Hugh Grant Wrong in Phone-Hacking Testimony, Daily Mail Says

Actor Hugh Grant was “reckless” when he claimed the Mail on Sunday newspaper hacked into his voice mails, a lawyer for U.K. publisher Daily Mail & General Trust Plc told a judge-led inquiry into press ethics.

Grant told the inquiry in November his messages must have been intercepted for a 2007 story claiming he received late- night phone calls from a “plummy voiced studio executive.” The paper’s description of the woman’s voice wasn’t proof it listened to the actor’s voice mails, lawyer Liz Hartley said today at the inquiry, which was set up in response to the phone- hacking scandal at News Corp.’s News of the World tabloid.

“To make a very serious allegation against us on something as thin as this was not something that should have been done,” Hartley said in her testimony. “I don’t think that’s a reasonable inference. It’s not the sort of detail you would have got from a voice mail interception.”

Grant, who starred in the comedy “Notting Hill,” has become an unofficial spokesman for victims of Glenn Mulcaire, the News of the World’s former private investigator who police say hacked about 800 phones before his arrest in 2006. News Corp. (NWSA) closed the News of the World in July to contain public anger over revelations the tabloid hacked into a murdered schoolgirl’s phone in 2002, when she was still missing.

Reasonable Assumption

Judge Brian Leveson, who is overseeing the inquiry, told Hartley she was accusing Grant of perjury. Robert Jay, a lawyer for the inquiry, said Grant’s claim was based on a reasonable assumption about the facts in the news article.

Hartley said at the time the article was published Grant had claimed it was completely false and that no such woman existed, implying that claim doesn’t fit with his new assertion that voice mails from the woman were hacked.

The inquiry, called for in July by Prime Minister David Cameron, is separate from dozens of civil lawsuits filed by phone-hacking victims and the three police investigations that have yielded more than 20 arrests in the last year, including ex-News International Chief Executive Officer Rebekah Brooks.

The Mail on Sunday said in November that the information in the 2007 story came from a freelance journalist who spoke to a source close to Grant’s then girlfriend, Jemima Khan. Khan has denied the claim, the inquiry was told today by David Sherborne, a lawyer representing victims.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in London at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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