Press Gazette understands that publicist Max Clifford thrashed out a deal with News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks to settle a privacy action which could have brought further revelations about News of the World phone bugging.
The Guardian is reporting that the settlement totalled £1m, which is more than double the £450,000 paid to chief executive of the Professional Footballer’s Association Gordon Taylor in a similar deal with the NoW.
But the court order settling the case only states that the costs have been “dealt with by agreement between the parties”. The News of the World declined to comment and would neither confirm or deny the £1m figure.
Clifford’s lawyer, Charlotte Harris of JMW Solicitors, told Press gazette that in her opinion this does not spell the end of the phone-hacking affair for the News of the World and that other public figures who believe they were hacked by the paper may pursue further legal actions.
Harris said: “Individuals in public life who suspect that their mobile telephone has been intercepted or that there has been an invasion of their privacy will be asking questions and wanting to find out what has happened.”
News of the World Royals editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed in February 2007 for hacking into the phone messages of Royal aides.
But Mulcaire also admitted listening to the messages of publicist Max Clifford, footballer Sol Campbell’s agent Skylet Andrew, chairman of the Professional Footballers Association Gordon Taylor, MP Simon Hughes and supermodel Elle Macpherson. These were listed only as representative of the groups of people whose phones were hacked.
No-one knows how many phones Mulcaire hacked for the News of the World. But a Guardian Freedom of Information request revealed that the Met Police knew of 91 mobile phone pin-codes which were hacked – so 91 would be a conservative estimate for the number of individuals involved.
Press Gazette understands that Clifford is content that Brooks has now explained to him what went on in the case of his phone being hacked, and that of his assistant, and that he has got to the “bottom of the matter”. But scant information has been released by the Met about the other individuals whose phones were targeted.
If the News of the World had not settled the case further details about phone hacking could have been forced out by a court order won by Clifford on 3 February.
This ordered Mulcaire to reveal:
- The name of every person who had asked him to target Clifford;
- The name of every person he had supplied voicemail messages to;
- The name of everyone who he instructed or enabled to obtain Clifford’s voice messages.
The Guardian’s long-running investigation into the phone-hacking scandal has alleged that more individuals other than Goodman and Mulcaire were involved, something which the News of the World has denied. Last year The Guardian obtained legal documents relating to the Gordon Taylor case which included a transcript of a bugged phone call which was typed up by a junior News of the World journalist and was headed “this is for Neville”, a reference apparently to the paper’s chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck.
The Commons media committee’s inquiry into press standards questioned various News of the World executives about these matters and in its conclusions last month accused them of “collective amnesia”.
The 3 February court order also told the Information Commissioner to supply Clifford with details of the 2002 Operation Motorman inquiry which revealed the News of the World’s dealing with private investigator Steve Whittamore.
It was one of a number of national newspaper to buy possibly illegally obtained information from Whittamore. The Information Commissioner documents would have revealed the names of all the News of the World journalists who had used Whittamore.