Brian Cathcart: Memories of hacking will be jogged in court

Media Studies: Police say there are 3,870 names in Muclaire's records and only a small fraction have so far been informed

After the firestorm that followed the Milly Dowler revelations in the summer, Rupert Murdoch's News International must have hoped life might return to something like normal, or at least that there would be sufficient calm to allow some gentle rebuilding. That has not happened.

Instead a new hacking story tumbles out every few days, be it news that one of Jamie Bulger's killers is now thought to have been hacked at a time when he supposedly had a secret new identity, or the discovery that former News of the World journalist Neil Wallis worked for both the Metropolitan Police and the paper at the same time.

These revelations prompt public anger and keep the company on the defensive, but they also stack up the legal pressures, fuelling the police investigation and the civil proceedings for damages. We don't know much about the progress of the police, but those civil cases, brought by people who believe they were victims of hacking, vividly display the company's confusion.

Back in January, News International tried to shut down the litigation problem by boldly declaring it would settle all claims against it brought by victims who had decent evidence they had been hacked. A few people took the money because legally they had no choice – but only a few. Meanwhile more came on the scene, and there are now nearly twice as many cases before the courts (around 50) as there were in January.

Back then, the company also offered a cheap, behind-closed-doors mediation process overseen by a former senior judge. Legal sources say that nobody at all has used this service. Far from disappearing, the litigants are heading for a test trial in January, which will hear the claims of six of them: Paul Gascoigne; Jude Law; Chris Bryant MP; Sky Andrew (a football agent); Kelly Hoppen (a designer) and Sheila Henry, mother of a man killed in the 7/7 explosions in 2005.

Just imagine. Drama is certain, but also unprecedented courtroom scrutiny of the company, with assorted witnesses testifying under oath and being cross-examined by top barristers. We had just a hint of what could happen last week when Neville Thurlbeck, one of the former News of the World people arrested in the police hacking investigation, announced: "There is much I could have said publicly to the detriment of News International but, so far, have chosen not to do so." Might he choose to say those things in court? Would he be given a choice?

Evidence in the preliminary hearings suggests that the central figure in the whole affair, convicted hacker Glenn Mulcaire, has problems remembering. To at least one series of written questions, on behalf of hacking victim Simon Hughes MP, he repeatedly answered that he had "no independent recollection" of the facts. His forgetfulness would be tested to the limit in court.

News International has suffered extraordinary damage even before any of this has come to trial. How will it withstand all the additional pressures?

Then again, what choice does it have? Police say there are 3,870 names in Muclaire's records and only a small fraction have so far been informed. Writing a blank cheque now, valid for all future claimants, might be a big financial risk.

Little wonder, then, that the court hearings point to a company internally tangled by its own investigations, struggling to keep up with demands for disclosure, reeling before the continuing revelations and, above all, unable to formulate coherent policies.





Why we need to talk about Kelvin



It is probably a mug's game trying to understand the workings of Kelvin MacKenzie's brain, yet he seemed to ask for it last week when he described in The Spectator his reaction to the discovery that he too was a victim of hacking. The years, he wrote, had made him thick-skinned, and yet his defences crumbled. "Oddly I felt quite threatened by this invasion and understood more clearly why celebrities ... felt they had been violated."

This is the same Kelvin MacKenzie who gleefully told this newspaper last November, on the subject of hacking: "I would have loved every second of it. I would have been sitting there listening to the voicemails, reading the texts and literally rolling up, killing myself laughing..." Could it be that the secret to his success as a tabloid editor was a lack of empathy? Is he one of those unfortunate people who are only capable of recognising suffering when they experience it personally? That would explain a good deal.





The real truth about Rio Ferdinand



The Sunday Mirror is thrilled with its court privacy victory over "love cheat" Rio Ferdinand last week. The tide has finally turned, the paper announced, in the decade-long attempt by the courts to hide the wrongdoings of the rich and famous. Read the judgement itself at www.bailli.org, and the picture looks different. Far from being a change of direction, this was a normal modern privacy verdict, perfectly consistent with almost all those that have gone before it in recent years. The paper won because, in this instance, it had a case.

Ferdinand lost partly because as England captain he was judged to be a "role model" – a favourite tabloid justification for privacy intrusion. Reaching his conclusion, Mr Justice Nicol even drew attention to a 2003 judgement suggesting that this category of role model might be so wide as to include all Premiership footballers.

If that is "judge-made privacy law", maybe papers will soon be asking for more of it, not less.

Brian Cathcart is professor of journalism at Kingston University London. Stephen Glover is away

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Digital Project Manager

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week