NEWS Corp head Rupert Murdoch has alleged that one of his group's lawyers made a "major mistake" in its role in the newspaper business' internal investigation into phone hacking.
Murdoch made the comments in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, published Friday. He cited a "major mistake" on London law firm Harbottle & Lewis' part in an investigation carried out four years ago into the scale of phone hacking at Murdoch's UK newspaper arm.
Murdoch said the law firm had underestimated the scope of the phone hacking problem.
Harbottle & Lewis's managing partner, Glen Atchinson, was unwilling to comment on the comments, and said "it is not our usual practice to comment on our clients' affairs or advice which we may or may not have provided".
According to the report, Murdoch was criticising Harbottle for its role in reviewing a number of emails from staff at the Sunday tabloid of News of the World NoW) in 2007. The investigation was aimed at assessing whether phone hacking extended beyond the newspaper's royal editor Clive Goodman, who was that year handed a criminal sentence. News International said at the time that Goodman acted alone.
Harbottle former managing partner Lawrence Abramson wrote a letter to News International in 2007 saying they "did not find anything in this emails which appeared to us to be reasonable evidence that Clive Goodman's illegal actions were know about and supported by both or either of Andy Coulson, the newspaper's editor, and Neil Wallis, the deputy editor, and/or that Ian Edmondson, the news editor, and others were carrying out similar illegal procedures."
Murdoch's comments follow reports last week by the BBC and a number of other news publications that raised questions about the law firm's role in reviewing the documents. A Legal Week this week reports, a number of press reports have indicated that News International executives concluded that a cache of internal emails reviewed earlier this year did indicate phone hacking went further than Goodman.
It is unclear, however, whether Harbottle had reviewed all these emails.
Allen & Overy was also briefly drawn into the phone-hacking saga on 11 July, after allegations emerged that the law firm had been tricked by a prominent newspaper into disclosing information about a flat acquired by former prime minister Gordon Brown in 1992, US magazine Legal Week reports.