Jude Law and a high-profile solicitor who represents the Alfie actor and the England footballer Ashley Cole are the two latest alleged victims of phone-hacking by the News of the World to sue Rupert Murdoch’s News Group media empire for damages.
Law has issued proceedings after learning from Scotland Yard that his voicemail messages were targeted by a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, who was working for the tabloid newspaper. The actor, who is represented by the legal firm Atkins Thomson and had previously obtained a court order for disclosure of police documents relating to his case, has also issued proceedings against Mr Mulcaire. Mr Law’s former partner Sienna Miller is also suing News Group for phone hacking and has been offered £100,000 by the publisher to settle the claim.
Last night Graham Shear, a solicitor at Berwin, Leighton, Paisner who has acted for Mr Law and a roster of famous clients that includes various England footballers, confirmed to The Independent that he had brought a personal claim against News Group. “The police came to see me and alerted me that I was the subject of, or appeared to be the subject of, phone hacking relating to a client or clients during 2004 and 2005. We are currently awaiting additional disclosure from the police and from News Group and cross-referencing with other victims of phone hacking,” said the solicitor, who is not acting for Mr Law in the actor’s claim against News Group.
The developments come as lawyers acting for the phone hacking litigants meet today to draw up their collective strategy in taking News Group to court. The 22 legal representatives will select five test cases to go before Mr Justice Vos, the judge handling the claims. The lead case is expected to be that brought by Ms Miller, although the fact that News Group has offered to settle her claim in full may prevent this. Mr Law may be another possible test case.
The other test cases are expected to be those of the interior designer Kelly Hoppen, the football agent Sky Andrew, the football broadcaster Andy Gray and one political case – likely to be that of the former Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, the Labour MP Chris Bryant or the former MP George Galloway. The lawyers are meeting at Matrix chambers, where Cherie Blair practises, ahead of a High Court case management conference before Mr Justice Vos on 20 May. The claimants will be represented in the five test hearings by two counsel, Hugh Tomlinson and Jeremy Reed.
All the cases relate to hacking by Glenn Mulcaire, a former private investigator who was hired on contract by the News of the World and who was jailed for phone hacking in January 2007, along with the paper’s royal editor Clive Goodman.
Mr Galloway has had confirmation from Scotland Yard that his phone was hacked in April 2003, which is outside the 2004-2006 period which News Group has cited in previously admitting liability for phone hacking and publicly apologising for such conduct at the News of the World. Three of the paper’s journalists – Ian Edmondson, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup – have been arrested this year by officers conducting a new investigation.
The pages of Mr Mulcaire’s notebook referring to Mr Galloway are understood to include personal details including his date of birth and addresses in London and Glasgow. Mr Mulcaire had also recorded the former MP’s mobile number and four digit PIN code. The page is marked with the first name of a former News of the World journalist who has not previously been arrested by the current inquiry team. Lawyers acting for News Group have denied liability for the hacking of Mr Galloway’s phone.
So far 20 people have issued claims for phone hacking with at least another dozen thought to be in the offing.
Mr Shear has eight clients who are preparing to issue proceedings against News Group. Between 2004 and 2006, when News Group has accepted culpability for phone hacking by the News of the World, Mr Shear’s clients were frequently the subjects of stories in the tabloid press. Mr Law was in a relationship with Ms Miller and Mr Cole had a relationship, marriage and subsequent divorce from the singer Cheryl Cole. The player also underwent a controversial move from Arsenal to Chelsea.
In 2006, Cole won an apology and libel damages from the News of the World and its sister paper The Sun following Internet speculation over the identities of two unidentified players said by the papers to have participated in an orgy. In 2008 he sued News Group again, along with the publishers of the Daily Mirror, over alleged breaches of his privacy following stories about his private life.