LONDON (Reuters) - News Corp executive James Murdoch did not try to cover up the truth by blacking out sections of an incriminating letter written by disgraced News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman, lawyers acting for the company said Thursday.
The lawyers said they, not Murdoch, made the redactions, following the advice of London police.
The 2007 letter published Tuesday said ex-editor Andy Coulson had banned talk in editorial meetings of phone-hacking but not the practice itself, suggesting that the illegal newsgathering method was widely known about.
Murdoch sent an edited version of the letter to a British parliamentary committee investigating the phone-hacking as part of a submission answering further questions from the committee following his personal appearance in parliament last month.
Law firm Harbottle & Lewis also sent an edited but much fuller form of the same letter to the committee as part of its own submission in explanation of its conduct in advising News International, the British newspaper arm of News Corp.
The differences between the two redactions attracted attention, as Murdoch’s had blacked out mention of Coulson, the editorial meetings, and a promise to Goodman that he could have his job back if he did not implicate anyone else at his trial.
Goodman was sentenced to four months in jail in 2007 for phone-hacking. He was characterized by the News of the World as a “rogue” reporter acting alone until earlier this year, when the company acknowledged that the practice was more widespread.
British police investigating the scandal have arrested a senior Hollywood reporter at the tabloid, James Desborough, a source with knowledge of the situation said Thursday — the 13th arrest in the inquiry this year.
Goodman’s letter was written to News International’s then executive chairman, managing editor and head of human resources in an appeal against his dismissal.
Law firm Linklaters wrote on Thursday: “There has been some media comment over the last two days suggesting that News International made these redactions in order to ‘cover up’ the truth. That is not correct.”
“The redactions were made following guidance from the Metropolitan Police. Those redactions were made by a partner in this firm. No News International or News Corporation officer or employee took any part in deciding what to redact.
Murdoch is likely to be recalled by the parliamentary committee to answer further questions, along with senior ex-colleagues who have contradicted key evidence he gave to the committee last month.
Reporting by Georgina Prodhan, editing by Rosalind Russell