Lawyers for News International yesterday insisted there was "no evidence" that a detective employed by the News of the World hacked into the voicemails of two public figures about whom he held extensive information, including their passwords.
A judge sitting in the High Court was told that Glenn Mulcaire, the investigator jailed in 2007 for illegally listening to phone messages for members of the royal household, had written down comprehensive details of football pundit Andy Gray's voicemail account. This did not mean Mr Mulcaire had tried to access those messages, News International lawyers said.
When Mr Mulcaire's house was raided, data was also found relating to the actor Steve Coogan. Both men are suing the NotW for breach of privacy and confidence by allegedly accessing their voicemail messages.
On the second day of a pre-trial hearing to decide whether Mr Mulcaire should be ordered to name any NotW executives who had instructed him to carry out hacking, Anthony Hudson, for News Group Newspapers, the News International subsidiary that owns the NotW, said: "The evidence does not support that either [Mr Mulcaire or the NotW] listened, took notes from or recorded the mobile phone voicemail messages of either claimant... It is important to distinguish between having the means and motivation, and having the evidence to show that it actually happened."
The court heard that although phone records from Mr Mulcaire's home showed Mr Gray's voicemail number having been called on 12 occasions in 2005 and 2006, the duration of the calls meant it was difficult to prove messages had been listened to by the detective.
Earlier, Mr Justice Vos, the judge in the case, said the NotW had provided "nothing" on which journalists, if any, had worked with Mr Mulcaire allegedly to hack the phone of Mr Gray. He said: "There might have been hacking into Mr Gray's phone for months and months... There is a fairly strong inference that hacking went on and also we don't know the extent of it yet."