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Journalists from the Sun have called into question Linklaters’ role in its investigation into phone hacking at News International (now News UK) in a secret recording made public today.
During a meeting with Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News UK parent News Corporation, the Sun journalists said they had grown “deeply suspicious” of Linklaters’ role in their arrests connected to payments to police or public officials.
In a transcript of the recording, published by investigative news website ExaroNews, Murdoch also describes payments to police as ”the culture of Fleet Street”.
Linklaters was appointed as sole adviser to News International on the phone hacking scandal last year (15 March 2012). That instruction followed the firm’s appointment as adviser to the company’s management and standards committee (MSC), which was set up to investigate phone hacking in 2011 (21 July 2011).
In the meeting, a Sun journalist said: “Quite a number of us in this room were selected for an interview with Linkaters, the lawyers, long before any suggestion there would be arrests or there had been any wrongdoing.
”The interviews were conducted on the basis that Linklaters just wanted to get a feel for how the newspaper was put together, who did what, how it worked, all the rest of it. And then, not surprisingly now, nearly every single person interviewed by Linklaters found themselves arrested. And, indeed, large chunks of of the interviews we gave to Linklaters was produced to us in the police station on our arrest.
”Which naturally leads us to believe that we had been selected, perhaps for no other reason than most of the people arrested at that point had the title ‘editor’ behind their role. And I have to say, we’re deeply suspicious of Linklaters’ role in all this, that names were cherry-picked, if you like. We went through the process with Linklaters and then soon after we were arrested. That doesn’t sit comfortably with us really. That doesn’t suggest to me that evidence was gone through meticulously by the MSC and then handed to police with the best of intentions. Perhaps, I think, it was the other way around. I think our names were picked out.”