So why did Old Crone quit?

It seems that Tom Crone, who has been News International’s chief lawyer for over 25 years, has quit. Two questions arise from this unexpected development: 1. why did he go now? and 2. What role did he play in the hush-money payments to Gordon Taylor and Max Clifford (the ones that James Murdoch he authorised without knowing the full story)?

“Whether he jumped or was pushed still isn’t clear”, writes the Christian Science Monitor.

But his role at the paper, particularly in a decision three years ago to pay large out-of-court settlements to two men whose phones were hacked into by the company’s employees, is sure to be under scrutiny in the coming weeks and months.

Mr. Crone told Parliament in 2009 that he’d recommended and approved a $1 million settlement paid to Gordon Taylor, the head of the Professional Football Association, whose phone had been illegally hacked by NotW reporters. Colin Myler, then NotW editor, told Parliament that he, Crone, and James Murdoch collectively decided to make that payment. That hearing came after The Guardian newspaper broke the story of the paper’s payments. Celebrity publicist Max Clifford also reportedly received a settlement of over $1 million.

That has raised tantalizing questions about how much James knew about the illegal practices at NotW – both during his time at News International and before.