A parliamentary committee has concluded former News International legal chief Tom Crone misled MPs during inquiries into allegations of phone hacking.
In a report published today, the Committee of Privileges said barrister Crone (pictured), who was legal manager for the News of the World publisher, misled the culture committee over his knowledge of evidence.
Crone appeared before the culture committee in 2009 and again in September 2011, having left his job in July 2011.
Today’s report states that Crone misled the committee in 2009 by giving a 'counter-impression’ of the significance of confidentiality in a settlement with the former PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor, a victim of phone hacking.
The report cited a 2008 memo from Crone in which he had authorised the company’s solicitors Farrer & Co to make an opening offer of £150,000 plus costs.
Crone had assured the culture committee the size of the payment was not greater in order that proceedings should be kept secret.
But the committee report concluded: ‘[Crone] was involved in the settlement negotiations and knew that NGN’s desire for confidentiality had increased the settlement amount. We make a finding of contempt in relation to this issue.’
Crone was also found to have misled MPs by ‘answering questions falsely about [his] knowledge of evidence that other News of the World employees had been involved in phone hacking and other wrongdoing’.
Along with former News of the World editor Colin Myler, Crone gave ‘repeated assurances’ there was no evidence that any employees, beyond royal correspondent Clive Goodman, had been involved in phone hacking.
The committee report says: ‘This was not true and, as further evidence disclosed to us by the newspaper’s solicitors Farrer & Co now shows, they would have known this was untrue when they made those statements.
‘Both Tom Crone and Colin Myler deliberately avoided disclosing crucial information to the committee and, when asked to do, answered questions falsely.’
Committee members said they ‘simply do not believe’ Crone ended his 2009 evidence session believing he had disclosed the entirety of his knowledge about involvement of others in phone hacking. The lawyer ‘aimed to sail a very fine line’ in terms of giving enough information and avoided giving full answers going into detail of who was involved.
The committee found insufficient evidence to find Crone sought to mislead MPs about the commissioning of surveillance of victims’ lawyers, and as such this allegation was not proved.
The penalties available in cases of contempt include the power to summon a person to the bar of the house to be reprimanded, to imprison them and to fine them. In this case the committee recommended formal admonishment.
In August Crone was cleared of six charges of professional misconduct by a bar disciplinary tribunal.
In the Guardian, Crone is quoted as saying it is 'regrettable’ that the committee had chosen to 'ignore completely’ the evidence he gave, which was that he had accepted ’unequivocally’ at the outset of his appearance that hacking went beyond the activities of the paper’s royal editor.