London: A lawyer appearing for Rupert Murdoch's 'News International' Tuesday said the practice of phone-hacking was "shameful, should never have happened".
Deposing before the Justice Leveson Inquiry, lawyer Rhodri Davies began by apologising on behalf of the 'News International' to the victims of phone hacking and their families.
The inquiry, set up earlier this year when the phone-hacking at 'News of the World' blew into a storm for the British press, politics and the police, is going into the culture, practice and ethics of the press.
Davies indicated that the illegal practice may have continued beyond 2007, contrary to early assumptions, and said "many fine staff" in the company had suffered through no fault of their own.
He said News International accepted that the practice of phone hacking went further than just one rogue reporter, that there was no public interest justification for it and that there had been no thorough investigation of it until the police launched 'Operation Weeting' earlier this year.
He said the company had taken several steps in response to evidence of the practice, including closing the News of the World (NoW) in July 2011, establishing a management and standards committee with an independent chairman and appointing a new chief executive
According to Davies, News International had "several horses in its stable" and not all of its reporters or all of its papers were involved in the illegal accessing of phones.
He, however, questioned inquiry counsel Robert Jay's statement yesterday that as many as 28 News of the World journalists were linked to phone hacking in notebooks belonging to private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
Also deposing before the committee was Jonathan Caplan, lawyer representing Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday, Evening Standard, London Metro and Ireland on Sunday.
Caplan denied that phone-hacking took place at the group and said Britain needed a "strong ethical and viable press which is equipped for the significant challenge of being both the eyes and ears of the public and ultimately its voice".
He added: "With news and investigative journalism those stories are not plucked full-grown from the trees," he said, adding that resources were needed to investigate stories and establish truth and accuracy.
Caplan said Associated Newspapers was unaware of any of its staff using phone hacking as a tool or bribing the police.