71 Mirror Group stories and 45 journalists linked to phone-hacking, court told

  • Eight claimants set for two-week High Court trial
  • 71 articles with 45 bylines enabled by phone-hacking
  • Court told of 'widespread and habitual practice of voicemail interception' between 2000 and 2006

Trinity Mirror has admitted that 71 stories across its national titles, with 45 bylines attached to them, were enabled by phone-hacking, the High Court has heard.

Last week, a date was set for the High Court to decide the amount of compensation to be awarded in civil voicemail interception cases brought against Mirror Group Newspapers.

Eight representative cases, none of which have settled, are due to come before Mr Justice Mann in London on 2 March for a two-week trial.

They concern TV executive Alan Yentob (pictured), actress Sadie Frost, ex-footballer Paul Gascoigne, soap stars Lucy Taggart, Shane Richie and Shobna Gulati, flight attendant Lauren Alcorn and TV producer Robert Ashworth.

The trial will determine the extent of the phone-hacking and the amount of damages due.

At a preliminary review on Thursday, counsel David Sherborne said that MGN now admitted that none of the articles in the eight claims would have been published but for voicemail interception.

"This admission comprised 71 articles with bylines of 45 of MGN's journalists, and covering all three of MGN's national titles – the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and the People."

He said that each claimant, except Yentob, had identified further articles which were believed to be the product of voicemail interception or the unlawful obtaining of information about them and wished them to be considered by the court.

Sherborne added that, out of the outstanding claims, MGN had recently settled actions brought by fund manager Nicola Horlick for £25,000, model Emma Noble for £40,000 and stuntman Bobby Holland Hanton for £75,000.

The remaining live claims included those brought by Gascoigne's former wife Sheryl, actor John Thomson and TV presenter Davina McCall, with a number of others having been issued.

At Thursday's hearing, settlements were also announced in relation to claims brought by singer Cilla Black, EastEnders star Jessie Wallace, singer and TV personality Peter Andre and actor and singer Darren Day.

Sherborne said that the actions related to the "widespread and habitual practice of voicemail interception and the unlawful obtaining of personal information" which took place during the period of 2000 to 2006.

He told the judge that a claim brought by Black's son Robert Willis, who is the star's manager, had also been settled.

He read out statements on behalf of Black and Willis, Andre, Day and Wallace, and also a further five in the cases of other individuals whose settlements have previously been reported, including former England head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, actor Christopher Eccleston and David and Victoria Beckham's former nanny Abbie Gibson.

Their claims for "misuse of private information" were brought against MGN Limited, a subsidiary company of Trinity Mirror plc, and publisher of a "number of well-known and highly influential newspaper titles".

Sherborne added: "In particular, it is the publisher of the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and the People newspapers, which enjoy not just an enormous circulation and readership within this jurisdiction but also have a large number of readers online."

He told the judge: "In summary, these ten individuals all bring claims that cover unlawful activity by each of the three newspaper titles over a lengthy period.

"They have all expressed their feelings of distress and anger that their private information has been treated in this way and their privacy has been so grossly violated by these newspapers solely for profit."

Matthew Nicklin QC, for the defendant, said MGN "accepts that the methods which were used to obtain private information about these ten individuals through the unlawful accessing of their voicemails and the obtaining of their personal information should never have been employed and, further, that there was no legitimate justification for this or the publication of the articles about their private lives to which Sherborne refers, and which were based on information obtained through these unlawful methods".

He added: "MGN is here today, through me, to offer its sincere apologies to these claimants for the damage and distress caused to them by hacking into their voicemail messages and by obtaining private information about them, including the use of blagging."

Nicklin said that, in addition to paying them "substantial sums by way of damages and their reasonable costs", MGN has agreed to give an undertaking to the court that "it will not in future republish the articles or intercept the claimants' voicemail messages".

No damages figures were announced as part of the statements read to the judge, but it has been previously reported that Eriksson and Eccleston settled for £30,000 each and Gibson for £15,000.

It is understood from a court document that Day's damages are £85,000.

The ten settled claims include those of Christie Roche, wife of actor Shane Richie, and of his friend and agent Phil Dale.

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