Sacked Sun journalist in High Court bid to clear name

Former Sun features editor Matt Nixson has denied any involvement in phone-hacking and claims News International breached the terms of his contract when he was sacked for gross misconduct in July.

Papers filed at the High Court reveal Nixson is suing News Group Newspapers for both wrongful dismissal and breach of contract.

Nixson, who vehemently denies any involvement in phone-hacking, was sacked for gross misconduct on 21 July, two weeks after the Sun’s sister title the News of the World was shut down.

He joined The Sun as features editor in January 2011 on a salary of £105,000, according to a writ lodged at the High Court, joining from the NoW where he was news editor.

In his writ he claims that the Management and Standards Committee (MSC) set up in the wake of the scandal by parent company News Corp dismissed him after police investigating phone-hacking showed interest in emails on his account from his time at the NoW.

He alleges that the company later wrote to him saying the committee’s internal investigation had ‘uncovered what we believe to be direct evidence of criminal conduct by you”.

In the writ Nixson claims he was invited to a meeting with The Sun’s managing director Richard Caseby and group HR director Derrick Crowley on 21 July at around 7.30pm, where he was instantly dismissed for gross misconduct.

He was not told what was in the emails or why they were of interest to the police, he claims.

He further alleges that after his dismissal he was forced to hand over his Blackberry and iPad and escorted from the paper’s offices in Wapping, with no opportunity to collect any belongings apart from his bag.

Nixson is now suing NGN for wrongful dismissal and breach of contract, and committee members Lord Grabiner QC (the chairman of the MSC) Will Lewis, Simon Greenberg and Jeffrey Palker for inducement to breach of contract.

Nixson, who worked for the Mail on Sunday before joining the News of the World in January 2005, denies ever knowingly being involved in unlawful activity relating to phone-hacking or any other criminal newsgathering activity.

He has never, according to the writ, intercepted either voicemail, email or text messages or asked anyone else to, and has never received or used information he believed came from intercepted messages.

Nixson claims his Sun contract stipulated that if he was accused of gross misconduct NGN could suspend him on full pay pending an investigation, and dismiss him without notice or payment if the allegation was substantiated.

His contract also set out the disciplinary procedure the paper would follow: it included time to prepare for a disciplinary meeting, a chance to state his case, a report and statement of grounds of dismissal and a chance to comment in writing, the claim says.

He accuses NGN of breaching his contract by sacking him without twelve months’ notice and without any basis, and also claims the committee did not have the power to sack him or order him to be sacked under its terms of reference.

He also claims he had no meaningful right of appeal since he has not been told the basis for his dismissal.

If his case had been investigated, he claims, he would not have been sacked, since it would have become obvious during an investigation that any allegation of gross misconduct could not be substantiated, the claim states.

He is seeking damages on the basis that he would have stayed employed by NGN for the rest of his career, and invites the court to consider the difficulty he faces in finding another job, given the stigma attached to his dismissal and the implication he was involved with phone-hacking.

Nixson has not been arrested or interviewed by police.

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