Lawyers of celebrities who suspect that phone messages were intercepted by News of the World journalists can be given material from “surveillance” notes seized by police, a High Court judge said today.
Information gathered by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire could be examined by lawyers representing high-profile figures including Labour politician Lord Prescott, actor Jude Law, television presenter Ulrika Jonsson and ex-footballer Lee Chapman, said Mr Justice Vos at a hearing in London.
The judge sanctioned an agreement made between lawyers representing celebrities making civil damages claims, and the Metropolitan Police, about information from the “Mulcaire archive” which could be made available.
Four years ago 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 actress Sienna Miller plus footballer-turned-pundit Andy Gray have settled civil claims against the News of the World publishers News Group Newspapers.
Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing Lord Prescott, Law, Jonsson, Chapman and others, had told the court that people had “effectively been under surveillance” and said material from Mulcaire’s seized notes was needed so that levels of damage could be assessed.
The judge was told by lawyers that material which would be examined included invoices, “electronic communications” and faxes, notebooks and information from mobile phones.
About 30 people, including jockey Kieren Fallon, politicians Tessa Jowell, Chris Bryant and Mark Oaten, interior designer Kelly Hoppen, sports agent Sky Andrew and former Football Association boss David Davies and ex-soccer player and Professional Footballers’ Association boss Mick McGuire, have made damages claims, say lawyers.
During the hearing Mr Justice Vos spoke of the public interest in “getting to the bottom” of the News of the World phone-hacking allegations.
He said: “We know very well there is great public interest in what went on.
“The whole thing is conducted in the glare of publicity and it is a case where there is, at least, one argument for saying there is a public interest in getting to the bottom of it so nobody can, after this case is concluded, say, ‘Oh this claimant didn’t get what they were due’.”
Michael Silverleaf QC, for News of the World publisher News Group Newspapers (NGN), said the newspaper had admitted intercepting messages and there was “very little in dispute”. He said he was concerned to keep legal costs down.
Hugh Tomlinson QC, said NGN’s desire to “limit disclosure” was “understandable”, adding: “It wants to put a lid on the wrongdoing it got up to over the years.
“What many of the claimants are concerned with is finding out what actually happened.”
The judge is due to hear evidence relating to a group of “lead claimants” at a trial in January and assess damages. Any rulings he makes are expected to provide a blueprint for the way other claims are dealt with.
He is also due to examine the progress of litigation at a case management hearing in on Friday.