Opik instructs lawyers over mobile phone hacking case

MP asks Met if his pin was among those found in files of jailed investigator
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The Independent Online

The Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik has this weekend instructed lawyers to look into the possible unlawful hacking of his mobile phone. They plan to ask the Metropolitan Police if Mr Opik's pin number was among those found when they raided the files of Glenn Mulcaire, who was later convicted for phone hacking. There is no evidence that any newspaper group was responsible for any hacking.

"It's been fairly obvious something strange has been going on with my phones, and that a third party has been listening in," Mr Opik told the IoS. "Given the others whose phones have been hacked into, I want to find out if this has happened to me."

His personal life has attracted attention from the tabloid press. In 2006 he broke off his four-year relationship with the weather presenter Sian Lloyd. He then became engaged to Gabriela Irimia of the Cheeky Girls, but broke it off in 2008.

In 2007 the News of the World's royal reporter, Clive Goodman, and Mulcaire, a private investigator, were jailed for illegal phone hacking. The paper's editor Andy Coulson, now David Cameron's communications chief, resigned. He recently said he knew nothing about the unlawful activity, and the paper claims these were rogue episodes.

But last week the Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport published a report accusing the newspaper's executives of "collective amnesia" and "deliberate obfuscation". It has also emerged that the Metropolitan Police has evidence of Mulcaire being in possession of pin codes for 91 other people, which could have been used for hacking.

Last year it was revealed that Gordon Taylor of the Professional Footballers' Association had reached a confidential settlement, reported to be close to £500,000, with the News of the World after it became clear that Mulcaire had hacked into his phone.

The publicist Max Clifford has also been involved in legal action against the paper, and earlier this month a court ordered extensive disclosure of documents relating to the hacking of his phone. However, Mr Clifford is reported to be on the verge of reaching a settlement with the paper. And last week, the Respect MP George Galloway revealed the police had told him that his phone had been hacked.

The paper is known to be con-cerned. Michael Wolff, Rupert Murdoch's biographer, told the IoS this weekend: "They've got big jitters inside of News Corp about this one. They're desperate to keep the lid on it, and so far have been pretty successful. Full-blown scrutiny, in the form of an official investigation or close-up media coverage, would give them a nervous breakdown."

Asked how far he planned to take his case, Mr Opik said: "Let's get the facts and move on from there." Asked if he was making a political point to embarrass the Tories, the Lib Dem MP said: "I'm not pointing fingers at anyone yet." Opik has hired Manchester-based lawyer Charlotte Harris, who has been representing Max Clifford. "With her forensic insight, there is no one better in Britain placed to get to the bottom of this," said Opik.