A lawyer acting on behalf of alleged phone-hacking victims claimed that she and her colleagues were put under surveillance by the publisher of the News of the World in an attempt to stop them working on the cases.
Charlotte Harris told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards that she had seen documents which revealed that she was put under surveillance by News Group Newspapers (NGN). She said the company had also made enquiries about information concerning her young children.
The media lawyer, who works for London firm Mishcon de Reya, said she first learned of the surveillance in May. She said in a statement: "The motive was to attempt to discredit those solicitors who were conducting the phone-hacking cases. The reports were prepared in order to find a way of stopping us acting in these cases."
Ms Harris, who represents alleged hacking victims including Ulrika Jonsson, the former Liberal Democrat MP Mark Oaten and the sports agent Sky Andrew, said NGN had asked a private investigator about the price of obtaining details about her children, aged two and four at the time. She said it was natural as a mother to feel "terribly uncomfortable" about the idea of people investigating her children.
The inquiry also heard yesterday from Steven Nott, who said he tried to warn officials about phone hacking in 1999. Mr Nott, a delivery driver from Cwmbran, South Wales, discovered how easy it was to access other people's voicemails remotely when he needed to pick up messages from customers when the Vodafone network was down. He contacted the phone company, which said he could pick up his voicemails by phoning his own mobile number and entering a default PIN number. Mr Nott told the inquiry: "I thought to myself, 'this is insecure' straightaway."
Mr Nott said he told reporters at the Daily Mirror and The Sun about the loophole. He also contacted Scotland Yard, MI5 and the Home Office, but they did not reply.