Lord Leveson called former Times of London “legal manager” Alastair Brett’s statement to a UK court in 2009 “utterly misleading” and “not accurate,” the Guardian reported.
The Press Gazette called Brett’s testimony “some of the most punishing questioning of the hacking inquiry so far.”
Brett told the inquiry March 15 about “how furious he was” to learn that former Times reporter Patrick Foster hacked into the e-mail account of Richard Horton, who ran anonymously a police blog called Nightjack.
Notably, the Times won an injunction battle to name Horton as Nightjack but didn’t tell the court at the time that it got the identity through hacking. The Times of London’s editor James Harding apologized at the Leveson Inquiry Feb. 7 for the hack of Horton’s email, as we wrote. As the Guardian reported at the time, Harding “admitted that evidence of his paper’s involvement in email hacking was previously withheld from the high court.”
Brett led the court fight to name Horton, the Guardian noted earlier this year. The Telegraph noted that Brett found out May 20, 2009 that Foster hacked. Leveson asked Brett why the Times didn’t admit to using hacking then, and the two debated over the wording of the statement given in 2009, the Guardian explained.
According to a February Guardian report, Brett argued that while he knew about the hacking, it was “confidential” and “legally privileged.” Instead, the Times “falsely told” Horton and the judge the identity of Nightjack was found out through “publicly available information.”
Then Leveson called the statement “utterly misleading” and Brett noted the statement “certainly doesn’t give the full story,” according to the Guardian.
According to the Independent, Brett noted during the March 15 Leveson Inquiry that “other senior executives at The Times knew the ‘legitimate access’ defence was untrue.” Brett also revealed that Foster made “other hacking attempts” including during his time as a university student.
The Independent reported that a News International spokesperson said about the testimony:
“Today’s testimony by The Times’s former lawyer Alastair Brett was a painful reminder of an occasion when The Times’s conduct failed to meet the high standards expected of this newspaper. As has been previously stated, the handling of the Nightjack case was deeply unsatisfactory. News International has changed governance and compliance procedures, including formalised guidance to the in-house legal team, to ensure that rigorous internal processes are adhered to in future.”
Read the full transcript of Brett’s testimony here on the Leveson Inquiry’s website.