Judges reject phone-hacking notification claim

The Metropolitan Police fought off an attempt to force it to notify hundreds of potential phone-hacking victims about a pending High Court human rights challenge against the force.

Two senior judges, Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Simon, refused to direct the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to act, ruling that such a direction was unnecessary and likely to be “complicated and contentious”.

The judges heard that the police had alerted 452 individuals that they might be hacking victims.

The request for the direction came from the legal team representing five individuals, who asked the court to direct the police to tell all 452 about their case to give them a chance to take part in the proceedings.

The five include former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott, Labour MP Chris Bryant former Scotland Yard deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick, Ben Jackson, personal assistant to actor Jude Law, and a member of the public known only as HJK.

The group sought judicial review and declarations that the way the Metropolitan Police handled investigations in 2005-06 into alleged News of the World phone hacking violated their rights to respect for private and personal life under Article 8 under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The group alleged that the police “failed to inform them they were victims”, failed to respond adequately to their requests for information, and failed to carry out an effective investigation at the time.

The case is expected to go to a full hearing at the end of the year.

There are already nearly 40 other names from the world of celebrity, politics, sport and showbusiness listed before the court as “interested parties” whose phones might have been hacked.

Jason Beer QC, for the Metropolitan Police, told the court today that fresh police investigations had identified 6,500 names of individuals who phones might have been hacked or who might have been connected with victims.

One of the allegations is that News of the World private investigator Glenn Mulcaire obtained blocks of names of “friends and family” of hacking targets.

The court also heard 63 claims for damages had been lodged in the civil courts as a result of the hacking scandal.

Lord Justice Laws said some 16 criminal prosecutions had been launched by the police.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, appearing for the Prescott five, said the Metropolitan Police had been “working hard over the summer”, and 452 potential victims had been contacted in the course of Operation Weeting, the new Scotland Yard inquiry now under way into the phone-hacking scandal.

He argued: “We are simply seeking to ensure that everybody with a proper interest in this case has the potential for being before the court if they so wish.”

Dismissing the application, Lord Justice Laws said the evidence from Mr Beer was that some of the 452 “far from being anxious that their names be brought forward in joint litigation with all the publicity that would involve, do not wish to be contacted again and do not wish the mere fact their phones have been hacked to reach the public gaze at all”, which seemed to be “an understandable and realistic position” for some people to take.

If the police were ordered to make contact the situation would become “complicated and very likely contentious”.

The judge said: “It seems to me no real case has been made out for a direction of this kind.”

The majority of the 452 were already likely to know of the case or learn of it through the publicity from today’s hearing. They could also “perfectly rightly and properly” pursue their own claims if they wished.

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