Yesterday was the day eagerly awaited by all of us following the News Inc phone hacking scandal.
The UK Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee ('the Select Committee') had the difficult task of conducting an inquiry in a case that is still under police investigation. This can, of course, close certain avenues for questioning but could still have been an important forum to ask the key figures caught into the recent phone hacking scandal the key questions. Disappointingly apart from the very good lines of questioning by Tom Watson and Louise Mensch, the rest of the Select Committee failed to pin down the evasive, long-winded answers and the non-answers. But this was perhaps to be expected in many ways. The forthcoming judge-led inquiry and current police investigation will shed more light on the ins and outs of the scandal and whether the current state of affairs is merely the tip of the iceberg or as bad as it will get.
As a lawyer, I am, of course very interested to find out the legal ramifications of any breaches of RIPA 2000 and privacy which will be uncovered in the coming months. Incidentally, the Guardian provides a quick guide to the RIPA regulatory framework on hacking. Additionally, the evidence given by the Murdochs reveals a wider issue of corporate governance at News International as many crucial actions (e.g. payments of large sums of money, payment of the legal fees of Mulcaire, alleged hacking) fell under the radar of those who are at the very top of the company. To what extent can such vague answers such as 'payments were not within my remit' (a la Rebekah Brooks) or 'I was not aware of this' (in Murdoch senior`s softer tone) or 'this is an interesting question but...' (a la James Murdoch) show that the senior executives at News International exercised the proper level of care required? As much as this scandal has revealed the inextricable links between the various institutions invovled, it has also highlighted that the phone hacking scandal goes much further than RIPA, privacy and Jude Law.