Date: May 23 2012
Three former executives of Rupert Murdoch's scandal-ridden British arm, News International, are to face Parliament's watchdog over claims they lied when giving evidence over phone-hacking.
Colin Myler, former editor of the News of the World, former legal manager Tom Crone and NI's former executive chairman, Les Hinton, are to be investigated by the House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee.
In a Commons debate last night that ended in a decision to refer the issue, Labour MP Chris Bryant said the committee should consider fines or jail terms for the three men. The most likely outcome, however, is thought to be a demand that the trio - and perhaps a corporate representative of today's News International - be ordered to present themselves to the House for public rebuke.
The men are accused of lying to the Commons Select Committee on the Media when they gave evidence to its phone-hacking inquiry. In a recent report on hacking, the committee said it believed they had lied.
The men have denied this but committee chairman John Whittingdale last night said the committee agreed unanimously that the three misled them.
He said "alarm bells began ringing" when it was claimed the hacking scandal was limited to one journalist. The committee received documents that showed witnesses had evidence that this “rogue reporter defence” was untrue, he said.
"They certainly did have documents which indicated very clearly that that was not the case."
He said they should face “profound consequences” for misleading Parliament.
Mr Bryant said he believed the case would prove to be "one of the most flagrant examples of a contempt of Parliament in Parliament's history".
"It is not just that it was one person at one time. It was not just that it was one organisation for a brief period of time. It's that a whole series of people systematically, repeatedly lied so as to protect themselves, to protect their commercial interests and to try and make sure they didn't end up going to prison...”
He added: "I believe that this House and the committee itself should consider, in turn, firstly whether or not the three individuals mentioned, and corporately News International should be summoned to this House…
"Secondly, they should consider whether individuals should be fined, not least because there have been considerable expenses incurred by Parliament and the prosecuting authorities by the process of lying to Parliament. And thirdly ... whether or not to imprison."
He said if this had happened in the Scottish Parliament or in a court, it would have led to jail.
The media committee's report last month said that:
Mr Hinton "misled the committee in 2009 in not telling the truth about payments to [the jailed former News of the World royal editor] Clive Goodman [who was convicted over hacking the royal family in 2007] and his role in authorising them, including the payment of his legal fee".
Mr Crone "misled the committee in 2009 by giving a counter-impression of the significance of confidentiality in the [Professional Footballers' Association chief executive] Gordon Taylor settlement ... and sought to mislead the committee about the commissioning of surveillance".
Mr Crone and Mr 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".
The News of the World and News International "corporately ... misled the committee about the true nature and extent of the internal investigations they professed to have carried out in relation to phone hacking".
- with THE GUARDIAN
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