Friday, November 09, 2012

News of the World's Former Top Lawyer Arrested

News of the World's Former Top Lawyer Arrested
August 30, 2012
Wall Street Journal

LONDON—British police on Thursday arrested the former top lawyer at News Corp.'s News of the World tabloid on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications, a person with knowledge of the matter said, marking one of the most high-profile arrests in a continuing police probe into wrongdoing at the shuttered tabloid.

London's Metropolitan Police confirmed Thursday that officers investigating illegal voicemail interception at the News of the World had arrested a 60-year-old man and brought him in for questioning at a South London police station, but the force declined to identify the suspect.

A person with knowledge of the situation, however, identified the person as Tom Crone, the lawyer who served as the News of the World's in-house counsel for more than 25 years until News Corp. closed the weekly tabloid at the apex of the phone-hacking scandal in July 2011.

A call to Mr. Crone went unanswered mid-day Thursday.

The 60-year-old lawyer became one of the phone-hacking saga's most visible figures last year when he and former News of the World editor Colin Myler broke ranks with their former employer to dispute an element of News Corp. executive James Murdoch's testimony to a parliamentary committee.

Messrs. Crone and Myler said they had informed Mr. Murdoch in 2008 of a controversial email whose contents suggested the practice of hacking mobile-phone voicemails went beyond what the company had initially admitted. But Mr. Murdoch said he hadn't been informed of the email's contents at the time and learned the scope of the wrongdoing at the paper only in late 2010, a position he reiterated upon further questioning.

A spokeswoman for News International, the U.K. newspaper unit of News Corp., declined to comment on Thursday's arrest. She didn't say whether the company is paying Mr. Crone's legal bills. News Corp. owns The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Crone was a veteran lawyer on Fleet Street. He often vetted the News of the World's raciest stories ahead of publication and went to court to defend the paper against high-profile libel claims brought by celebrities.

The longtime News of the World lawyer was one of three people the U.K. Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee censured in a May report for misleading Parliament during hearings on the phone-hacking matter.