Fresh misery for Rupert Murdoch: Court orders that phone hacking allegations apply to three more years

  • THREE MORE YEARS’ worth of documents can now be disclosed to phone hacking claimants
  • THE EXTENSION may lead to more phone hacking claims – and bigger pay-outs
  • THE CLAIMANTS convinced the judge by citing an alleged case of ‘late’ phone hacking in 2011
  • HACKING, and other illegal acts continued into 2011 at The Sun and News Of The World
  • THIS WAS at the same time as the hacking scandal was engulfing their publisher, the court heard
  • TV PRESENTER Imogen Thomas claims that she was hacked when footballer Ryan Giggs was applying for an injunction against her and The Sun
  • THE EDITOR of The Sun at the time was Dominic Mohan, who went on to represent TV presenter Caroline Flack

Royal Courts Of Justice, and the Rolls Building (PA)
Royal Courts Of Justice, and the Rolls Building (PA)

A High Court judge has ordered that the publisher of The Sun must provide evidence of alleged phone hacking for an extended period.

So far, the court has only been allowed to investigate claims of illegality between 1998 and 2010.

However, Mr Justice Mann today ordered that the relevant period should be taken back TWO years, and further forwards by ONE year.

That means that disclosure of documents can now be sought over a total of 15 years between 1996 and 2011, as opposed to the previous regime of just 12 years.

Significantly, the legal move takes the period of alleged wrongdoing further back into the editorships of Phil Hall (NoTW) and David Yelland (The Sun), two figures in the newspaper world who so far have escaped scrutiny.

Both men are now big in public relations.

Former Sun editor David Yelland, and former News Of The World editor Phil Hall (PA)
Former Sun editor David Yelland, and former News Of The World editor Phil Hall (PA)

Around 120 claimants are still suing holding company News Group Newspapers for unlawful information gathering.

Yesterday, Byline Investigates revealed that Johnny Depp, Paul Gascoigne and the estate of Amy Winehouse had joined the group.

But their lawyers also claim, that the harm which may have been done to them, was aggravated by the alleged concealment of crimes, and the destruction of evidence.

The judgment was handed-down because they had argued that the private investigators started work at the News of the World by the mid-1990s.

And it was also alleged that phone hacking, and other illegal acts, and a subsequent cover-up of alleged crimes, had continued well into 2011.

Dominic Mohan, and Imogen Thomas (PA)
Dominic Mohan, and Imogen Thomas (PA)

In a hearing earlier this month, their barrister David Sherborne had presented new evidence to the court, to back-up his claim that phone hacking had carried-on for longer than previously thought.

The new material included a case of allegedly “late” phone hacking in 2011, which targeted Welsh model Imogen Thomas, whilst Dominic Mohan was in charge of The Sun.

She was hacked, by at least two different reporters from The Sun and the News of the World, on separate occasions, according to legal documents
During the time that Mr Mohan was the boss of The Sun, one of his top reporters called Nick Parker, claimed for many illegal activities on his expenses, the court heard.
The documents revealed that Mr Parker, The Sun’s Chief Foreign correspondent, allegedly hacked Ms Thomas.
At around the same time, another reporter at The Sun’s sister paper the News of the World called Amanda Evans, was also allegedly targeting Ms Thomas, with unlawful information gathering.

Nick Parker (PA)
Nick Parker (PA)

The Claimants’ skeleton argument stated: “In addition, to the inference of voicemail interception in 2011, from the Nick Parker expenses, there are allegations of voicemail interception in 2011, in the current claim of Imogen Thomas.
“Ms Thomas has alleged in her claim that Nick Parker intercepted her voicemail messages, in as late as 2011 on the basis of call data which NGN has disclosed.”

Call data is a record of phone calls, from the newspaper to a victim’s mobile phone, suggesting voicemail interception was taking place.

The document continued, “The Particulars of Claim also allege that Amanda Evans (NoTW) unlawfully intercepted Ms Thomas’ voicemails in 2011, and relies on use of private investigators to unlawfully gather information in 2011.”

