On Tuesday 5th July I set out why Rupert Murdoch and his son James should be seen as responsible for the phone hacking scandal and should be declared unfit to run a major media corporation in Britain. There was an emergency debate in the Commons the next day and Tom Watson MP made an exceptionally devestating case against Rebekah Brooks, the editor of the News of the World at the time who is now the Chief Executive of News International. He shows, beyond reasonable doubt, that her claims not to have know what was happening are false. He also shows how James Murdoch ran a cover-up. Comments on OurKingdom’s open question on the fate of News of the World, show that the evidence set out by Tom Watson is still not widely known, perhaps because the other papers and certainly the BBC are hanging back from reporting something which shows that they too were asleep on the pavement. So here is Tom Watson’s speech, slightly edited and without the parliamentary exchanges (see here for the Hansard version). Anthony Barnett.
News International… was systematically, ruthlessly, and without conscience or morality, interfering with the phones of victims of murder, cruelly deceiving their families and impeding the search for justice. Glenn Mulcaire [who hacked the phones] has accepted some share of responsibility for this moral sickness, but the editor in charge of him [Rebekah Brooks] refuses to take responsibility. Indeed, far from accepting blame, she has—amazingly—put herself in charge of the investigation into the wrongdoing; the chief suspect has become the chief investigator.
I believe that Rebekah Brooks was not only responsible for wrongdoing, but knew about it. The evidence in the paper that she edited contradicts her statements that she knew nothing about unlawful behaviour. Take the edition that she edited on 14 April 2002, which reveals that the News of the World had information from Milly Dowler’s phone. In other words, they knew about the messages on her phone. They wrote that there was
“left a message on her voicemail after the 13-year-old vanished at 4pm on March 21. On march 27th, six days after Milly went missing in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, the employment agency appears to have phoned her mobile”.
It was a central part of the paper’s story that it had evidence from a telephone—evidence that it could get only from breaking into that phone at the time. The story that Rebekah Brooks was far from the Dowler events is simply not believable when her own newspaper wrote about the information that it had gained from that phone.
I want to inform the House of further evidence that suggests that Rebekah Brooks knew of the unlawful tactics of the News of the World as early as 2002, despite all her denials yesterday.
Rebekah Brooks was present at a meeting with Scotland Yard when police officers pursuing a murder investigation provided her with evidence that her newspaper was interfering with the pursuit of justice. They gave her the name of another senior executive at News International, Alex Marunchak. At the meeting, which included Dick Fedorcio of the Metropolitan police, she was told that News of the World staff were guilty of interference and party to using unlawful means to attempt to discredit a police officer and his wife.
Rebekah Brooks was told of actions by people whom she paid to expose and discredit David Cook and his wife Jackie Haines, so that Mr Cook would be prevented from completing an investigation into a murder. News International was paying people to interfere with police officers and was doing so on behalf of known criminals. We know now that News International had entered the criminal underworld.
Rebekah Brooks cannot deny being present at that meeting when the actions of people whom she paid were exposed. She cannot deny now being warned that, under her auspices, unlawful tactics were used for the purpose of interfering with the pursuit of justice. She cannot deny that one of her staff, Alex Marunchak, was named and involved. She cannot deny either that she was told by the police that her own paper was using unlawful tactics, in that case to help one of her lawbreaking investigators. This, in my view, shows that her culpability goes beyond taking the blame as head of the organisation; it is about direct knowledge of unlawful behaviour. Was Mr Marunchak dismissed? No. He was promoted…
Families who trusted Rebekah Brooks when she said she felt their pain, families who have been cruelly let down by the intrusion into private grief and the callous exploitation of their suffering—anguished families, indeed—are now being tortured yet again by the knowledge that in the world of Rebekah Brooks no one can grieve in private, no one can cry their tears without surveillance, no one can talk to their friends without their private feelings becoming public property.
The whole board of News International is responsible for the company. Mr James Murdoch should be suspended from office while the police investigate what I believe is his personal authorisation to plan a cover-up of this scandal. Mr James Murdoch is the Chairman. It is clear now that he personally, without board approval, authorised money to be paid by his company to silence people who had been hacked, and to cover up criminal behaviour within his organisation. That is nothing short of an attempt to pervert the course of justice.
There is now no escape for News International from the responsibility for systematically breaking the law, but there is also now no escape from the fact that it sought to pervert the course of justice.
I believe that the police should also ask Mr James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks whether they know of the attempted destruction of data at the HCL storage facility in Chennai, India. Mr James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks now have to accept their culpability, and they will have to face the full force of the law.