Actor Hugh Grant could become the latest celebrity to sue the News of the World after saying police had handed him evidence suggesting he was the victim of phone hacking at the newspaper.
Grant claims the evidence includes notes by a private investigator used by the newspaper showing the voicemail pin numbers of his friends and family, along with phone numbers and bank details.
Grant made the allegations when he called in to a special edition of the Richard Bacon show on Radio Five Live which was broadcast from the offices of The Independent newspaper in London. He said he was still considering whether to pursue a legal action.
He told presenter Richard Bacon of his excitement that police were ‘hot’on the criminal inquiry into allegations of phone-hacking at the News of the World and that ‘big heads would roll”.
Grant also said that if he was to win a libel case against a tabloid, he would not want money but instead an assurance his name would never appear in the newspaper again.
He said: ‘We don’t need them [tabloid newspapers], we don’t want them and the sooner they go out of business the better.”
Talking apparently about the effect of tabloids no longer invading peoples’ privacy, he said: “They would go temporarily out of business because they rely almost entirely on stealing people’s privacy, but then I think they would actually be grateful because in six months, a year they would have to go back to being real journalists and they would feel good about themselves.”
The Hollywood star, who was the centre of a scandal in 1995 when he was caught with prostitute Divine Brown, added: ‘I think there should have always been a privacy law in this country of some kind, to protect people’s privacy.”
Nick Davies, the journalist who first exposed the News of the World phone-hacking scandal in The Guardian, also appeared on the programme and said he thought Grant was completely on the ‘right lines”.
Asked for his thoughts on Jemima Khan’s claims that a tabloid journalist was behind the Twitter account which last week revealed the alleged identities of many of the celebrities that had taken out gagging orders, Davies said that it was ‘entirely possible”.
He continued: ‘If you go back to the era before tweeting and the internet, one acknowledged route for journalists to publish something in order to escape a court injunction was to get it published abroad by surreptitious means, and once that has happened you can bring it back to the United Kingdom and say well there is no longer anything confidential or private here. So it is perfectly conceivable that a journalist would get it tweeted.”
Press Complaints Commission director Stephen Abel also appeared on yesterday’s show, and argued that the watchdog as an effective alternative to the courts.
Abell also claimed Twitter meant everyone was potentially now a publisher and that the PCC ‘can deal and probably will deal with Twitter in terms of the press”.
When asked if he was embarrassed by the phone-hacking scandal, Abell replied that it was a “tremendous matter of shame for the industry”.
Bacon said that the tabloid newspapers – including the Daily Mail, which shares a building with The Independent – turned down invitations to appear on the show.