By Graham Johnson
Editor, Byline Investigates
BRITISH boxing legend Frank Bruno’s mental health suffered as a result of voicemail hacking by journalists working for Rupert Murdoch, the High Court has heard.
The 56-year-old former world heavyweight champion became “paranoid” with “friends and family” because of the illegal surveillance, and has now been awarded undisclosed substantial damages.
He said in a statement: “I always believed that there was something strange going on with my phone, but no-one believed me.
“For years I said I was being hacked but people just said, ‘Poor old Frank he’s really lost it this time. I am glad that News Group Newspapers has finally apologised.”
His lawyer Hanna Basha, of Payne Hicks Beach, added: “He was extremely upset by the publication of the articles, and that their publication caused him to become paranoid and suspicious as to who might be the source of the information contained in them, which put pressure on his mental health and relationships with friends and family.”
Mr Bruno was among 16 high-profile victims of hacking – 10 of which are confirmed as settled with apologies and a payout – carried out by the former News of the World newspaper revealed at the High Court in London today.
Barrister for the claimants, David Sherborne, also said in statements that voicemails were intercepted for stories by journalists “at all levels” from The Sun, allegations parent company NGN denied, as it paid out millions of pounds compensation.
Television personalities Les Dennis, 64, Kym Marsh, 42, Lucy-Jo Hudson, 35, Alan Halsall, 36, Samia Ghadie, 36, Kate Ford, 41, Ben Freeman, 38, Jimmi Harkishin, 53, and 46-year-old talent manager Chris Herbert – who oversaw the careers of the Spice Girls, Hear’Say, B*Witched, Five, and Stephen Gateley among others – received damages.
Of Mr Harkishin – Coronation Street’s Dev Alahan – Mr Sherborne added: “The settlement of this claim is on the basis that NGN makes no admission of liability in relation to Mr Harkishin’s allegations of voicemail interception and/or other unlawful information gathering at The Sun.”
Celebrity Big Brother contestant and Ordinary Boys singer Samuel Preston, 36, claimed 40 articles about him and published in The Sun were suspicious, although NGN again denied wrongdoing by its flagship daily tabloid, while accepting liability for illegal news-gathering at its former stable-mate The News of The World.
Both the comedian Bob Mortimer, 59, and Nancy Moir, 44, the wife of his comedy partner Vic Reeves, also received damages for hacking, alongside ex-Southampton Football Club chairman and Football Association board member Rupert Lowe, and Carole Caplin, the former fitness trainer and “lifestyle guru” of Tony and Cherie Blair.
Lead solicitor for the claimants, Chris Hutchings of Hamlins LLP, said the Metropolitan Police told his client, former British Olympics Association Chief Executive Simon Clegg, he was a victim of phone hacking.
Mr Clegg’s messages were said to have included those from politicians and sports people.
Anthony Hudson, for NGN, said offered Mr Clegg “sincere apologies for the invasion of his privacy by individuals working for or on behalf of the News of The World,” adding the paper had “no right” to intrude on his privacy.
Solicitor Claire Greaney, of Charles Russell Speechlys, which represented nine claimants said: “Everyone has the right to privacy and confidentiality. Violating that right was simply unacceptable.
“While our clients have a public profile, their private life is just that – private – and should be respected as such.”
Duncan Lamont, of Charles Russell Speechlys, added: “We are pleased that we could assist our clients in resolving their disputes with NGN and that the publisher has made a public apology to each of our clients for the distress caused to them by hacking into their voicemail messages, obtaining private information about them, and using that information.”