James Murdoch Asked to Clarify Testimony

Saturday, 30 Jul 2011 09:37 AM

 

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LONDON — British lawmakers on Friday demanded that James Murdoch clarify why testimony he gave to a parliamentary committee probing the phone hacking scandal conflicted with a statement from two former executives.

Murdoch, deputy chief operating officer of media giant News Corp., and his father, tycoon Rupert Murdoch, testified about the widening allegations of phone tapping and bribery at the Murdoch-owned News of the World tabloid.

The demand from legislators came as police confirmed a second inquiry team will be formed to investigate allegations that computers may have also been hacked in addition to cell phone voicemail messages.

Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Committee said Friday it now wanted more information from the younger Murdoch because his testimony was disputed by former News of the World editor Colin Myler and Tom Crone, former lawyer for News Corp.'s British arm, News International.

The two men released a statement contradicting Murdoch's claim that he was not aware of an email containing information about hacked voicemails, saying they did inform him of the document.

John Whittingdale, the parliamentary committee's chair, said he was writing Murdoch, Myler and Crone for clarification.

"We are going to write to ask for further details from various areas where evidence is disputed," Whittingdale said.

He said the committee decided not to take the additional step of recalling Murdoch to another hearing, saying they wanted to consider his written answers first.

"We want to hear exactly how they dispute that. I suspect it very likely that we will want to hear oral evidence. If they do come back with statements that are quite plainly different from those given by James Murdoch, we will want to hear James Murdoch's response to that," he said.

James Murdoch had said he stood by his testimony but would provide a written response to follow-up questions.

His father said during the July 19 hearing that he accepted no responsibility for wrongdoing amid widening claims that News of the World illegally accessed cell phone messages and bribed police to get information on celebrities, politicians and crime victims.

Separately, London police said a new team would examine allegations related to the phone hacking inquiry, but which do not involve snooping on voicemail messages. It confirmed allegations of computer hacking are being looked at, but declined to provide specific details.

It follows allegations by a former army intelligence officer that an investigator working on behalf of a news organization had hacked his computer using an email containing a Trojan program — malicious software which can allow outside access to a target's machine. The ex-intelligence operative claims the computer was used for sensitive work related to Northern Ireland.

The latest potential hacking victim is Sara Payne, mother of an 8-year-old girl murdered by a pedophile in 2000. On Thursday a charity co-founded by Payne said her details had been found in the files of Glenn Mulcaire, a private detective employed by the News of the World.

Payne had close ties to the News of the World, which championed her campaign for a British version of "Megan's Law," the U.S. legislation named for Megan Kanka, a New Jersey child murdered by a repeat sex offender.

In a statement on Friday, Payne said confirmed she had been given a cell phone by the newspaper as part of that campaign and acknowledged her concern that her voicemails may have been hacked.

"I am, as you can image, very distressed and upset by the news that my details have been found on Mulcaire's list ," Payne said in the written statement.

Payne said she hoped that lessons could be drawn for the British media industry from the hacking scandal. "My way would be to challenge the bad apples head-on, learn from the facts of the matter and be a proactive part of stopping this from happening again," she said in the statement.

Mulcaire was jailed in 2007, along with reporter Clive Goodman, for hacking into the voicemail messages of royal staff. For years, News International maintained hacking was limited to the two rogue employees. Executives now admit it went wider — but James Murdoch and others insist they had no knowledge of it.

Mulcaire issued a statement through his lawyer Friday admitting phone hacking and apologizing "to those who have been hurt and affected by his activities."

But he insisted he had not acted alone. "As an employee he acted on the instructions of others ... any suggestion that he acted in such matters unilaterally is untrue," he said.

The News of the World published its final edition on July 10, after News International took the decision to close the 168-year-old tabloid.

Earlier Friday, a British man who interrupted the hearing when he threw a shaving-cream pie at the tycoon was convicted of assault and causing harassment.

Jonathan May-Bowles hurled a paper plate with a pile of shaving cream at Murdoch as he was giving evidence to the committee. The activist, who admitted the crime during an appearance at a London court, was due to be sentenced Aug. 2.

Also Friday, the head of Britain's press watchdog stepped down amid heavy criticism about the organization's handling of the scandal.

Peta Jane Buscombe said she will not continue as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission after her term ends next year.

The body has been widely criticized for failing to curb tabloid excesses. A judge-led inquiry into hacking will consider whether Britain needs a tougher system of media regulation.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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