Byline Investigates Big News Part 22: Trevor Kavanagh used stolen phone bills for P1 story on MP’s private life – later attacked police for lawfully searching out corrupt journalists
RUPERT Murdoch’s top political journalist Trevor Kavanagh outed an MP as gay by using illegal phone billing data bought from Britain’s biggest data theft operation, the High Court has heard.
It is not known whether Kavanagh, who serves on the press regulator IPSO, knew that the story tip he was working on was allegedly derived from an unlawful private detective.
The revelation came out during a High Court hearing in which 58 claimants are suing The Sun for phone hacking.
Claimants’ barrister David Sherborne told the court The Sun had targeted Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat MP for Bermondsey and leading candidate in the 2006 Liberal Democrat party leadership contest.
In a court document, Mr Sherborne stated: “It is clear… that Mr Hughes was targeted by a journalist at The Sun who sought and obtained confidential data relating to Mr Hughes using ‘ELI’.” (article continues below)
ELI (Express Locate International) was a private detective company, which has been linked in other litigation to phone hacking, and which sold illegally-acquired private and personal information to newspapers across Fleet Street.
Mr Sherborne added: “An ELI invoice records that ‘extensive urgent inquiries’ were carried out in relation to Mr Hughes on 25 January 2006.”
Coincidentally, The Sun’s sister paper The News of The World was also looking into Mr Hughes using a different private detective, phone hacker Glenn Mulcaire. However, The Sun got to the scoop first.
Mr Sherborne said: “At about the same time, Mr Mulcaire and journalists from the News of the World had also been involved in extensive blagging and voicemail interception of messages left for and by Mr Hughes.”
Meanwhile, at The Sun, their private detective ELI had obtained call data. ELI relayed the call data, which included a list of phone numbers called from Mr Hughes’ landline, to The Sun News Desk, which then passed it up the line to Sun bosses.
The information was sent first to News Desk Executive James Clothier, who in turn informed his line manager, Head of News Chris Pharo.
Some of the data was private and potentially embarrassing for Mr Hughes.
This data eventually found its way to Kavanagh who used it as leverage to get Mr Hughes to confess to being gay, a fact which may have weakened his bid for the Lib Dem leadership.
Mr Sherborne added: “On the following morning, 25 January 2006, Chris Pharo, head of the News Department at The Sun, emailed this confidential call data to the Managing Editor Graham Dudman.
“Later that day Political Editor Trevor Kavanagh confronted Mr Hughes with the call data, stating that The Sun had evidence about his private sex life, and offering him an opportunity to co-operate in a story about his sexuality, under threat of the newspaper ‘outing’ him through the publication of this highly private information.
“On the following day, 26 January 2006, The Sun published a front-page article about Mr Hughes entitled ‘I’m Gay Too’.
“This unlawful activity is pleaded by the claimants… as a further example of senior NGN Employees being involved in, knowing about, or approving illegal activities.”
Lawyers for News Group Newspapers are denying that any illegal activity took place.
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