Accident defence on 2009 phone-hack claim 'nonsense'

The phone hacking row between Kelly Hoppen and the News of the World went to the High Court today.

Mr Justice Eady was due to rule on the disclosure of information to Ms Hoppen and her lawyers by the newspaper’s suspended journalist Dan Evans, who is alleged to have attempted to access the interior designer’s voice mails in June 2009 with a phone registered to News International Supply Company (NISC) Ltd.

But there was no need for his intervention after Evans’s lawyers said a “pragmatic decision” had been taken to permit Hoppen’s team to carry out further searches of his computers, although they did not accept it was justified.

It was agreed that this would be subject to careful control as it involved access to private and irrelevant material.

Hoppen was in court to hear counsel David Sherborne say the case was of considerable importance as it drove a “coach and horses” through News Group’s claim that the criminal activities of former Royal editor Clive Goodman who – with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was jailed over royal phone taps in 2007 – were “historic” and that the “single rotten apple” had been removed.

He dismissed as “extraordinary” Evans’ claim that the calls were accidental as a result of sticky keys, and said his case was “torpedoed” by new evidence which had emerged from the Metropolitan Police, which “could and should have been provided earlier”, showing that Mulcaire had obtained private information about Ms Hoppen in 2005.

“The suggestion that these calls to her voice-mail were an accident is simply nonsense. She was a target of the News of the World in 2009, the same way she was in 2005/6,” Sherborne said.

The judge, sitting in London, heard that the Metropolitan Police had consented to the disclosure of the Mulcaire material relating to Hoppen.

Sherborne added: “We say that where there is a defence of an innocent state of mind, as Dan Evans says, the contents of his computer – what he was looking at to do with Kelly Hoppen and when – is critically relevant.”

He said Hoppen’s claim would amount to breach of confidence, data protection and harassment.

Michael Silverleaf QC, for Evans and NISC, said that the claim as it stood was “completely speculative”, and went on: “The claimant has no coherent evidence and needs a positive outcome from these searches to proceed. That is why this is a fishing expedition.

“Dan Evans says he was not doing anything in relation to the claimant in June 2009 and had no reason to call her phone and, as far as he is aware, didn’t do so.”

His computers had already been subject to extensive investigation which showed nothing incriminating, but there was evidence that he carried out a number of searches about Ms Hoppen after he was told of the allegations against him.

“Viewed with an unbiased eye, the evidence on his computer is not only consistent with complete innocence but indicative of innocence,” Silverleaf added.

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