British actor Hugh Grant won a court order requiring London’s Metropolitan Police to hand over documents with any evidence that his voice mails were hacked into by a private investigator for News Corp. (NWSA)’s now-defunct News of the World tabloid or other newspapers.
Grant, who starred in the romantic comedy “Notting Hill,” and Jemima Khan, a columnist for the Independent newspaper, made the request July 14 in London and it was unopposed by the police today.
The police contacted the claimants with evidence that indicated their voice mails may have been accessed by Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator who was jailed for phone hacking on behalf of the tabloid, Judge Geoffrey Vos said today.
There is “a clear inference that Mr. Mulcaire may have accessed the claimants’ voice mail,” their lawyer, David Sherborne, said at a hearing today. “They need this information in order to bring proceedings against Mulcaire or News Group,” he said, referring to the publisher of The Sun and, formerly, the News of the World.
Dozens of politicians, celebrities and athletes who believe their phone was hacked have filed lawsuits against Mulcaire and News Group. The evidence that has been produced in the civil lawsuits triggered the latest police investigation, opened in January.
“It is arguably the case that telephone interception and a breach of privacy may have been carried out,” Vos said today in granting the order. The judge said a test case in civil litigation against the media company may go to trial in January.
The allegations have snowballed in the past two weeks as evidence was disclosed that the tabloid may have hacked into the voice mail of a murdered schoolgirl, and paid bribes to police. The department, also known as Scotland Yard, has also been under fire for its close ties to the tabloid and allegations that may have led to previous investigations in the case being closed. The police commissioner, Paul Stephenson, and the assistant commissioner, John Yates, both resigned because of the scandal.
Grant secretly taped a former reporter for the News of the World talking about phone hacking at the paper. The reporter, Paul McMullan, had previously told Grant his phone had been hacked, according to the actor. He transcribed parts of the conversation and published them in April in the New Statesman.
Sherborne said that lawyers for the police weren’t present because they agreed to the order.
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