Rupert and James Murdoch to appear in court in UK phone hacking trials

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Rupert and James Murdoch are likely to be summonsed for questioning in court over the way they ran their UK newspaper businesses, reports Rodney E. Lever.

(Image courtesy Avaaz.)

AUSTRALIAN-BORN newspaper magnate Keith Rupert Murdoch and his son James may be summonsed as key witnesses in the forthcoming criminal trials of the employees and senior executives of his British newspapers, according to legal sources in London.

The defence of the News Corporation staff may centre on whether they carried out their work without being aware that it was illegal, because such activities were a normal part of their duties and were common knowledge throughout the industry.

It will be suggested to the courts that they could not have been expected to be aware that the duties to which they were assigned were illegal when their employers ordered them to do so.

The trials are expected to begin in September.

Defence counsel will also be submitting to the courts that the Leveson Inquiry was prejudicial to the trials of the Murdoch executives and employees. Not because the illegalities were mentioned, but because they were not mentioned (on legal grounds) when Murdoch was questioned.

The central role that Rupert and James Murdoch played in the hacking scandal will need to be subjected to much more intense scrutiny under formal oath in the Old Bailey. In these circumstances, both would be liable to imprisonment if they lied.

Both had previously claimed, publicly at first, that the scandal was the work of one rogue reporter and later, when more information emerged that there had in fact been an army of rogue reporters, they denied all knowledge.

Next month, Rupert Murdoch turns 82. His influence around the world is waning. His Australian newspapers are bleeding money. There is some irony in the knowledge that the Chinese have recently been hacking stories from his US newspaper The Wall Street Journal.

Admitting that this was happening, the old man answered a question he received on Twitter the other day:

‘What do I know about hacking? Nothing until about two years ago. One newspaper guilty several years ago. Nothing since.’

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