Former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott yesterday launched a fresh bid to mount a legal challenge over the Metropolitan Police’s handling of the News of the World phone-hacking case.
He and three others – Labour MP Chris Bryant, former Scotland Yard deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick and journalist Brendan Montague – asked a High Court judge to give them the go-ahead for a judicial review.
The four, who believe they were victims of phone-hacking, claim there were human rights breaches in the police handling of their cases.
They are applying for permission to bring judicial proceedings against the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
Today’s proceedings, before Mr Justice Foskett in London, followed an earlier rejection of their applications by Mr Justice Mitting, who considered the cases on paper and ruled the legal challenge “unarguable”.
He held in February that there was no arguable case that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights imposed an obligation on the Metropolitan Police to notify the claimants in 2005/2006 that they might have been the victims of unlawful phone-hacking.
He also concluded that it was not arguable that the commissioner was under a duty to conduct an investigation into the possibility that mobile communications had been unlawfully intercepted.
Hugh Tomlinson QC, for the applicants, told Mr Justice Foskett today that the case concerned the “lawfulness” of the way the police dealt with the phone-hacking case in 2006 “when police officers became aware of what was going on”.
The applicants were seeking declarations in relation to claims that the police “failed to inform them they were victims”, failed to respond adequately to their requests for information and failed to carry out an effective investigation at the time.
Tomlinson told the judge: “The claimants are seeking declaratory relief in relation to past breaches of their rights. It is not academic for the court to indicate to the commissioner that his previous conduct was unlawful. It is an essential part of the court’s function.
“The reason why these particular claimants have brought this particular action is because they want to ensure the precise limits of the duties of the Metropolitan Police are made clear by the courts, so that victims of this kind of unlawful act know where they stand and are properly informed.”
Contesting the applications, James Lewis QC, for the Commissioner, argued that “these matters are effectively academic”.
There was now a “comprehensive” investigation being carried out and what the claimants sought was “an impossible task for the court” – and would not be a sensible use of court time and resources.
He said: “This court is not here to micro-manage the Metropolitan Police or to punish them for any inadequacies.”
After hearing argument from both sides, the judge reserved his decision to a date to be announced.