The press does not like air its dirty laundry in public: the code of omertà is maintained by most papers as a result. But we do know, thanks to the deeply subversive Guardian, that News International’s former head of legal affairs, Tom Crone, is in potentially hot water with his own profession. Crone, who was a key figure in the phone-hacking scandal, had more than 25 years’ service with the Murdoch empire in the UK.
Tom Crone at the Leveson Inquiry
His predicament is put directly: “Tom Crone, the former News of the World lawyer, has appeared before a Bar Standards Board disciplinary tribunal … He is facing six charges of professional misconduct and could be disbarred … The five-person tribunal has heard the evidence against Crone, but only part of his response. He will resume giving evidence at a reconvened hearing on 2 August”. But of that evidence we hear no more.
The thought enters that simply giving legal advice to an employer would not in itself lead to disciplinary action with the potential to be disbarred. So what was he up to? Here, the current issue of Private Eye magazine (issue 1423, on sale from all good newspaper outlets) has fortunately been able to shed rather more light on Crone’s activities. And the charge sheet makes for grim - but all too predictable - reading.
As the Eye tells, “The judge and four assessors at the Gray’s Inn tribunal heard from a solicitor, Mark Lewis, who described how the News Of The World lined him up for punishment after he crossed Rupert Murdoch … Lewis had represented Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association … the Met handed Lewis … evidence that hacking was not the work of one ‘rogue’ reporter … but was talking place on an industrial scale … the News Of The World put Lewis under surveillance”.
Crone’s modus operandi, when discovered, was “painting Lewis as the real offender. He suspected, without evidence, that Lewis had leaked details of the scale of News International’s hacking to the Guardian. He suspected, again without evidence, that Lewis was having an affair …. So … he put a private investigator on to Lewis”.
The attempt to justify the surveillance, Lewis argued, made no sense: “If he was having an affair, how did that prove he had leaked information to the Guardian? The truth was that the NotW wanted to run a story about his sex life, he alleged, and warn off lawyers who were thinking about representing hacking victims”.
There was, of course, one other thing that the Eye did not mention, and that is that Mark Lewis is also an unswerving supporter of campaigning group Hacked Off. The Murdoch mafiosi - along with most of the rest of Fleet Street - is always on the look-out for ways to dump on them, because Hacked Off advocates for genuinely independent press regulation, which most of the Fourth Estate would rather not have. Far more preferable for them to continue with IPSO, which they can bend to their collective will.
All of which means Crone, and the Cosa Rupra, could be in yet more trouble. Good.