The private investigator embroiled in the News of the World phone-hacking scandal has been ordered to reveal the names of the journalists who instructed him to illegally intercept private voicemail messages.
The High Court ruled that Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed together with a tabloid reporter in 2007 for tapping the mobile phone messages of eight public figures, must answer questions about who specifically instructed him to carry out the operation.
Mr Mulcaire had claimed that he should not be forced to divulge the information as it could leave him vulnerable to incriminating himself. But Mr Justice Mann, presiding over a civil case brought by one of Mr Mulcaire's victims, Nicola Phillips, rejected this defence. The judge ruled that the private investigator should answer questions specifically about whether commands to break into the voicemail of Ms Phillips, who at the time was working for the publicist Max Clifford, came from Ian Edmonson, then news editor of the News of the World.
Mr Justice Mann also told Mr Mulcaire that he must make it known why he was tapping Ms Phillips' messages and whether Mr Edmonson had asked him to investigate people connected to Mr Clifford. "They are legitimate questions which should be answered in order to have this case determined justly," Mr Justice Mann said.
The ruling is expected to have wider ramifications in the continuing controversy surrounding Andy Coulson, the Prime Minister's media advisor and former News of the World editor. He has long maintained that Mr Mulcaire's work was not officially sanctioned by the newspaper, and that he had no knowledge of the work. This account will be further called into question if it emerges that his news editor was making direct demands to Mr Mulcaire.
It could also prove embarrassing for the Metropolitan Police. Scotland Yard must now release documents relating to Ms Phillips that have been held since police raided Mr Mulcaire's home in August 2005. The papers were expected to be released when Mr Clifford sued the News of the World for damages relating to breach of privacy over the hacking last year.
But Mr Clifford subsequently withdrew his action in March, before the disclosure had been made, when the newspaper reached a settlement with him of £1m.
The Metropolitan Police chose not to oppose Ms Phillips' request for the documents to be released, but requested that the judge limit what documents would have to be made available.
With lawsuits also being brought by former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, Sienna Miller, Sky Sports presenter Andy Gray, and even the Metropolitan Police's own former Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Brian Paddick – all alleged victims of Mulcaire – there are many other cases that could also be affected.
In a separate court case in Glasgow, it was yesterday alleged that the News of the World twice told Mr Mulcaire to hack into the voicemail of the former Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan, who is under trial for perjury. Mr Mulcaire has now been named as a witness.
News of the World: Key Figures
Resigned as News of the World editor after phone-hacking came to light. Now David Cameron's communications director
Private investigator sent to prison for intercepting voicemail messages in 2007
The News of the World's former royal editor was convicted alongside Mulcaire
Mulcaire must now say whether the newspaper's former news editor instructed him to carry out the hackingReuse content