Over 20 legal cases means Coulson scandal is far from over
Brian Cathcart: Over 20 legal cases mean Coulson scandal is far from over
03 Dec 10

If it sometimes seems that the News of the World phone-hacking scandal is running out of steam, it’s not. The affair may not always be present in the headlines (most papers avoid reporting it) but it is most certainly present in the courts.

Merely counting the cases is a challenge — because they take different forms, because of court orders, because claimants are coy — but legal sources suggest that the total is now a remarkable 23, of which 20 involve people who believe they were or may have been hacking victims. The list looks like this.

First, there are eight people who have initiated legal proceedings against the News of the World.

1. Nicola Phillips, former assistant to Max Clifford.
2. Sky Andrew, football agent.
3. Steve Coogan, actor and comedian.
4. Andy Gray, football commentator.
5. George Galloway, politician.
6. Mick McGuire, former official of the Professional Footballers’ Association.
7. “High-profile individual” number 1
8. “High-profile individual” number 2

Next is a group of at least eight people who have prepared or are preparing cases against the News of the World. All have established that their names or numbers were in documents seized by police from convicted hacker Glen Mulcaire. The television personality Chris Tarrant is one, another is described as a leading sportsman, and four of the others, though unnamed, are said to be high-profile individuals.

In addition, four people who know or believe that they were victims have joined forces to seek a judicial review of alleged failures by the Metropolitan Police (a) to warn individuals they had been hacked and (b) to investigate the affair properly. These four are:

1. Lord Prescott, politician.
2. Chris Bryant MP.
3. Brian Paddick, former senior police officer.
4. Brendan Montague, journalist.

And besides all these, three further legal cases relate to the scandal in different ways.

1. At the current trial of Tommy and Gail Sheridan in Glasgow on charges of perjury — which they deny — Sheridan has alleged that his phone was hacked by the News of the World. Sheridan has documents which show that Mulcaire had his mobile phone details and PIN codes.

2. A solicitor, Mark Lewis, is suing the Metropolitan Police for libel in a case relating to statements about the total number of hacking victims. In a linked action brought by Lewis, the Press Complaints Commission has apologised and settled.

3. Proceedings of some kind are apparently under way in a case of alleged hacking by a News of the World journalist first reported in the New York Times in September. The Press Complaints Commission has said the case is sub judice.

Finally, though this one may never reach the stage of legal proceedings, the Crown Prosecution Service is considering a new file of material on hacking gathered in a recent re-investigation by the Metropolitan Police.

This formidable catalogue wave of legal activity represents many months if not years of litigation, particularly for the News of the World. It also threatens considerable embarrassment for the paper, for the Metropolitan Police and for Andy Coulson, the prime minister’s media adviser. And for the newspaper and its owner, Rupert Murdoch’s News International, which have already had to settle several cases, there is also the potential for costs running into millions of pounds.

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