Former MP George Galloway is demanding damages in excess of £300,000 from the publisher of the News of the World claiming he was embroiled in the phone hacking scandal at the newspaper.
Galloway, who stepped down before the election in May after serving one term as Respect MP for Bethnal Green, has launched a legal action against News Group Newspapers claiming his voicemail was illegally intercepted between February 2005 and August 2006.
He is also seeking damages from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire claiming he was involved in intercepting his messages.
News Group and Mulcaire’s actions amounted to a gross invasion for Galloway and for those who left him messages, he says.
Galloway is seeking injunctions banning News Group from intercepting his voicemail and from using the information taken from messages, he wants it to reveal details of to whom information was supplied and he wants an inquiry into damages.
In a writ filed at the High Court, Galloway claims he was one of numerous victims who had messages intercepted by people working for the Sunday newspaper.
News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and Mulcaire were jailed in February 2007 for hacking into the phone messages of Royal aides.
The News of the World maintained that Goodman was the only reporter on the paper involved in phone-hacking.
Mulcaire admitted to having listening to the messages of publicist Max Clifford, football agent Skylet Andrew, chairman of the Professional Footballers Association Gordon Taylor, Simon Hughes MP and supermodel Elle Macpherson.
Galloway disputes claims that the voicemail hacking was a one-off clandestine affair between Goodman and Mulcaire.
The writ claims: “Mr Goodman’s acquisition of confidential personal information from a private investigator was not an isolated incident for News of the World journalists, contrary to the repeated assertions from NGN.”
It states: “News of the World journalists frequently purchased confidential information from private investigators that has been unlawfully and/or illegally obtained.”
In the writ, issued by solicitors Farooq Bajwa and Co, Galloway claims Mulcaire carried out ‘voicemail interception on an industrial scale’and that he believes Mulcaire supplied information to other employees of the paper, not only to Goodman.
Galloway says he plans to rely on a report by the Information Commissioner following Operation Motorman in 2002 to show that News of the World journalists often bought confidential personal information from private investigators that was ‘unlawfully and illegally obtained”.
The report found that one investigator, Steve Whittamore, had supplied personal information to 305 journalists, including 19 at the News of the World, Galloway says.
By allegedly hacking into his voicemails, News Group is likely to have found information which would be a source for current or future stories, or potential lines of inquiry for other stories, the writ says.
In the writ, Galloway notes that the News of the World has paid around £700,000 to Gordon Taylor, and settled a claims brought by Max Clifford in relation to similar voicemail hacking claims.
Galloway says in the writ that he does not know the full scale of the alleged phone interceptions, pending the disclosure of information from the News of the World, the Met Police and the Information Comissioner.
Golloway notes in the writ that he was the subject of a News of the World undercover operation in 2006, which did not result in any prosecution. At the time, the News of the World brought out an injunction to prevent Galloway publishing photos of the paper’s investigations editor Mazher Mahmood.
A spokeswoman for the News of the World said: “We can confirm Mr Galloway has issued proceedings against NGN in connection with alleged voicemail interception by Mr Glenn Mulcaire.
“The News of the World has absolutely no knowledge or evidence that Mr Galloway’s voicemail was accessed. We cannot comment further until we receive clarification from the Metropolitan Police on this matter.”