New emails discovered in phone hacking scandal

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News International has discovered about 8,000 documents on its electronic archive of emails which may be relevant to the News of the World phone hacking scandal, a court heard today.

The disclosure will dramatically increase the amount of material available to alleged victims of disgraced private investigator Glenn Mulcaire as lawyers seek to prove he was acting under the direct orders of NOTW executives when he eavesdropped the mobile phone messages of public figures.

The scale of the information held by News International on its back-up computer system has been unclear since a senior News of the World executive stated last year that an unspecified quantity of emails had been lost in a data transfer to India. The company later said that statement had been incorrect, adding that its emails were “intact” and stored by a sub-contractor in the UK.

In a pre-trial hearing at the High Court in London today, it was disclosed that a search of News International’s electronic archive for information relating to the actress Sienna Miller has now pinpointed 8,000 documents which could be handed over to her lawyers.

In a separate development, Mr Justice Geoffrey Vos heard that Ms Miller’s former fiancé Jude Law joined the list of those preparing to sue the NOTW for alleged phone hacking. The “Alfie” actor has filed a request along with his personal assistant Ben Jackson for Scotland Yard to hand over documents seized in 2006 from Mr Mulcaire, who was jailed for six months after he admitted to hacking into the phones of royal aides and public figures.

David Sherborne, counsel for Ms Miller, said that the electronic files held by News International were of “critical” importance to the cases being brought against them. Information in emails and other internal NOTW documents is expected to be scrutinised to show the extent of communications and agreements between Mr Mulcaire and the NOTW about phone hacking.

The court heard that News Group Newspapers (NGN), the subsidiary which owns the NOTW, had not yet handed over any information from electronic archives and some computers had been destroyed, although it was possible the information they held had been copied on to a back-up system.

But lawyers for NGN said the company was now in a position to begin handing over evidence from searches of its email servers. Anthony Hudson, counsel for NGN, said: “We recognise that this information is to be provided.”

The court heard that Ms Miller will allege that the NOTW drew up a “scheme” with Mr Mulcaire to systematically hack into the voicemails of a target list of “political, royal, entertainment and showbiz figures” and provide regular reports on his findings.

Mr Sherborne said that a note found in materials seized from the private detective’s south London home, which his lawyers say was not in his handwriting, outlined an agreement with the Sunday tabloid to submit “daily transcripts” of the phone messages of public figures and figures for how much the service would cost.

Mr Sherborne said: “We say there is clear evidence of a scheme between NGN and Mr Mulcaire.”