Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Why Wasn't Alarm Raised? Top Law Firm under Fire over Failings

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Why Wasn't Alarm Raised? Top Law Firm under Fire over Failings

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Morgan

ATOP law firm is under renewed pressure to explain claims that it failed to raise the alarm over evidence of police bribes at News International.

House of Commons Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz has asked Harbottle & Lewis to clarify why it did not hand over files while representing the newspaper group.

The MP was referring to evidence from Lord Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, who said a police probe into payments to officers could have been launched as far back as 2007.

Despite the law firm saying it was barred by News International from responding to the claims, Mr Vaz wrote to its managing partner to request "why the evidence they held was not acted upon sooner".

Harbottle & Lewis took possession of hundreds of internal emails from the News of the World in 2007 after being hired by the paper's owner News International to defend a claim for wrongful dismissal by former royal reporter Clive Goodman, who was jailed at the Old Bailey for phone hacking.

News International chairman James Murdoch told MPs on Wednesday that a letter the firm wrote made NI believe phone hacking was a "matter of the past".

In another committee meeting Lord Macdonald told how he had discovered files containing "evidence of serious criminal offences". He reported back directly to the News Corporation board and advised them to hand the evidence over to the police.

Lord Macdonald told the Home Affairs Committee: "If the police had seen that file in 2007, Operation Elveden would have opened in 2007."

Harbottle & Lewis - which has been employed by the Royal Family - said it was prevented from responding "to any inaccurate statements or contentions".

The law firm said: "News International representatives referred to our advice in their statements before the Parliamentary Select Committee, both as a result of questioning and on their own account. …

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