It says much about the scale of the phone-hacking operation undertaken by Glenn Mulcaire on behalf of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World that it was prepared to target Andy Gray, the former Scotland striker and a commentator for Sky Sports, which is itself part of Mr Murdoch's global media empire.
Just as telling, in respect of the anger that the hacking has provoked, is the fact that Mr Gray, 55, earns his living from the satellite broadcaster but is willing to doggedly pursue legal action against News Group Newspapers, which is run by Mr Murdoch's son James, who is also the non-executive chairman of BSkyB.
Documents filed into court in October, seen by The Independent, show just how serious the commentator is in seeking damages. Represented by one of the most powerful media law firms, Schillings, Mr Gray has secured a consent order to obtain from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, disclosure of documents relating to Mulcaire's activities.
Police seized notebooks from Mulcaire during an investigation which led to the private eye being jailed in 2007 for intercepting phone messages. Mr Gray alleges that "in combination with the News of the World", Mulcaire – ironically himself a former professional footballer – "hacked into" his phone messages. The court documents reveal that Scotland Yard, which has faced criticism over the scope of its phone-hacking inquiry, opposed giving Mr Gray documentation relating to an inquiry in 2006 by the Information Commissioner into the acquisition by newspapers of confidential personal information.
But Mr Justice Floyd upheld the commentator's application for the documents. "It seems to me that the documents are likely to support the case of the applicant," he said. "I have the benefit of a witness statement made by Mr Clancy of the Information Commissioner's office, in which he... says they do suggest that illegal activities are being commissioned and makes it clear that, not only does the Information Commissioner support the application, but considers the documents are likely to be helpful."
Mr Gray is just one of a succession of high-profile figures who are pursuing actions against the News of the World. But as Rupert Murdoch seeks to take full control of BSkyB – and possibly build even closer relations between the elements of his British media empire – he could do without the gravelly burr of his most famous British sports commentator criticising his organisation in court.
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