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PI’s / Private Investigators v. Hackers / Information Brokers



 Phone-hacking lawyers accuse Mirror of illegal targeting of judges

Accusations come in latest round of litigation against Mirror Group Newspapers

Jim Waterson Media editor

Wed 7 Oct 2020

Lawyer David Sherborne said the Mirror had been forced to release previously undisclosed invoices from private investigators, which included references to the targeting of judges.

Journalists at the Daily Mirror allegedly hired private investigators to target high court judges with unlawful information-gathering methods, according to claims made in the latest round of phone-hacking litigation.

Lawyers representing a group of alleged hacking victims said the Mirror’s publisher “pursued anyone and everyone to suit its agenda in the most egregious way, including senior members of the judiciary”.

The lawyers did not name the judges who were allegedly targeted using the illegal methods but said it tended to be those “who granted anonymity injunctions in privacy proceedings”.

In a submission to the high court, they also claimed the targeting of judges went on until mid-2011, when the collapse of the News of the World created a crisis in the British press and led to the Leveson inquiry.

The accusations were made in the latest round of long-running litigation brought against Mirror Group Newspapers for alleged phone-hacking offences, which have already caused the company to make substantial pay-outs to a large number of celebrities.

David Sherborne, representing a number of claimants, including the actors John Leslie and Martine McCutcheon, said the Mirror had been forced to release previously undisclosed invoices from private investigators. He said this included references to the targeting of judges in the high court and court of appeal.

Sherborne also applied to the court for permission to amend the case against the Mirror to argue that the ITV Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan was “well aware of the extensive use” of “unlawful information-gathering activities” while Morgan was editor of the Daily Mirror in the early 2000s.

In court filings, the claimants said they wanted to reference “a number of occasions where Mr Morgan has publicly admitted to the fact that he was well aware of the practice of voicemail interception at the time and how widespread its use was, including at the Daily Mirror”.

As supporting evidence, they cited an anecdote told by Jeremy Paxman at the Leveson inquiry about when Morgan allegedly told the former Newsnight presenter over lunch in 2002 how to hack a celebrity’s voicemails.

Richard Spearman QC, representing the Mirror, objected to the attempt to bring Morgan into the case, saying: “Mr Morgan’s purported knowledge as to the extensive use of unlawful information-gathering activities is irrelevant” to whether the company’s board or legal department was aware of alleged phone hacking.

Spearman added that the allegation about Morgan “takes matters no further than the findings up to the level of editors”, which he said the high court had already found in a previous judgment.

The large number of cases involved in the litigation means they have been split into separate tranches. Sherborne said there were currently 68 claims which had been filed against MGN, with 18 of those “eligible” to be heard at next year’s trial. Among the outstanding claims are the cases filed by Prince Harry.

The court also heard that Maj James Hewitt – who had an affair with Diana, Princess of Wales during her marriage to Prince Charles – had “in principle” agreed to settle his claim against the Mirror’s publishers last month.

The trial is due to be held in January, although in most previous rounds the cases have been settled before reaching that stage. A parallel round of phone-hacking litigation is also ongoing against the publisher of the Sun and the News of the World.