A high court judge said the Murdoch-owned company behind the News of the World had made “an admission of sorts” that it engaged in a deliberate cover-up of evidence relating to phone hacking, on the day that the publisher paid an estimated seven figures in damages to settle 37 phone-hacking claims brought by public figures ranging from Jude Law to John Prescott.
Mr Justice Vos, the judge presiding over the hacking cases, told News Group Newspapers (NGN) he had seen evidence which raised “compelling questions about whether you concealed, told lies, actively tried to get off scot free”.
The judge ordered the company to search a number of computers which he said could contain evidence that its executives deliberately tried to destroy evidence of phone hacking, saying that he had seen emails which showed a “startling approach to the email record of NGN”.
He said he had seen emails that showed how, days after the actor Sienna Miller wrote to the company asking it to retain emails which might relate to hacking her phone, “a previously conceived plan to conceal evidence was put in train by NGN managers”.
The judge read out a section from the confidential court papers detailing the cover-up allegations made by hacking victims against the company’s executives and directors. It included the charge that the company “put out public statements that it knew to be false”, that it had “deliberately deceived the police” and had destroyed evidence of wrongdoing including “a very substantial number of emails” as well as computers.
NGN refused to admit the allegations but agreed that damages paid to the victims could be assessed “on the basis of the facts alleged”. …