Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator at the centre of the phone-hacking scandal, must finally reveal the identities of the journalists at the News of the World who instructed him to access voicemails, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
In a judgement which has implications for future damages claims by phone-hacking victims, Mulcaire was told he has no protection from a long-standing right not to give evidence that could incriminate him in two civil cases. They are being brought against him by the comedian Steve Coogan and Nicola Phillips, a former assistant to the PR man Max Clifford.
Judges ruled last year that Mulcaire, who is alleged to have supplied the NOTW with illegally obtained voicemail material, was required to tell Coogan and Ms Phillips who at the defunct paper had asked him to hack their phones and to whom he then passed the information.
Mulcaire, who was jailed in 2007 for phone-hacking, appealed against the ruling on the basis that he enjoyed the Common Law right not to provide self-incriminating evidence that could be used against him in criminal proceedings.
But a panel of judges decided yesterday that a section of the law lifting that right in certain circumstances in civil proceedings – known as Section 72 – applied to Mulcaire, and ordered him to provide the identities of his newspaper paymasters. Lord Neuberger, Master of the Rolls, said in his judgement: "Where a person intercepts a voice message on the instructions of a third party, the giving of those instructions can fairly be said to be part and parcel of the interception."
He added: "Given that the issues on this appeal are concerned with the interface between criminal and civil proceedings, it is not irrelevant to note that ... if Mr Mulcaire was guilty of an offence ... the third party would also be guilty of participating in that offence."
The court found that the information allegedly accessed by Mulcaire was broadly "commercial" in nature and therefore came under the Section 72 exemption. Coogan had complained that 70 per cent of the messages on his phone related to his business affairs, while Ms Phillips said her voicemails related to her clients' "personal lives, health, finances ... [and] personal security".
Mulcaire said: "I intend to appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court because this may affect my right to claim the privilege in other civil cases."