James Murdoch is now bang to rights. The latest evidence just revealed, the letter dated March 2007 from Clive Goodman appealing against his sacking by News International after he admitted phone hacking in court, reinforces the already compelling evidence that there was widespread knowledge at the News of the World over 4 years ago that hacking was rife there.
JM has claimed before the DCMS Select Committee he didn’t know about the ‘for Neville’ email in 2008 when he signed off a £700,000 payment to Gordon Taylor to buy his silence over his hacking claim – but that is hardly credible. Why on earth would he sign such a large cheque without knowing what it was for and why? And top NI executives, Crone and Myler, have explicitly said he did know. Now Goodman is revealed saying he was encouraged by NI executives (by offer of his job back) to withhold the real truth about NoW hacking from the police and the courts (i.e. to pervert the course of justice). And why was Goodman still paid nearly £250,000 by NI after his release from jail if not to buy his continued silence, and can JM have been unaware of this?
If all this is subsequently confirmed by the Select Committee, will JM be charged with perjury before a Parliamentary committee and, along with others, with conspiring to conceal extensive criminal activity and to pervert the course of justice? We shall see. And will the authorities be pursuing JM’s father, the real boss, in trying to uncover exactly how much he knew and when, on the same extremely serious charges, with the same zeal they are now displaying in tracking down the perpetrators of last week’s disorders and applying to them the maximum deterrent retribution they can exact?
Incitement to riot by posting messages on Facebook is a serious offence and should be duly punished, though 4 years in prison would probably be judged by most people as out of all proportion to a just sentence – when killing someone by careless or negligent driving, even without a driving licence, can still receive only an 18 month to 3 year custodial penalty. And other recent sentences after the riots tell the same story – 6 months in prison for taking water from a looted shop, and 4 months for verbal abuse of police officers.
The treatment of the Murdochs is a test case. The son, and quite possibly the father, are on the evidence already available likely guilty of serious abuse of power and of extended cover-up of a major criminal conspiracy. If posting messages of incitement on Facebook deserve 4 years, as the Prime Minister is keen to encourage, what does abuse of corporate power, corrupting police and politicians, threatening to destroy opponents who stand in one’s way, and running a huge network of criminal activity, deserve?