Caroline Flack’s crisis PR guru ‘used unlawful private investigator’ – Court Docs

  • FORMER Sun Editor Dominic Mohan was helping Caroline Flack with publicity going into her trial for alleged assault, before she took her own life
  • MS FLACK died having heavily criticised the intrusions into her private life of, among other newspapers, The Sun
  • TODAY, in a different case at the High Court in London, Mohan has been named as one of earliest known clients of an unlawful private investigator
  • MOHAN allegedly commissioned the illegal obtaining of information when he was a reporter at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World

Haunted:  Caroline Flack looking distressed outside Highbury Corner Magistrates’
Haunted: Caroline Flack looking distressed outside Highbury Corner Magistrates’

By Graham Johnson

Editor, Byline Investigates

THE ‘CRISIS management’ PR expert hired to look after troubled TV presenter Caroline Flack before her suicide frequently used an illegal private investigator to spy on targets for tabloid newspaper stories, a High Court document has alleged.

Dominic Mohan, Editor of The Sun until 2013, allegedly tasked ‘blagger’ Steve Whittamore during an earlier phase of his career when he worked for its sister paper the News of the World in 1995.

Lawyers for 49 Claimants currently suing publishers News Group Newspapers backed up the allegations, made this morning in a document deployed in the long-running phone hacking litigation, with a statement from Whittamore, who has now turned witness.

Mr Whittamore said in a statement that Mohan was a “frequent customer in 1995 and requested a wide variety of jobs”. He also confirmed that the work done in period included information that was obtained unlawfully. 

David Sherborne, Counsel for the Claimants, said that unlawful activities went on habitually at The Sun and News of the World between 1994 and 2011.

We named Mohan on February 18 as Caroline Flack’s special “crisis management” adviser in the six weeks before her death amid unrelenting tabloid intrusions into her private life as she faced trial for an alleged domestic assault on her partner Lewis Burton.

We have also reported variously throughout the hacking litigation facing Mohan’s former employers, Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers, of alleged links to phone hacking, and the use of illegal private investigators.

Mohan, 50, whose former paper was forced to take down a Valentine’s story published the day before Ms Flack’s body was found at her home in North London, that mocked her relationship and legal problems.

There is no suggestion that Mohan was using illegal methods when he was working with Caroline Flack, and neither he nor his former employers admit unlawful information gathering at any time.

The issue was raised in legal arguments by Claimants who argue that private investigators were used by the Murdoch titles before 1998 – which has become an “arbitrary” but key date limiting the period covered in the litigation, which currently extends between 1998 and 2010.

Arguing for the timeline to be widened to between 1995 and 2011, the Claimants’ skeleton argument refers to a list of journalists’ names, and their contact details, which were detailed in one of Whittamire’s notebooks, which are now taken to be logs of his illicit activities.

The notebooks were seized in 2003, when the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and police raided Whittamore’s Hampshire home house, after a tip-off that he was selling illegally-obtained vehicle registration details.

In 2005, he admitted Data Protection offences and selling private information to hundreds of reporters across Fleet Street.

The News of the World journalists included Phil Taylor, Paul McMullan, Graham Johnson and Dominic Mohan (who went on to be a reporter at The Sun and eventually edited the newspaper).

Disclosure note: Graham Johnson is today the Editor of Byline Investigates

Phil Taylor is a crisis management expert at PR firm, PHA, run by the man who edited the News of the World during this period.

Mr Taylor was in the news recently after negotiating the ‘coming-out’ story of TV presenter Phillip Schofield – reported exclusively here – with the current Editor of The Sun, Victoria Newton, who is also named as an alleged phone hacker in this litigation.

News Group Newspapers, Rupert Murdoch’s company that owns The Sun and The News of the World before it was closed down, claim that there is not enough evidence to warrant searches going further back.

They argue will cost too much money and time to extend the date-range backwards.

Their lawyers’ skeleton argument states: “NGN submits that it is far too late, and would be wholly disproportionate, for the Claimants to be granted permission to reshape their generic case at this stage and in this manner.”

They argue that there is not enough detailed evidence to warrant searches in 1994.

The document adds: “The only particulars specifically relating to the earlier extended date range (1994-1997), other than a passing reference to Glenn Mulcaire’s activities in 1997, are those… relation to alleged investigations by Steve Whittamore from 1994 onwards.

“However, Mr Whittamore’s activities from the mid-1990s onwards have been in the public domain since 2012 at the latest, and have been subject to extensive media reporting in the years thereafter (as well as the subject of disclosure.

“Claimants have placed reliance on allegations concerning Mr Whittamore in the [hacking litigation]  since January 2012 and Mr Whittamore himself provided a witness statement for Claimant s as long ago as 07.12.17

“No adequate explanation has been provided as to why Claimants have waited so long to advance their new claim.”

The court hearing opened with a statement from a victim of phone hacking Mr Kris Marshall, best known for his role in the romantic comedy, Love Actually.

NGN have paid the actor compensation and apologised.

The News of the World hacked Mr Marshall whilst Mr Marshall while he was on set filming films and TV shows.

News Group Newspapers apologised for invading his privacy and agreed to cover his legal costs.

The case continues… 

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