Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire’s demand for £750,000 from News Group Newspapers (NGN) in return for his co-operation negated an offer to pay his legal fees, the High Court was told today.
Mulcaire, who was jailed for six months in 2007 for intercepting messages on royal aides’ phones, is suing News International subsidiary NGN for breach of contract.
He says he cannot fund his legal defence or pay costs or damages incurred in the hacking litigation, due to start in January, and wants a declaration that NGN had no right to terminate an alleged June 2010 indemnity.
His counsel, Ben Williams, has told the Chancellor of the High Court, Sir Andrew Morritt, that NGN paid his legal costs until July 19 when Rupert and James Murdoch were questioned by a Commons select committee and challenged about the payment.
“Glenn Mulcaire’s case is that the defendant did agree to pay his costs, the agreement is enforceable and the defendant did not have the right to terminate it.”
NGN’s counsel Alain Choo-Choy QC told the court today that Mulcaire did not accept the indemnity offer, which depended upon his wide-ranging cooperation in relation to actual, threatened or future proceedings, including naming who told him to intercept voicemail messages and to whom he supplied them.
Mulcaire was not prepared to provide that information “merely in return for the offered indemnity”, said counsel.
He had made clear to his solicitor, who approached NGN in July, that he was not prepared to co-operate unless he was paid.
“Much is made of why Mulcaire felt he was justified in asking for that money. We say it’s irrelevant for present purposes.
“What is relevant is that he demanded the sum in return for his co-operation and that demand was rejected.”
Mulcaire’s solicitor Sarah Webb has said his position was that the provision of information was unnecessary as NGN already had it, and he felt “hard done by” by the group.
Mr Choo-Choy added: “We say the demand for money is significant as it represented Mulcaire’s price for his co-operation so it cannot be said to be a mere exploratory discussion which did not fundamentally depart from what had been on offer.
“It went to the very heart of the quid pro quo he was asking for in return for his co-operation.
“Therefore, it clearly amounted to the terms of a counter-offer, of terms on which he was prepared to cooperate and that must have been a rejection of the terms of the June offer.”
The judge reserved his decision, saying he would try to give a ruling on Wednesday next week.