Ex-News Corp. private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed in 2007 for secretly tapping celebrities’ voice mails, told a court that he shouldn’t have to give detailed evidence of his activities in phone-hacking cases.
Mulcaire was ordered by a London court to disclose who at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid instructed him to hack into mobile phones, and what information was obtained. Mulcaire would incriminate himself by handing over evidence, his lawyer, Gavin Millar, told the Court of Appeal today in London.
Mulcaire “is faced with the very difficult choice of substantial self incrimination or serious contempt of court,” Millar said. Any employees of the News Corp. unit revealed in the case “may end up giving evidence against Mr. Mulcaire.”
Mulcaire and News Corp. (NWSA)’s U.K. newspaper unit are named in dozens of civil lawsuits filed by celebrities and other victims whose phones were hacked to get stories. London police, who are examining Mulcaire’s notebooks and contacting thousands of possible victims, have arrested 17 people, including the newspaper’s former editors, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson.
The appeal today comes as phone-hacking victims are giving testimony to a separate judge-led inquiry examining the behavior of the press. Sienna Miller, a British actress, told the inquiry last week that the News of the World’s scoops led her to wrongfully accuse her friends and family of leaking information to reporters. A similar claim was made today by singer Charlotte Church.
Mulcaire’s evidence, if it’s disclosed, would shed light on the scandal just as six so-called test cases are preparing for the first phone-hacking civil trial scheduled for January. News Corp.’s U.K. unit has already admitted liability and the trial will set a standard for money damages.
The appeal is part of separate lawsuits filed by comedian Steve Coogan and Nicola Phillips, a former employee of celebrity publicist Max Clifford, whose voice mails were intercepted by Mulcaire. They won requests for the disclosure of documents with their name or mobile-phone numbers in them.
The victims would “really quite like to know the information obtained from their phones and passed by Mulcaire to News of the World,” their lawyer Jeremy Reed said at the hearing. Mulcaire “ran roughshod over their privacy rights” and engaged in a conspiracy “on an industrial scale.”
Mulcaire and Clive Goodman, a reporter for the News of the World, were jailed in 2007 for intercepting phone messages meant for members of Prince Charles’ staff and for Gordon Taylor, chief executive officer of the Professional Footballers Association. Mulcaire was also charged with intercepting voice mails left for celebrities including Elle MacPherson. Police have said more than 5,000 people may have been targeted.
News Corp. closed the News of the World in July to help contain the five-year-old scandal after it was revealed the tabloid had hacked the phone of a murdered school girl in 2002, when she was still missing. Mulcaire also sued the company, saying it wrongfully stopped paying his legal fees after lawmakers questioned the payments.
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