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News Corp.’s Times Mislead U.K. Court About Computer Hacking

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Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- News Corp.’s Times newspaper in London misled a court and lawyers for a police officer who suspected his e-mail account had been hacked by a reporter, editor James Harding told a media inquiry.

“In the last couple of weeks, I’ve learned a great deal more about what happened in this incident,” Harding told the inquiry that was set up in response to the phone-hacking scandal at News Corp.’s now defunct News of the World. “I sorely regret the intrusion.”

Reporter Patrick Foster hacked into officer Richard Horton’s e-mail in May 2009 to expose him as the writer of an unauthorized “Nightjack” blog about police work. Lawyers for Horton, to prevent the story from being published, raised the possibility that the e-mail had been illegally accessed.

Foster told his editor and the newsroom’s lawyer who advised him to continue to pursue the story through legitimate means and told Horton’s counsel that his identity was revealed through deduction, Harding said.

The Metropolitan Police Service is investigating the Times over e-mail hacking, Labour party lawmaker Tom Watson said in an e-mail last week. The paper is the third News Corp. title in London to come under suspicion in related probes of phone hacking, computer hacking and bribes to police officers. The scandal erupted in July after revelations that the News of the World accessed messages on a murdered schoolgirl’s mobile phone.

Written Apology

Harding has sent a written apology to Horton and Judge David Eady, the judge in the U.K. high court who decided not to block the story’s publication based on that testimony, Harding said.

Foster didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail. A call to Judge Eady’s office wasn’t immediately returned.

“I was not aware of exactly what he had done. I was aware we had a concern” before the article was published, Harding said. “That’s remained the case until I’d got all of these e-mails and all of this documentation in front of me in the last couple of weeks.”

The Times published the stories revealing the police officer because it was in the public interest, Harding said.

News Corp.’s internal investigation team is actively turning over evidence of wrongdoing at its U.K. titles to police.

To contact the reporters on this story: Amy Thomson in London at athomson6@bloomberg.net; Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net

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