March 4, 2021

James Murdoch to Be Recalled in British Hacking Inquiry

The committee’s decision seemed likely to bring further drama to an unfolding story that has reached into British society, raising questions about the behavior and power of the press and the once intimate cross-ties between the media, the political elite and the the police.

John Whittingdale, the committee chairman, told Sky News that Mr. Murdoch would be recalled after the House of Commons select committee investigating the scandal heard testimony from Les Hinton, a former top executive at the Murdoch family’s News Corporation. The timing of Mr. Hinton’s testimony was not made known.

Mr. Hinton, who had become the chairman of Dow Jones when it was acquired by News Corporation, was News Corporation’s most senior executive to quit as the hacking scandal unfolded.

Mr. Whittingdale said that he expected James Murdoch to appear at the inquiry for a second hearing.

“My understanding is that he is willing to cooperate with all of the various inquiries which are under way,” Mr. Whittingdale said, referring to James Murdoch. “It may be that he just says he disagrees, but it would be helpful to hear that directly from him.”

Mr. Whittingdale said there were “a lot of loose ends.”

A spokesman for News Corporation said James Murdoch was “happy to appear” to answers any questions the committee might have.

The scandal over unlawful intercepts of voice mail has been rumbling for several years but it built to crisis pitch with reports earlier this year that The News of the World tabloid ordered the hacking of the phone of Milly Dowler, an abducted teenager who was found murdered in 2002.

The revelation ignited huge public revulsion — a sentiment likely to be rekindled with a legal case brought this weekby the mother of a victim of the London bombings of July 7, 2005.

The mother, Sheila Henry, said she had been told by the police that a private investigator working for The News of the World had tried to hack her son’s voice mail after the attacks, in which four suicide bombers killed 52 people.

A high court judge ruled on Tuesday that he would hear her accusations as one of five major cases among civil suits being brought against the newspaper over phone hacking. The cases, likely to be heard early next year, also involve allegations the actor Jude Law and a Liberal Democrat lawmaker, Simon Hughes, that their voice mails had been unlawfully interecepted.

Tom Watson, a member of the parliamentary panel investigating the hacking scandal said that, if Mrs. Henry’s accusation proved true, it would mean that the memories of the July 7 victims of had been “insulted in a callous and inhuman way,” British news reports said.

The Guardian newspaper said it was believed that Ms. Henry left voice messages for her son, Christian Small, when she was trying to discover his whereabouts after the bombing.

The Murdoch family was drawn personally into the inquiry in mid-July when the House of Commons select committee on culture, media and sport questioned both Rupert and James Murdoch in mid-July. The hearings resumed last week when two former senior employees of News Corp. appeared before the committee to challenge James Murdoch’s version of events.

Their testimony centered on a 15-minute meeting in London in 2008 when, they said, James Murdoch, chief of News Corporation’s European and Asian operations, was told that the hacking of voice mail was more wiedespread than the company had acknowledged.

At that time, the company said the hacking was carried out by a lone “rogue” reporter, Clive Goodman and a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire. Both men served jail terms in 2007 related to phone hacking.

James Murdoch has denied that he was told that the hacking involved more than the single case that resulted in Mr. Goodman and Mr. Mulcaire going to jail in 2007.

Committee members have said that, in recalling the younger Mr. Murdoch, they will focus on determining whether he testified truthfully in July when he said that there was no indication at the 2008 meeting of a pattern of wrongdoing at The News of the World. The Murdoch family closed down the newspaper as a result of the scandal.

Mr. Whittingdale, the committee chairman, said on Tuesday there were “questions arising from the time when payments were made to Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire.”

“We’re also interested in hearing a bit more from the solicitors on some conflicting accounts,” he said, referring to lawyers involved in the case.

“And I think we will have some more questions based upon what we have heard that we want to put to James Murdoch.”

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