London: James Murdoch, former Chairman of News International, Tuesday stuck to his stand that he did not see a crucial email that indicated phone-hacking was widespread in the now-defunct News of the World tabloid, as he faced forensic questioning at an inquiry into media ethics.
In a widely watched deposition at Lord Justice Brian Leveson's inquiry, 39-year-old Murdoch was subjected to close scrutiny on the issue of how much he knew about unethical news-gathering practices at the tabloid. His father, Rupert Murdoch, is scheduled to appear before the inquiry on Wednesday.
Since the phone-hacking row blew up last summer, Murdoch's stand has been that he did not know the extent of illegal and unethical news gathering practices, and that if he had know then, he would have stopped them and put into place systems to prevent recurrence.
The email in question, known as 'For Neville', indicated that the use of private investigator Glen Mulcaire by journalists of the News of the World was more widespread than just "one rogue reporter," as was claimed at the time.
In a key exchange, after Murdoch stuck to his earlier stand, inquiry counsel Robert Jay said: "There are two possibilities here. Either you were told of the evidence that linked others at the News of the World to Mulcaire and this was in effect a cover up, or you weren't told and you didn't read the emails properly and there was failure of governance at the company, do you accept that?"
Murdoch maintained that at the time he was given "sufficient information" to settle a legal issue being discussed with senior executives, but not sufficient information "to go and turn over a whole lot of stones".
Murdoch has said although he was copied into the email, he did not read it fully. He told the inquiry: "I didn't read the email chain. It was a Saturday, I had just come back from Hong Kong, I was with my children. I responded in minutes."
He said he now accepts that the 'For Neville' email was "a thread" that raised the suspicion of wider phone- hacking at the News of the World. "The fact it suggested other people might have been involved in phone hacking - that part of its importance was not imparted to me that day," he said.
Murdoch added: "I was given repeated assurances newsroom had been investigated, that there was no evidence. I've been very consistent about it."
He said after he took over operations as Chairman of the News International in 2007, he thought phone-hacking was a "thing in the past".
Murdoch was also questioned about his relationship with politicians, as one of his papers'The Sun' openly supported the Conservative party before the 2010 elections, and the controversial BSkyB takeover bid.
He said he discussed the BSkyB bid with Prime Minister David Cameron at the home of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks on 23 December, 2010, seven months after he became prime minister.
On his relationship with Chancellor George Osborne, he said: "We have been friendly. I wouldn't say he was a close friend."
He said he and his family had been to the Chancellor's home once and had one discussion with him about the BSkyB bid.
First Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 19:36