An individual's right to control his or her private information was "cruelly and irretrievably" taken away by Mirror Group Newspapers, the High Court phone-hacking trial has heard.
At a hearing to decide the amount of compensation to be awarded in eight representative cases, counsel David Sherborne said that by hacking a voicemail, it violated the rights of "human autonomy, dignity and psychological integrity" on a "deliberate, systematic and sustained basis", with no conceivable public interest, but purely for commercial profit.
"Once private information has been published, the genie is out of the bottle. Never again can it be truly private," he told the court.
"The victim's right to control his own private information, his autonomy to reveal or not reveal that information as he sees fit – and if so in a manner that he sees fit, at a time of his choosing – has been cruelly and irretrievably taken away by MGN's publications.
"No injunction can truly restore the position. Of course, here, there was no opportunity to seek to prevent these unlawful activities in advance as they were deliberately concealed by the perpetrators.
"And unlike libel where a public judgment, coupled with a substantial vindicatory award of damages, can start to convince the public that what was published was not true, in privacy a victim has no such salvation.
"His private information is no longer private – there is nothing that the court can do to make it private again. His dignity and autonomy has gone.
"The ice cube has melted and it cannot be re-frozen."
Sherborne, who is representing TV executive Alan Yentob, actress Sadie Frost, ex-footballer Paul Gascoigne, soap stars Lucy Taggart, Shane Richie and Shobna Gulati, flight attendant Lauren Alcorn and TV producer Robert Ashworth, has told Mr Justice Mann that phone-hacking was rife at all three of MGN's national titles by mid-1999 at the latest.
He said that each and every voicemail interception should be compensated regardless of whether it led to publication of a story.
The same was true of each and every act of obtaining private information, whether by blagging or other unlawful means.
At the hearing in London yesterday, he said that MGN's landline call data was "just the very tip of the iceberg", as the vast bulk of the hacking was done using PAYG (Pay as you go) mobiles, for which there was no data.
For every single observable hacking call, it was reasonable to infer there were "many, many times more" hacking calls.
In relation to MGN's admitted "widespread use" of six firms of external private investigators, it spent £2.25m in respect of 13,683 private investigator invoices in the period from 2000 to 2007, said counsel.
The hearing was adjourned until today when Sherborne will conclude his opening, Matthew Nicklin QC will open MGN's case and Yentob will start his evidence.