Murdoch: Harbottle & Lewis made ‘major mistake’ on internal News International inquiry

This is an archive article. For further developments on this story see Select Committee exonerates Harbottle over Murdoch’s ‘major mistake’ claim.

Rupert Murdoch has slammed advising law firm Harbottle & Lewis for making ‘a major mistake’ in underestimating the scope of the ongoing phone hacking scandal.

The News Corporation chief executive and chairman lobbed scathing criticism at the firm during an interview with The Wall Street Journal, one of his own titles, late yesterday (14 July 2011).

In the article, Murdoch said he believed News Corporation had handled the crisis well, making just ‘minor mistakes’, but placed a large share of the blame with Harbottle & Lewis, which he hired initially to investigate the hacking allegations.

Harbottle’s managing partner Glen Atchison responded to the criticism in the same article, saying: “We are unable to comment substantively at this time as the matters raised are the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Metropolitan Police. Moreover, it is not our usual practice to comment on our clients’ affairs or advice which we may or may not have provided.”

The attack came as Murdoch and his son James, who is deputy chief operating officer of News Corporation, along with News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, agreed to testify at a parliamentary hearing next week looking further into the phone hacking scandal at News of the World. In breaking news today, Brooks has just resigned.

It was revealed earlier this week that emails sent to Harbottle & Lewis as part of News International’s 2007 inquiry into the phone hacking at the newspaper had been retrieved as part of the latest investigation and were believed to point to further illegal activity at the paper (12 July 2011).

According to reports by the BBC and The Guardian, the emails, which have now been handed to the police, indicate that payments were being made to police in return for information, as well as showing that phone hacking at News of the World went beyond just one ‘rogue’ reporter.

Atchison was unavailable for comment this morning.