Public figures 'suing over phone hacking'

Joe Sinclair,Press Association
Sunday 23 October 2011 07:19

High profile figures whose phones were allegedly hacked by the News of the World are considering suing the newspaper, according to lawyers.

Several barristers and solicitors have been contacted by various public figures seeking advice, media lawyer Mark Stephens said.

A legal action could result in a payout of more than half a million pounds for each individual.

Mr Stephens, of London law firm Finers Stephens Innocent, said he had been approached by two high profile figures seeking advice.

He also knew of three barristers and three solicitors who had been approached.

Mr Stephens said: "At the moment it's fair to say that people are looking at their options, they want to see what is going on.

"The first hurdle for any individual is to ascertain whether they were the subject of criminal behaviour or a conspiracy for criminal behaviour.

"That requires them to obtain from the police, the information commissioner or the court details of what was happening."

Scotland Yard last night ruled out a new investigation into claims thousands of public figures had their phones hacked.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates said police had seen no additional evidence since its last investigation, which saw News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire jailed for four months and six months respectively.

But he added police would now inform any potential victims that their phone may have been hacked where there was any suspicion.

Keir Starmer QC, the director of public prosecutions, said he was carrying out an "urgent" review of evidence from the original investigation.

The furore broke after the Guardian reported that News Group Newspapers, which publishes the News of the World, had paid out more than £1 million to settle cases that threatened to disclose evidence of its journalists' alleged involvement in telephone hacking.

Mr Stephens said: "Even your average policeman on the beat will have been slack jawed by the comments of John Yates yesterday because he doesn't appear to have considered the possibility of criminal conspiracy charges."

He said any civil action would have to follow criminal proceedings and was likely to take the form of a "consolidated action" in which the same judge would look at the individual cases one after another.

Mr Stephens said a successful claim was likely to result in a payout of more than half a million pounds for damages and costs.

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