Harbottle forbidden from responding to News International’s put-down

Harbottle & Lewis has asked News International to release it from its duty of client confidentiality to allow it to respond to points made by Rupert and James Murdoch in yesterday’s riveting Parliamentary hearing on the phone hacking scandal.

The media firm has come out fighting in the latest twist of the rapidly moving saga.

“News International representatives referred to our advice in their statements today [Tuesday 19 July] before the Parliamentary Select Committee, both as a result of questioning and on their own account,” the firm said in a statement.

“We asked News International to release us from our professional duties of confidentiality in order that we could respond to any inaccurate statements or contentions and to explain events in 2007. News International declined that request, and so we’re still unable to respond in any detail as to our advice or the scope of our instructions in 2007, which is a matter of great regret.”

On Monday, Harbottle defended itself in a letter sent to the media. The firm said press reports on Harbottle’s past role as a News International adviser in a previous investigation over phone hacking had “not accurately described the extent of our retainer”.

The firm’s letter was its response to allegations by Rupert Murdoch in The Wall Street Journal that it had made “a major mistake” during its role in an internal investigation into phone-hacking.

On Monday Lord Grabiner QC was appointed as chairman of the management and standards committee set up by News International’s parent News Corporation to investigate the scandal (18 July 2011).

To view our opinion piece ’Jack of Kent – When Privileges Collide’ click here.