One of Nick Parker’s expense forms, allegedly named one Ms Thomas’ associates, the ex-Manchester United and Welsh International footballer Ryan Giggs.

Mr Sherborne added: “So Mr Parker is digging around in relation to Ryan Giggs, one of her associates… you will see that she talks about specific activity in 2011.”
Mr Sherborne explained that at the time, Ms Thomas was part of an injunction that was sought by Mr Giggs against News Group Newspapers.
He said: “We have here evidence of activities by News Group; at the same time, as they are subject to an injunction, they are digging in to the phones of the people involved, with all the connotations that that will have in terms of legally professionally-privileged information that they were seeking to obtain.”

Ryan Giggs (PA)
Ryan Giggs (PA)

After he left The Sun, Mr Mohan went into public relations.

Earlier this year, he became the ‘crisis management’ PR expert hired to look after troubled TV presenter Caroline Flack before her suicide.

The court also heard that he had frequently used an illegal private investigator to spy on targets for tabloid newspaper stories, though there is no suggestion that he used them in his dealings with Ms Flack, or any of his PR clients, later in his career.

Mohan, who was the 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.

Caroline Flack (PA)
Caroline Flack (PA)

The Claimants were trying to prove that there was enough evidence of illegality to justify expanding the time period of claims, and requests for Claimant disclosure, from the mid 1990s to 2011.
But Claire Montgomery QC, counsel for the defendants, had argued that Ms Thomas’ claim was ‘solitary’ and therefore did not justify an expansion of the investigation into more alleged cases that year.

She said there was no good ‘reason’ to expand the time period, and no articles, nor proper evidence.

Ms Montgomery QC said: “So you’ve got this solitary claim alleging unlawful activity.

‘Incidentally unlawful activity appears, even on her claim, to be complete by June of 2011, and yet it is suggested that the claimants should have an entire further year in circumstances where, as your Lordship knows, that their primary contention is not that there was phone hacking or unlawful information gathering in 2011; their primary contention is that that was the cover-up period, when it was the subject of concerted activities, according to them, which we do not accept, to destroy evidence. So there’s nothing beyond July 2011, as far as I can tell.”
Ms Montgomery was referring to a ‘concealment and destruction’ case, in which the claimants allege that Rupert Murdoch’s top UK executives destroyed evidence.
The court heard, that the alleged cover-up of phone hacking at his media empire, involved a variety of executives, journalists and alleged plots.
They ranged from an alleged deletion of millions of emails, to pay-offs to convicted criminals.
The alleged events are revealed in a heavyweight 137-page legal document, submitted to the High Court by 49 claimants, who are suing News Group Newspapers, with a further 83 in the pipeline.

Rupert Murdoch (PA)
Rupert Murdoch (PA)

The claimants allege that the company’s executives repeatedly lied to officials, including Parliament, a public inquiry, the police and at the Old Bailey.

In his judgement, Mr Justice Man referred to Clare Montgomery QC’s arguments that extending the period was disproportionate.

The judge wrote: ‘Ms Montgomery QC for the defendant opposed the amendment application.

‘She said there was no particularly good reason for making it as late as it has been made.

‘She pointed out that some of the most important material relied on by the claimants in relation to the earlier period (material emanating from a Mr Whittamore (a private investigator) and statements by Mr Hoare (a former journalist), both making allegations that unlawful practices were apparently being conducted at one or other of the newspapers across the earlier 4 year relevant period) had been available to the claimants for some considerable time.

‘…She also questioned the real strength of that evidence, and further evidence deployed by the claimants in support of their having a sufficiently arguable case to justify the amendment.

‘She described the evidence, and particularly recent evidence said to come from disclosure as “fragile”.’

But the judge stated that he ‘would accede to [an amendment] which goes back to 1996 and forwards to 2011.’

NGN deny or do not admit that phone hacking and a cover-up took place