Why has the case been issued by the Claimants?
The claim being heard against Mirror Group Newspapers (“MGN”) in the High Court in London is scheduled for 7 weeks. The claim alleges unlawful information gathering conducted by MGN against a number of Claimants. The alleged unlawful information gathering includes phone-hacking, private investigation, and blagging (the action of obtaining private information by impersonation by journalists) between 1996 and 2011. The Claimants are Prince Harry and several other public figures including Fiona Wightman, represented by privacy and defamation lawyers Taylor Hampton.
The Events so far
On Monday, the court heard from former Daily Mirror journalist Dan Evans and Yahoo UK’s royal executive editor, Omid Scobie. Both appeared for the Claimants.
Mr Evans alleged that he was instructed to hack the voicemail messages of high-profile individuals to obtain private information about such individuals for publication in MGN’s newspapers. Mr Evans alleged that this private information was used in “basically every article” published whilst he was employed at MGN. Andrew Green KC – representing MGN – suggested that Mr Evans’ recollection of events while working at the Sunday Mirror might have been impacted by his issues with heavy alcohol and drug consumption.
The court then heard evidence from Omid Scobie. He claimed that whilst enrolled on an internship at MGN, he was likewise asked to hack the phones of high-profile individuals. He also recalled overhearing Piers Morgan being told that a story regarding Kylie Minogue had been obtained through unlawful voicemail interception.
Andrew Green KC questioned Mr Scobie on his closeness and support of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Mr Green showed the court numerous tweets which he argues signify Mr Scobie’s support of the Sussexes. Mr Green then implied to the court that Mr Scobie’s support of the Sussexes was the reason why he had chosen to come forward as a witness in this trial, which Mr Scobie denied.
On Tuesday, the court heard from former journalist Brian Basham, appearing for the Claimants. Mr Basham was a journalist until 1972, and later owned an analytical company research business. After purchasing shares in MGN, he recalled being told of the apparent “phone-hacking problem” within Trinity Mirror by colleagues.
Mr Basham also claimed that MGN’s legal director Marcus Partington, made a joke about phone hacking in the newsroom. His evidence is being used by the Claimants to support the argument that it was common practice and widely known that journalists at MGN engaged in unlawful information gathering to obtain private information on public figures.
On Wednesday, the court heard evidence from the Claimants’ witness Derek Haslam, a retired police officer, and Graham Johnson, a former tabloid journalist at the Sunday Mirror.
Mr Haslam alleged that his surveillance picked up evidence of MGN’s links with unlawful information gathering. He then went onto to say that Jonathan Rees and Sid Fillery, who worked at Southern Private Investigations, “admitted to me frequently that they did work for Mirror newspapers.” Mr Haslam claimed that this included the use of phone-hacking and blagging on high-profile individuals.
Following this, the court heard evidence from Mr Johnson who worked as a journalist at the Sunday Mirror and the News of the World. He was convicted in 2014 of phone-hacking while at the Mirror. He has since played a key role in the press reform movement.
Mr Johnson told the court that he spoke to several journalists at MGN about phone-hacking between 2010 and 2012. He also recollected walking out of a job because he was informed by the Mirror’s editor that Denise Welch’s hotel room would be bugged to obtain more information on her relationship with an alleged underworld figure.
This past week the court has primarily heard evidence in support of the Claimants’ position against MGN. The trial is set to continue, with more evidence in support of the Defendants position due in the coming weeks. MGN denies all the allegations.
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For more information on Taylor Hampton’s phone hacking work, see HERE. Alternatively, contact our team on +44 207 427 5970.