Harbottle given all clear to discuss News International role

Harbottle & Lewis has been given the all clear by News International (NI) to talk to authorities about its remit in the 2007 investigation of phone hacking at News of the World (NoW).

The firm was instructed in 2007 to help investigate phone hacking at the tabloid after the paper’s former royal editor Clive Goodman was jailed along with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire for hacking royal aides’ phones. The firm was sent a dossier of emails to review in a bid to determine whether hacking went further than just one rogue reporter.

The firm has since come under attack from News International owner Rupert Murdoch and his son James for making a “major mistake” in finding no evidence that Goodman’s activities were known about or supported by other members of NoW (15 July 2011). Murdoch said the firm failed to report other wrongdoing at the paper that was allegedly shown by the emails.

The firm has claimed that until now it has been prevented from defending itself due to client confidentiality (20 July 2011). However, on Wednesday evening a statement issued by parent company News Corp’s newly installed management and standards committee released Harbottle from its obligations, allowing the firm to talk to police and parliament about the exact remit it was given by NI when it was instructed in 2007.

A source close to the matter described News Corp’s decision as “a step in the right decision”.

At the time of writing, Harbottle could be contacted for comment.

In a statement, News Corp said: “News Corporation’s management and standards committee [MSC] can confirm that News International has today authorised the law firm Harbottle & Lewis to answer questions from the Metropolitan Police Service and parliamentary select committees in respect of what they were asked to do.

“The MSC is authorised to co-operate fully with all relevant investigations and inquiries in the News of the World phone hacking case, police payments and all other related issues across News International, as well as conducting its own enquiries where appropriate.”