Nearly 30 high-profile figures who suspect that their phone messages were intercepted by News of the World journalists are taking legal action – with more litigants “coming along week by week”, a High Court judge heard yesterday.
Celebrities claiming damages include politicians John Prescott and George Galloway, actor Jude Law, comedian Steve Coogan, ex-footballers Paul Gascoigne, Andy Gray and Lee Chapman and television presenter Ulrika Johnsson, a High Court hearing in London was told.
Police carrying out a criminal investigation are also regularly taking calls from people asking whether there is any evidence that their phones were hacked, Mr Justice Vos heard.
In 2007, private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman were given jail terms after the Old Bailey heard how they plotted to hack into Royal aides’ telephone messages.
New police inquiries have started since then – and earlier this month actress Sienna Miller was given £100,000 damages as part of a settlement of a civil privacy and harassment claim against the News of the World.
Lawyers representing Prescott, Law, Johnsson, Chapman, Gascoigne, Galloway, Coogan and others, asked Mr Justice Vos to order the disclosure of the “Mulcaire archive” held by police carrying out criminal investigations.
Hugh Tomlinson QC and Jeremy Reed said material gathered by Mulcaire was seized by Metropolitan Police officers in 2006.
And they applied for all Mulcaire’s seized notes and notebooks to be disclosed to them so that the level of damage suffered by clients could be fully assessed.
The court has already ruled that some information from Mulcaire’s notes should be disclosed to litigants. Mr Tomlinson said that was not enough – and argued his clients needed the entire “Mulcaire archive”.
Mr Justice Vos is expected to rule on the application if lawyers representing claimants and the police cannot reach agreement.
The judge is due to hear evidence from a group of “lead claimants” at a trial in January – and any rulings he makes are expected to provide a blueprint for the way other claims are dealt with.
Reed yesterday updated the judge on the numbers of people seeking damages.
“At present (there are) just shy of 30 claimants with more coming along week by week,” said Reed. “Claimants do all largely want an award of damages. They also want to get to the bottom of how they were intercepted.”
Tomlinson said people were most upset at being under “surveillance”.
“To some people the most upsetting thing in this case is not that some slightly unpleasant articles have been published in the News of the World about their private lives, the most upsetting thing is that they have virtually been under surveillance for a prolonged period of time,” he said. “It is … harassment apart from anything else.”
Jason Beer QC, for the Metropolitan Police, said calls regularly came in from people asking if they were mentioned in seized documentation. He said dealing with those calls was costing police time and money.
He said officers had at least nine of Mulcaire’s notebooks – plus other paperwork – and were doing their best to cooperate with litigants as well as complete criminal inquiries.
Other litigants include: jockey Kieren Fallon, politicians Tessa Jowell, Chris Bryant and Mark Oaten, interior designer Kelly Hoppen, sports agent Skylet Andrew and former Football Association boss David Davies and ex-soccer player and Professional Footballers’ Association boss Mick McGuire.