled” that a Times lawyer seemingly misled the High Court over how the paper came to reveal the identity of anonymous police blogger Nightjack.
News International had now referred the lawyer – believed to be solicitor Alastair Brett, who was legal manager at The Times – to the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA), he told the inquiry.
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Murdoch said he was ‘disappointed’the paper’s editor James Harding decided to publish the story revealing that Lancashire policeman Richard Horton was the author of the award-winning blog.
Horton is now suing the newspaper citing breach of confidence, misuse of private information and deceit.
Horton, 48, was revealed as the writer of the blog by The Times three years ago and is seeking aggravated and exemplary damages.
He was unmasked after a reporter at The Times, Patrick Forster, initially identified him by hacking into his emails.
The detective sought an injunction preventing publication when he learned that the newspaper was planning to expose him.
Then Times legal manager Alastair Brett has admitted that legal documents filed by the paper as part of the case – one of which stated that Foster established Horton’s identity using “publicly available materials, patience and simple deduction” – did not give the “full story”.
Murdoch said in a written statement to the Leveson Inquiry: “The Times failed to explain how the identity had originally been established and as a result the court was misled.
“I also understand that the editor, James Harding, has apologised to the blogger, to the court and to the inquiry. “I was unaware of this matter until it arose in evidence before the inquiry.
“I am appalled that the lawyer misled the court and disappointed that the editor published the story.”
He added: “To the best of my knowledge, this appears to have been an isolated incident.”
Times editor James Harding told the Leveson inquiry that evidence of the paper’s involvement in email hacking had previously been withheld from the High Court, and that he had written to the judge involved, Mr Justice Eady, to apologise.
Horton had sought an injunction to prevent the story being published but this was turned down by Mr Justice Eady in a landmark decision.
He ruled that any right of privacy for Horton would be likely to be outweighed by public interest in revealing that a particular police officer had been making the contributions.
After being exposed Horton faced disciplinary procedures and was forced to delete his award-winning blog.
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