If you thought the whole News of the World scandal was over and done with, you were wrong. News Corp. (NASDAQ:NWSA) chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch and his son, deputy COO James Murdoch, will be questioned under oath at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, where they will give evidence to the Judicial inquiry into phone hacking.
Leading the inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal at News of the World is Lord Justice Leveson, who plans to investigate “the culture, practices and ethics of the press in the context of the latter’s relationship with the public, police and politicians.” The inquiry is likely to extend to senior police officers, senior politicians including Prime Minister David Cameron, and both present and former News International staff and executives, including former chief executive Rebekah Brooks and former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who worked for the prime minister as Director of Communications between May 2010 and Coulson’s resignation in January 2011.
The inquiry will be broadcast on British television, and the judge will be allowed to call on whichever witnesses he deems necessary. The inquiry will not try to establish whether witnesses are guilty of breaking the law, which is the function of an ongoing criminal inquiry. While there is evidence showing that James Murdoch sanctioned payments to a number of phone-hacking victims, the inquiry will seek to determine whether he knew what the payments were for, and to what extent.
So far the separate police inquiry has arrested 13 former News of the World employees, including Coulson, Brooks, and former Royal Editor Clive Goodman, who was jailed for phone message hacking in 2006. A letter Goodman wrote to his boss at the time, Les Hinton, claimed that phone hacking had been sanctioned by his bosses and was widespread throughout the news agency. Having covered up the truth of his employers’ involvement in the hacking, Goodman wrote the letter to state his opinion that he was entitled to keep his position.
While Leveson’s judicial inquiry has no legal power of prosecution, it could bring to light evidence that could then be used in criminal court. And while Rupert and James Murdoch have not yet been summoned to give evidence in that trial, many of News Corp.’s (NASDAQ:NWSA) senior executives and allies have, including Brooks and Hinton.