The Australian supermodel Elle Macpherson is to be formally asked 11 key questions on phone hacking and what led her to conclude that her former manager, Mary Ellen Field, was the source of leaks published in the News of the World that revealed private details about her personal life.
Lawyers acting for Ms Field told the High Court yesterday that the 49 year old model, also known as ‘The Body”, had been a “recalcitrant and reluctant” witness in their attempts to discover why she sacked Ms Field in 2006, blaming her for the leaks.
Ms Field was accused of having a drink problem by Ms Macpherson and was forced to attend a rehab clinic in Arizona, but was sacked when she returned to London.
Ms Macpherson, who divides her time between London and Australia, is expected to have supplied her out-of-court testimony by the first months of 2013.
Ms Field was one of the first wave of people to take legal action against the News of the World in 2011. Her law suit has been heard separately from those who last year settled out-of-court with News International . Her claim is also separate from the second tranche of victims whose claims are still progressing to a trial expected to be in the late spring of next year.
Michael Silverleaf QC, counsel for News International, yesterday described Ms Field’s case as a “fantasy”.
NI are attempting to have the claim for damages struck out, with Mr Silverleaf repeatedly stating in court that although there was sympathy over what had happened to Ms Field in the way she had been treated by Ms Macpherson, there was “no evidence of her being a victim [of voicemail interception]” and the claim she had lodged was “fiction”.
The judge, Mr Justice Vos, was heavily critical of the way Ms Field’s counsel, Augustus Ullstein QC, had presented his case.
However despite protestations from NI, he granted an adjournment of the request to strike out the legal action, and gave Ms Field’s legal team time to question Ms Macpherson.
The judge said Mr Ullstein now had to “put your moneny where your mouth is” and obtain evidence that, if it exists, should already have been presented to the court.
Ms Field, 58, began working for the supermodel in 2003. But after two years of a close and successful business relationship, she was sacked and blamed for stories that started appearing in the NOTW.
In 2006 police investigating phone hacking told Ms Macpherson that her name appeared in evidence which later led to a criminal trial and the conviction of two people connected to the Murdoch-owned tabloid.
Ms Macpherson has remained silent on the matter since 2007 and claims that despite others receiving substantial compensation, she has not at any time sought nor received any settlement.
The Leveson Inquiry decsribed Ms Field as “collateral damage” from phone hacking.
Mr Ullstein described Ms Macpherson as “a prime witness who has thus far declined to assist [Ms Field].
Among the answers the model will asked to supply, include details of the messages that were left on her voicemail which she subsequently believed were hacked; what articles appeared in the NOTW that she believed contained information which could only have come from illegal voicemail interceptions; and whether or not she learned the identity of journalists alleged to have hacked into her messages.
The former Metropolitan Police detective, Jacqui Hames, yesterday accused David Cameron of planning “ a cosy stitch-up” with newspapers owners and editors over its response to the Leveson Inquiry and future regulation of Britain’s press.
Ms Hames, a victim of phone hacking by the News of the World, whose ex-husband, a former Scotland Yard detective, was also put under surveillance by the now-closed Murdoch tabloid, during a murder investigating, told a conference organised by the Hacked Off campaign, that “victims” of News International’s wrong-doing were being “sidelined and ignored” in a “shady deal” with owners and editors.
The former Crimewatch presenter claimed that high profile victims of hacking and press intrusions, had decided to “relive some of their worst miseries” to Lord Justice Leveson so that others would not have to go through the same thing.
However the “deal” between Number 10 and the print industry, she said, meant “all that will have been for nothing.”