Newly discovered email sent by News International executive has 'enormous significance' for phone hacking investigation

Mr Justice Vos pointed to email as affecting evidence heard by the Leveson Inquiry earlier this year.

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The Independent Online

A newly discovered email sent by a News International executive which refers to the illegal phone hacking of a “well known victim” was described in the High Court today as having “enormous significance”.

Although the identity of the sender and what it contained was protected by the court, the judge, Mr Justice Vos, pointed to it affecting evidence heard by the Leveson Inquiry earlier this year.

Details of the email and its “instruction” relating to voicemail interceptions were given to a pre-trial management conference in the second wave of civil actions against Rupert Murdoch’s now-closed tabloid, the News of the World.

Counsel for the victims’ group, David Sherborne, told Mr Justice Vos that he should understand the “enormous significance of that email.”

The message was alleged to have been discovered almost four months ago by News International’s solicitors, Linklaters, during a search operation directed by the Metropolitan Police. However it was only disclosed to the team of victims’ lawyers this week.

Mr Sherborne complained to the court about the disclosure speed from NI, the absence of detail on how it was discovered, why it had remained hidden, and what methods had been used to finally find it.

Millions of emails from News International’s data archives have been searched during Scotland Yard’s probe into illegal practices at the company. It was hinted during the case hearing that the executive may have used colloquial language that escaped the formal language of other data trawls.

The judge said it could have been found in “an old fashioned manual search” and, waving the computer mouse beside him on his bench, mimicked the possible moment it was found with the words “bing, bang, bong ... gosh!”

He said if Linklaters had found it in an inbox they may have “put it somewhere near the bottom”.  He said Linklaters had “apologised” for failing to tell the claimants or the Leveson Inquiry” and promised they would “do better in the future.”

A formal trial date for the second wave of hacking claimants had been set for February next year. However in attempt to prevent a third wave of  civil claims against News International, the court date is now likely to be pushed back to Easter 2013. An “advert” is also being drawn up which will be placed in law journals advising those still thinking about taking legal action to act now.

The hearing was told that around 100 new victims are eventually expected to proceed with civil actions against News Group Newspapers and Glenn Mulcaire.

Currently 417 people had begun the process of obtaining initial disclosure from NI.

News International’s own compensation programme has so far been contacted by 247 individuals, with 79 accepted into the internal scheme.

The jailed private investigator Glenn Mulcaire who was regularly commissioned by the NOTW to carry out illegal voicemail interceptions, was yesterday expected to hand over information on who inside the now-shuttered Sunday newspaper had hired him for hacking jobs.

A ruling by the Supreme Court last month gave Mulcaire, who was jailed in 2007 along with the NOTW’s royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, till 4pm yesterday to hand over the information on who hired him to illegally access the voicemail of Nicola Phillips, an assistant working at Max Clifford’s PR firm in London.

Following legal argument on the Supreme Court judgement, Mr Justice Vos ruled that the information, for the moment, should only be shown to Ms Phillips’ barrister, her solicitor and the Metropolitan Police.

Further legal debate on who will be given access to Mr Mulcaire’s list will take place on July 30.  The hearing will focus on article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights which concerns the right to a fair trial.