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16 August 2011

A new bombshell in the phone hacking scandal

Former NoW royal editor Clive Goodman alleges that phone hacking was "widely discussed" at editorial

By George Eaton

Just when you thought the phone hacking scandal had reached a lull, Clive Goodman’s bombshell of a letter turns up. The letter (which you can read here) was released this afternoon by the DCMS select committee and is potentially devastating for Andy Coulson’s defence. Goodman alleges that phone hacking was “widely discussed” at editorial meetings until Coulson banned “explicit reference” to it; that Coulson offered to let him keep his job if he did not “implicate” the paper; and that his own hacking was carried out with the “full knowledge and support” of other senior NoW journalists (whose names have been redacted at the request of Scotland Yard). It’s yet more evidence of a gigantic cover up.

Goodman’s missive could also prove disastrous for Murdoch consigliere Les Hinton, who received a copy but failed to pass it to the police, and who told the select committee just days later (on 6 March 2007) that the tabloid’s former royal editor was “the only person” involved in phone hacking. The letter, which is addressed to News International’s director of human resources, Daniel Cloke, is dated 2 March 2007 and was sent shortly after Goodman had served a four-month prison sentence for phone hacking. It was intended as an appeal against Hinton’s decision to dismiss him for “gross misconduct”.

Significantly, as the Guardian’s Nick Davies reports, two versions of Goodman’s letter were supplied to the committee. One, supplied by law firm Harbottle & Lewis, was redacted to remove the names of NoW journalists, at the police’s request. The other, which was supplied by News International, was redacted to also remove all references to hacking being discussed at editorial meetings.

There’s also more bad news for the Murdochs themselves. In a separate letter, Harbottle & Lewis criticises the pair’s evidence to the select committee as “hard to credit” and “self-serving”. The law firm points out that its investigation was limited to whether Goodman hacked phones with the knowledge of other journalists, not whether “general” criminality took place at the tabloid. Thus, it was dishonest of the Murdochs to present a letter from the firm as evidence that News International had received a clean bill of health.

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The select committee, which accurately described the evidence as “devastating”, has said that James Murdoch is “likely” to be recalled but that Rupert Murdoch is not. In an allusion to Murdoch senior’s ignorance and/or amnesia, Tom Watson said that the “devil is in the detail”.