Another trip to the bar for Murdochs?
There is growing speculation among legal circles in the UK that at least three former News International executives may find themselves called to the Bar of the House of Commons to answer charges of contempt of parliament.
When the Culture, Media and Sport Committee released its stinging findings earlier this week after the News of The World
scandals, they concluded that they’d been given false or misleading evidence by Les Hinton, Tom Crone and Colin Myler. Both houses of the UK parliament have the power to summon non-members for contempt, and, if that contempt is established, to reprimand, fine or even imprison.
The last non-member to be reprimanded was the editor of the Sunday Express
in 1957, and the last time the Commons ordered a fine was somewhat earlier -- in 1666. But that full range of punishment powers is still available to parliament. It’s rather piquant, then, that there’s a precedent for imprisoning journalists and publishers for contempt after being brought to the Bar of the House which Rupert Murdoch would well remember -- because it happened in Australia when he was 24.
In May 1955 Charles Morgan, the member for Reid in NSW, told the House of Representatives that an article in the Bankstown Observer
had "impugned his personal honour and challenged his fitness to be a Member of Parliament". (It alleged that he’d been part of an immigration racket before WWII.) Raymond Fitzpatrick, the publisher of the newspaper, and its editor, Frank Browne, appeared before the parliamentary Privileges Committee, which found that there had, indeed, been a breach of privilege and recommended that the House should therefore take "appropriate action".
Fitzpatrick and Brown were then called to answer the charges before the Bar of the Chamber. After hearing statements from both men, the House voted that they be committed to 90 days jail. (The motion was moved by the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies.) Appeals to the High Court and Privy Council failed and they served their time in the Canberra police lock-up and Goulburn jail.
It’s highly unlikely that Hinton, Crone and Myler will have to pack their toothbrushes for a similar stretch at Wormwood Scrubs. But the phrase "brought before the Bar of the House" would not be sitting too comfortably with Rupert Murdoch at the moment. -- David Salter
Front page of the day. The Washington Post
covers Newt Gringrich officially bowing out of the Republican presidential candidate race:
Department of Corrections. We're not quite sure why Charles I got a mention in Toronto Star's story on the US embassy building in Ottawa, but we're glad the issues around his death were cleared up in.