On Monday 2 March 2015, the first phone hacking trial will finally begin, nearly 4 years after a “phone hacking managing judge” was first appointed . In Court 15 of the Rolls Building the current managing judge Mr Justice Mann will begin hearing the trial in the case of Various Claimants v MGN Ltd.
In a trial listed for 10 days, the judge will decide phone hacking claims brought against Mirror Group Newspapers by Alan Yentob, Paul Gascoigne, Sadie Frost, Lauren Alcorn, Robert Ashworth, Lucy Taggart, Shobna Gulati and Shane Roche. The claimants are represented by David Sherborne and Jeremy Reed, The defendant is represented by Matthew Nicklin QC.
The trial comes just over 3 weeks after the three national Mirror Group titles – the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and the People – published public apologies to “all its victims of phone hacking”. At that time it was announced that the group’s parent company, Trinity Mirror, had set aside £12 million to compensate victims of hacking.
The Mirror Group phone hacking litigation has had a much lower profile than that brought in relation to phone hacking at the News of the World. Despite two “Tranches” of that litigation no trial ever took place, with the trials listed for February 2012 and February 2013 not taking place after all the claims were settled by News Group Newspapers.
The Mirror Group claims have been much more heavily contested. Four claims were originally issued in October 2012: by Sven-Goran Eriksson, Shobna Gulati, Garry Flitcroft and Abbie Gibson. In February 2013, MGN applied to strike these claims out and/or for summary judgment. That application was dismissed by Mr Justice Mann in October 2013 ( EWHC 3392 (Ch)). We had a post on this decision at the time.
In September 2014, Trinity Mirror announced that MGN had admitted liability to four individuals who had sued over phone hacking and confirmed that six other cases had been settled. It was reported that former England Manager Sven-Goran Eriksson received £30,000 damages as did actor Christoper Eccleston.
In October 2014, Mr Justice Mann ordered Mirror Group to give “generic disclosure” in relation to phone hacking, that is documents going to the general practices of phone hacking at the group’s titles (Various Claimants v MGN  EWHC 3655 (Ch)). He held that the best way to do this, for the time being, was for MGN to give disclosure of documents which it had already supplied to the Metropolitan Police in connection with police investigations . We had a post about this decision.
At pre-trial review took place on 22 January 2014. At that hearing it was announced that claims brought by Jessie Wallace, Cilla Black, Peter Andre and Darren Day had settled phone hacking claims against Mirror Group.
According to details given to the Court on that occasions as many as 41 journalists were alleged to have used internal office lines to illegally access private voicemails.
We hope to have regular reports on the trial over the next two weeks.