News International CIO Paul Cheesbrough admitted in a witness statement that the media giant deleted two email archives that may have contained evidence relating to phone and email hacking allegations.
Cheesbrough’s admission was contained in documents, released to the Daily Telegraph last night, that were compiled by lawyers representing hacking victims. Based on information provided by News International (NI)’s Management and Standards Committee, the documents were never used as evidence because NI has settled with all victims out of court.
They reveal that Cheesbrough admitted in a witness statement that one archive containing emails dated up to 31 September 2004 was deleted on an undisclosed date, and another containing emails dated up to 31 September 2007 was deleted in January 2011. Months earlier, a legal letter from actress Sienna Miller had explicitly demanded that News International retain any documents relevant to her case.
The documents also allege that NI created an “Email Deletion Policy” in November 2009 to “eliminate in a consistent manner across News International (subject to compliance with legal and regulatory requirements) emails that could be unhelpful in the context of future litigation in which an NI company is a defendant”.
An email quoted in the documents, allegedly sent by an unnamed NI executive on October 7 2010, asks the company’s legal officers: "How are we doing with the email deletion policy?"
The legal officer forwarded the email to an unnamed member of the IT department, adding, "Should I go see them now and get fired – would be a shame for you to go so soon?!!! Do you reakon [sic] you can add some telling IT arguments to back up my legal ones."
Cheesbrough joined NI in August 2010, just two months before the email was sent.
In August 2011, lawyers representing NI’s outsourcing IT supplier HCL Technologies revealed in a letter to the Home Affairs Committee that NI had asked it for assistance with "truncating a particular database" in its email archive system in January 2011.
HCL declined that request, suggesting that NI ask its email archiving service provider for assistance. That company was revealed by the Guardian newspaper to be a Bristol-based supplier called Essential Computing.
Essential Computing has not responded to Information Age’s request for comment.