Davies also told the inquiry that News International was 'surprised' by the claim that 28 NoW staff were names in Mulcaire's notesCredit: Sean Dempsey/PA
News International said this morning that it could give "no guarantees" that phone hacking did not take place at the News of the World after the tabloid's royal correspondent Clive Goodman was jailed in 2007 along with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
Appearing at the Leveson inquiry this morning, News International lawyer Rhodri Davies QC said that the arrest and imprisonment of Goodman and Mulcaire had a "salutary effect" and that "lessons were learned" by News of the World staff, but did not rule out the possibility that hacking continued.
The inquiry heard yesterday from its counsel Robert Jay QC that police believe hacking may have occurred at the title as late as 2009 and begun in 2001. Jay called the practice a "thriving cottage industry" at the tabloid.
Jay also said in his statement that the names of 28 News of the World staff were found among the "corner names" in Mulcaire's notes. Significantly, Davies challenged the figure during his statement today.
According to Jay, along with the names that News International is aware of – anonymous staff A, B, C, D, and jailed royal correspondent Clive Goodman – there were 23 other names from the tabloid written in the corners of the Mulcaire's notes.
But Davies told the inquiry that News International was "surprised" by the figure and wanted the number checked by the inquiry.
According to Jay, there were a total of 2,666 "taskings" given to Mulciare by the News of the World, or which 2,143 are attributable to four members of staff.
Davies referred to the actor Jude Law, whose claim that his phone was hacked by the Sun was mentioned by Jay during his opening statement yesterday. The News International representative said the publisher challenged Law's claim and disputed the disclosure of material relating to the case, stating that it is subject to confidentiality.
Davies set out in detail what News International had done since the closure of the News of the World in July to ensure that higher standards were met by all News International staff, including: appointing a "fresh pair of hands" in new chief executive Tom Mockridge; creating an independent management and standards committee required to assist the police and Leveson inquiry in full; and the distribution of a hard copy of the publisher's ethics and standards guide to all staff.
Davies said that News International wanted to "avoid any repetition of what happened at the News of the World".
He began his statement by apologising "unreservedly" for phone hacking, telling the inquiry: "We accept that phone hacking at the News of the World was not the work of a single rogue reporter, and we accept that there was no public interest justification for it.
"We further accept that it was not the subject of a proper and thorough investigation until the Metropolitan police began Operation Weeting this year following the supply of certain material to them by News International.
He added that is was "wholly unacceptable" that the company had commissioned a private investigator to carry out surveillance of lawyers acting for claimants against the News of the World and MPs on the members of the culture, media sport select committee responsible for investigating phone hacking.
Acknowledging wrongdoing by the News of the World, Davies also called for recognition of the tabloid's successes. The title managed to "plumb the depths and heights", he said.
Also appearing at the inquiry today are Jonathan Caplan, representing Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers, James Dingemans, representing Daily Express publisher Northern & Shell, and a representative from the Telegraph.