Lawyer: Emails didn't show wide phone hacking

Lawrence Abramson told Britain

FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2009 file photo, Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International, which publishes the News of the World tabloid, arrives at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, England. Britain's long-running phone hacking scandal took a twist Tuesday, July 5, 2011, with claims that a the News of the World hacked into the phone mail of an abducted teenage girl and may have hampered the police investigation into her disappearance. Brooks said in an email to her staff that the "strongest possible" actions would be taken if the charges were found to be true. Brooks said in the email that she had no knowledge of the alleged hacking and that she would not resign. (AP Photo/Jon Super, File)

LONDON (AP) — A lawyer asked by Rupert Murdoch's News International to examine emails for evidence tabloid executives knew about illegal activities said Tuesday he initially found nothing to suggest that knowledge of phone hacking was widespread.

But Lawrence Abramson told Britain's media ethics inquiry that since he carried out his first review in 2007, he has seen a fresh batch of emails that would have changed his report.

Abramson worked for the law firm Harbottle & Lewis, which was asked by News International in 2007 to review more than 2,000 emails to see if there was evidence to support a former employee's claim that executives at the company knew of extensive hacking.

He told Britain's media ethics inquiry that he found emails that cast News International in an "unfavorable light" — such as the company's attempt to influence the prosecution of Clive Goodman, a royal reporter who was jailed for hacking into the voice mails of members of the royal household.

Goodman's allegations that News International executives were aware of illegal activities at the newspaper prompted the company to hire Hartbottle & Lewis to review the emails, and Abramson said he didn't find anything to back up those allegations.

But Abramson said he initially did not have access to emails dating back to 2003 and has since reviewed a batch of emails from that time period. He said that had he seen those messages at the time, his recommendation to News International would have been different.

Julian Pike, an independent legal adviser who provided advice to News International, later testified that he did not believe in 2008 the company's claim that phone hacking at the tabloid was limited to one rogue reporter.

That backs up an assertion Pike made in October that he'd known for years News International had been lying to the public about the extent of the scandal.

Prime Minister David Cameron set up the judge-led media inquiry after it emerged that the Murdoch-owned News of the World had for years illegally eavesdropped on the voice mail messages of celebrities, public figures and crime victims in its quest for exclusive stories.

Murdoch shut down the 168-year-old newspaper in July amid a wave of public revulsion over hacking the voice mails of a missing schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, who was later found murdered.

Associated Press
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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