Documents, including emails and conversation notes, have been published by the culture select committee as part of its investigation into phone-hacking
News International was warned in 2008 by a legal representative of there being a "powerful case that there is (or was) a culture of illegal information access" within subsidiary News Group Newspapers (NGN), according to internal documents revealed today.
A batch of internal News International documents have been published by the culture select committee following an evidence session in its phone hacking investigation featuring Julian Pike, a partner at law firm Farrer & Co, after which the committee requested certain documentation be handed over.
These revealed that on 3 June 2008 NGN's counsel Michael Silverleaf QC sent an opinion note to Tom Crone, News International's former legal manager, in relation to the case of football association chief Gordon Taylor, who in the same year sued NGN, publisher of the Sun and the now-defunct News of the World.
In his own personal response to questions from the committee Silverleaf clarifies that he was not involved in the negotiations which led to the compromise of Taylor's claim.
But in his note he does warn that "there is overwhelming evidence of the involvement of a number of senior NGN journalists in the illegal enquiries into [redacted].
"In addition there is substantial surrounding material about the extent of NGN journalists’ attempts to obtain access to information illegally in relation to other individuals.
"In light of these facts there is a powerful case that there is (or was) a culture of illegal information access used at NGN in order to produce stories for publication".
However when Murdoch appeared before the culture select committee in July this year, he insisted that "the critical new facts really emerged on the production of documented information during the civil trials in 2010".
"The duration from 2007 to end of 2010, and length of time it took for that to come clear, is a matter of deep frustration, and a matter of real regret that the facts could not emerge and be gotten to faster."
He has continued to stand by this evidence and has been recalled to appear again before the culture committee on 10 November.
The documents published today by the committee also include manuscripts of conversations with Gordon's lawyers, in which he is said to wish to pursue the claim "because of all the issues surrounding what NGN had done" and "wanted to speak out about all of this".
The 31 pages of documents also include copies of emails involving members of staff at NGN, with one featuring a briefing note attachment in relation to the Taylor case, describing News Group Newspaper's position as "very perilous".
The briefing note, which was also emailed by Crone on 24 May 2008 to Colin Myler, the final editor of the News of the World, referred to evidence as being "fatal to our case".
"Our position is very perilous. The damning email is genuine and proves we actively made use of a large number of extremely private voicemails from Taylor's telephone in June/July 2005 and that this was pursuant to a February 2005 contract."
In an evidence session held by the committee in September Crone and Myler both denied being part of a phone hacking cover-up at News International. They told the committee they clearly informed News International chairman James Murdoch of the seriousness of the contents of a "For Neville" email, which suggested phone hacking was more widespread than first suggested by the company.
Other documents published by the committee include manuscript notes of conversations between Myler and Pike in May 2008, redacted time entries from Farrer & Co's time system recorded on the News Group Newspapers and Gordon Taylor file, and a copy of a pre-publication contract.
The committee has also published copies of correspondence with other witnesses, including lawyer Mark Lewis, Michael Silverleaf QC and Colin Myler.