For those who thought the phone hacking scandal was over, or that the Murdoch mafiosi’s part in it was over, this week has brought a reminder that the affair is still very much alive, and very much in the courts: right now, the cases of 17 people suing the publishers of both the late and not at all lamented Screws, and the still very much alive Sun, are being deliberated upon at the High Court. Most of the press is, as usual, ignoring it.
James Murdoch - may not be smiling soon
And as usual, the deeply subversive Guardian is having no truck with the implicit enforcement of press Omertà, telling readers “James Murdoch involved in News International email deletion, court told”. Now there’s a name to savour: Murdoch Junior is junior only to his father, Don Rupioni. And there was more.
“David Sherborne QC claimed on Monday there were documents, emails and meeting agendas that showed senior executives including Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks pursued an email deletion policy that removed ‘emails that could be unhelpful in future litigation in which News International could be a defendant’”. Sherborne was a favourite target of the press in the wake of his role in questioning participants at the Leveson Inquiry.
That papers like the Mail have kept schtum shows how far the Dacre doggies are prepared to go in order to bite their collected lips to help the Murdochs. So what’s being argued on the email front? “Email deletion, which News International has always maintained was part of legitimate housekeeping, was on the ‘agenda of and/or discussed and approved by’ [James] Murdoch on at least six occasions between January and April 2010, according to written arguments submitted to the court by the claimants”.
Murdoch Junior was executive chairman of News UK’s predecessor company News International at the time. As to Ms Brooks, the article notes “Brooks’s involvement in ordering a general deletion of emails while chief executive of News International was revealed during the criminal phone-hacking trial in 2013 in which she was acquitted of all charges”. That puts Murdoch Junior in one of those Very Difficult Positions.
The unhelpful wording, from an email sent by the company’s CIO to an in-house lawyer, is this: “Fyi also spoke with her [Brooks] on this and fine with what we are doing but adamant on Jan 2010 and has discussed it with JRM [James Murdoch] who wants to draw a line under Wapping and pre-2010. Can you pop round to discuss implications with me thanks andy”. It’s all about the interpretation of “wants to draw a line”.
Why is this important? Simples: “The allegations about email deletion were made during a case management hearing in the civil case, during which lawyers from NGN tried to limit the disclosure of documents and emails that the claimants say show phone hacking took place over a longer period than previously thought, and was not confined to the News of the World. NGN says the extent of disclosure asked for by the claimants is not proportionate”. The Murdochs don’t want to disclose what the claimants want them to.
If they lose this battle, things are likely to become significantly less comfortable, and especially for Murdoch Junior and Ms Brooks. There will be more on this later.