Phone hacking: now judge tells police to stop protecting names
Ruling threatens to implicate more News International executives
Friday 25 February 2011
The likelihood of further News of the World (NotW) journalists being dragged into the phone-hacking scandal increased yesterday when a judge ruled that names believed to belong to the paper's employees should no longer be blanked out on key documents.
In a ruling designed to streamline the snowballing number of legal claims being brought against Rupert Murdoch's top-selling title, the High Court said that notes written by the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire which it is claimed show who at the NotW commissioned him to hack phone messages must be disclosed to his alleged victims.
Until now, the Metropolitan Police, which holds thousands of pages of documents seized from Mulcaire's home, has blacked out names written in the top left-hand corner of the private detective's notebooks when handing over documents to celebrities suing the NotW. Lawyers believe Mulcaire habitually wrote the name of the reporter or executive on the Sunday paper who instructed him to access voicemails in the corner of his notes.
The word "Clive" appeared on records relating to members of the royal household. The name was a reference to royal editor Clive Goodman, who was jailed along with Mulcaire in 2007 for listening to the messages of aides to Prince William and Prince Harry. Other names which have appeared in his notes include "Greg", thought to be a reference to Greg Miskiw, former head of news at the NotW.
Mr Justice Vos, sitting in the High Court in London, ordered Scotland Yard to disclose the information it holds on the latest public figures to bring claims for breach of privacy against the NotW – the former MP George Galloway, former football star Paul Gascoigne, and Mick McGuire, former deputy head of the Professional Footballers' Association.
Voicing concern that there was likely to be a steep increase in the 14 phone-hacking claims already before the courts, the judge said more needed to be done to prevent multiple court hearings on often identical issues and said "names of people who may be employees of the News of the World ... or associated with the News of the World" should no longer be removed when Scotland Yard hands over Mulcaire's documents to his claimed victims. Jeremy Reed, the barrister acting for Mr Galloway and Mr Gascoigne, said it was "ridiculous" that such information was being routinely redacted by the Yard.
News Group Newspapers, holding company for the NotW, said it was requesting the information held by police on Mr Gascoigne and Mr McGuire to see if it offered evidence that Mulcaire was acting without the paper's knowledge.
The identity of which NotW staff members beyond Goodman, if any, were commissioning the private detective to hack phones has become a crucial issue since the unravelling of the paper's previous defence that the activity was restricted to a single "rogue" reporter. In a statement to lawyers acting for the football agent Sky Andrew, Mulcaire last week stated that he passed phone-hacking intercepts to the news desk of the NotW.
Last month the paper sacked its head of news, Ian Edmondson, and passed "significant new information" to the Yard, which has now launched a new investigation into the hacking saga. Mr Edmondson denies any wrongdoing.
The High Court heard that Mr Gascoigne was taking legal action against the Sunday tabloid after being told by police that information about medical treatment he was receiving in 2005 and 2006 had been intercepted from the voicemail of Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the PFA, whose legal claim against the NotW was the subject of a £700,000 out-of-court settlement.
In a separate development, the Metropolitan Police yesterday undertook to publish a full list of meetings between senior officers and managers at News International, such as the chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, during the time that detectives were investigating the phone-hacking allegations. The Yard this week published a list of private dinners with executives at the NotW between 2006 and 2010.
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