Hacking could have gone on at New of the World post-2007
LONDON (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch's newspaper arm said on Tuesday it could not guarantee phone-hacking at the News of the World had ended when one of its reporters was jailed in 2007 and conceded the practice had involved more than one "rogue reporter."
Speaking at an inquiry set up by Prime Minister David Cameron amid public outrage at the scandal, the lawyer for News International made the admissions but queried suggestions the scandal had spread to more of its publications or involved dozens of reporters.
"Phone-hacking was wrong, it was shameful," said Rhodri Davies, lawyer for News International, the UK arm of Murdoch's News Corp media empire.
The Leveson inquiry's lawyer Robert Jay said on Monday other tabloid newspapers including News International's The Sun might have been involved, based on extracts in notebooks belonging to Glenn Mulcaire, the private detective who was jailed for phone-hacking in 2007.
Jay also said the notebooks had names of 27 News of the World reporters apart from former royal correspondent Clive Goodman, long blamed by News International as a lone "rogue" member of staff who also went to prison in 2007.
"We accept that phone-hacking at the News of the World was not the work of a single rogue reporter," Davies said.
"I am not going to give any guarantees that there was no phone-hacking by or for the News of the World after 2007. If phone-hacking continued after that it was not ... what Mr Jay described as 'the thriving cottage industry.'"
The inquiry has heard how Mulcaire was given 2,266 tasks which included details of almost 5,800 potential victims, including actor Hugh Grant and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.
Whilst accepting wrongdoing at the News of the World, which was closed down in July, Davies said the suggestion that 27 reporters had been involved had caused them "surprise."
Davies said a core of four reporters at the News of the World had ordered 2,143 of these tasks and Goodman would have been responsible for some of the remaining 123. He said News International rejected suggestions The Sun had been involved, a claim he said that had been made by actor Jude Law.
"That claim is disputed and we do not accept that the documents referenced by Mr Jay provide it with any cogent support," Davies told the inquiry.
He added News International was taking a "sensible and constructive" approach to civil claims against it for breach of privacy and settlements were being offered at a level that a former London High Court judge deemed a court would set plus 10 percent.
The Leveson inquiry, held at London's Royal Courts of Justice and expected to last a year, will hear from politicians, celebrities and families of crime victims as part of an examination of press standards which could lead to tighter regulation for the whole industry.
Davies and Jonathan Caplan, the lawyer representing The Associated Newspaper group, both appealed to the inquiry not to end the system of self-regulation based on past events, saying a vigorous media was more important than ever to deal with the rise of so-called "spin doctors."
Caplan also said there was no evidence journalists from Associated Newspapers, which includes the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday titles, had carried out phone-hacking or bribed police officers.
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