Thursday, 26 June 2014

Hackety hack

So, the verdicts in the hacking trial are in (though Coulson and Goodman may face a retrial on the bribery charge). The two big decisions - Coulson guilty, Brooks not - might seem to make this more of a political story now than a corporate one. And indeed the last two days have mainly seen Cameron in the frame.

But hold on. We now have convictions against several former News Corp employees (remember, away from the headlines, that several pleaded guilty). There is no question that extensive illegal activity went on, and now people have been convicted of it. One of those that pleaded guilty was Neville Thurlbeck, of the famous 'for Neville' email. And there are more trials to come.

One important unanswered question is whether a corporate charge is likely. It is obvious that the police were interested in this (as they should be). We now know that Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson were cautioned by the police in relation to a corporate charge, and Les Hinton was also reportedly interviewed.

There has been no forward movement on a corporate charge to date because the police needed to see what happened in the hacking trial. And - on the hacking issue alone - we now have several convictions of editorial staff. According to The Guardian they also agreed to not interview Rupert himself until the verdicts were in. Now they are, an interview looks to be on the cards.

I don't know much about corporate charges, though Section 79 of RIPA doesn't require knowledge for a director to be held liable, you can be negligent too (and plenty of senior News Corp staff seem to have had no idea what was going on under their watch...). A corporate charge would also have a bearing on 21st Century Fox's relationship with BSkyB. Surely Ofcom would have to revisit the 'fit and proper' test?

Also worth noting, in passing, that Tom Crone was arrested a second time last November. This is the guy who has claimed several times that he told James Murdoch all about the 'for Neville' email, and who was dumped on by Rupert Murdoch. He was previously arrested in August 2012 for conspiracy to intercept communications. I haven't seen what the second arrest was for.

And this is before we get into the business of payments to public officials and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other possible action in the US. There's still quite a few challenges for the Murdoch empire (and Trinity Mirror may follow). This is (still) a long way from over.

And finally, I couldn't help but find this amusing (from here):
Brooks’s lawyers tried and failed to persuade the judge to ban all trade union members from the jury on the grounds that they were bound to be antagonistic.

No comments: