Executives at the now-closed News of the World actively sought to delete e-mails which could be used in phone-hacking claims against the British tabloid, newly disclosed court documents alleged on Friday.
The allegations are made in documents drawn up by lawyers for hacking victims. They have not been heard in court because the case never went to trial, but they were released to a British newspaper by a High Court judge.
Rupert Murdoch shut down the News of the World in July over the phone hacking scandal and since then the publishers have settled a string of cases. However, they still face legal claims and allegations of a cover-up.
The claimants’ documents allege that all computers used by journalists were destroyed in about October 2010 and “hundreds of thousands of e-mails, on nine separate occasions, were deleted” under the company’s “e-mail deletion policy.”
They quote a draft framework of the policy from November 2009, which described its aim “to eliminate in a consistent manner across News International [subject to compliance with legal and regulatory requirements] e-mails that could be unhelpful in the context of future litigation.”
The company should have been aware of its legal obligation to preserve evidence from 2008 onwards because of civil claims brought against the paper, the court documents note.
They also cite e-mails from an unnamed senior executive inquiring about the progress of the e-mail deletions, including one from July 2010 which says: “How come we still haven’t done the e-mail deletion policy?”
Another from August 2010 states: “Everyone needs to know that anything before January 2010 will not be kept,” according to the documents obtained by the Daily Telegraph and published online.
News Group Newspapers declined to comment.
Murdoch is launching a replacement to the News of the World this weekend, a Sunday version of his best-selling daily tabloid, the Sun.