On the third day of the civil damages claim against Mirror Group Newspapers Counsel for the eight claimants continued his opening speech to the judge, Mr Justice Mann. David Sherborne told the Court that senior MGN executives and journalists were not only aware of phone hacking but were complicit in it as well.
He said that internal emails showed that senior journalists were engaged in the activity themselves and this was because voicemail interception and the blagging of personal information was a very valuable resource for the newspapers. He said that call data from the extension of senior figures at the newspapers supported the contention that they were involved.
Detailed consideration was given to calls from Mirror Group newspapers to the platform of the mobile telephone service provider, Orange. it was said that 5 journalists were responsible for 43% of these calls and that this was consistent with the vast majority of them being voicemail interception. Mr Sherborne drew attention to the fact that in the week when the arrests of Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman (in relation to News of the World phone hacking) were announced in August 2006 there was
“a massive drop in the number of calls to this platform … somewhere between 80 and 90% of the calls suddenly go”
The Court was also told that there were a total of 13,683 invoices in the sum of £2,258,275 paid by MGN Limited to private investigators and that the company had admitted that
“an unquantifiable but substantial number of the enquiries made by these private investigators is likely to have obtained private information that could not have been obtained lawfully.”
In the course of the hearing Mr Justice Mann expressed concern as to the way in which MGN Limited had dealt with an order that it respond to schedules served by the claimants, describing it as “an almost wilful act of disobedience”. he said
“I understand the Mirror Group Newspapers’ board professed its anxiety to get to the bottom of this and to assist in the resolution in various forms. … I think that would have been best manifested by a clear compliance with my order”
Matthew Nicklin QC, on behalf of MGN Limited, apologised to the Court for not having made the position clear.
There are nine representative claimants: TV executive Alan Yentob, soap stars Shane Richie, Shobna Gulati and Lucy Benjamin, TV producer Robert Ashworth, actress Sadie Frost, former footballer Paul Gascoigne and flight attendant Lauren Alcorn.
The trial is continuing. The claimants’ opening is due to conclude today, with a short response from the defendant. The Court will hear evidence from Mr Yentob in the course of the afternoon.