The group of MPs conducting a review into phone hacking, at Rupert Murdoch's now defunct News of The World newspaper, has drawn attention back to a tranche of emails sent by journalists and executives at the company.
While the early investigations commissioned by News International found no evidence in the emails of malpractice, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee said: "Nobody has taken responsibility for the fact that e-mails included in and disregarded by the two reviews by Daniel Cloke and Jonathan Chapman [internally] and by Harbottle & Lewis [externally] have subsequently merited referral to the police."
The news comes in a tough report from the committee, which said Rupert Murdoch, chairman of parent group News Corp, "is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company".
The report raises serious concerns over management, after executives including former News International chairman James Murdoch said he not seen an email detailing concerns of hacking across the company's newspapers.
An e-mail exchange on 7 June 2008, which raised concerns around the possible phone hacking of Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor "demonstrates that James Murdoch was given the opportunity to appraise himself of the Gordon Taylor case and to make himself aware of its significance. Had he read the e-mail chain properly he ought to have asked searching questions of [News of the World editor] Colin Myler and [legal manager] Tom Crone," the committee said.
"If he did not read the e-mail chain, there is no good excuse for this and it betrays an astonishing lack of curiosity on the part of a chief executive."
The report noted that some of those involved in setting up an internal News International review blamed those involved in an external review commissioned by the company for not highlighting any malpractice, when the review had been narrow.
The committee described evidence it had heard on News International's internal email review, and one commissioned to law firm Harbottle & Lewis, as "unedifying".
It noted that "senior executives [at News International] have both denied responsibility for the conduct of the e-mail reviews, but on the other hand have been quick to rely on them when it has suited them to do so".
It also noted that the narrow terms and timing for the email review did not necessarily indicate that News International had a "clean bill of health" when it came to phone hacking. Some of the reviews had only followed-up on 'rogue reporter' Clive Goodman's claims, it said.
"The fact that they [the reviews] were only looking for evidence that supported Clive Goodman's specific assertions is not an excuse for dismissing evidence of anything else."
The report concluded: "The integrity and effectiveness of the Select Committee system relies on the truthfulness and completeness of the oral and written evidence submitted. The behaviour of News International and certain witnesses in this affair demonstrated contempt for that system in the most blatant fashion."
Photo of Rupert Murdoch, by World Economic Forum on Flickr