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Soccer Player’s Lawyers Seek to Search Newspaper Worker E-Mails

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May 16 (Bloomberg) -- A U.K. soccer player who reportedly had a 6-month affair with a reality-TV star sought a court order to search e-mails and text messages of all employees of Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper to see if they have broken the terms of a privacy injunction.

Hugh Tomlinson, lawyer for a married footballer referred to in court by the randomly chosen initials CTB, told a hearing he had evidence that Sun employees had disclosed his client’s name in breach of the order.

“It is important to know to what extent those working for News Group Newspapers have been involved in the breaking of the order,” Tomlinson said. News Group is the Murdoch-owned U.K. unit that publishes the Sun and the News of the World.

On April 14, Justice David Eady granted an order stopping the paper from naming the person with whom the former Big Brother star Imogen Thomas says she had a relationship. Privacy rulings have been on the rise since Formula One President Max Mosley won a ruling in 2008 that his privacy rights were violated by a story in Murdoch’s News of the World about a Nazi-themed sex party.

Tomlinson said today that former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie revealed in a recent radio interview that he sometimes, if asked, discloses the names of famous people who have won privacy orders stopping their names from being linked to newspapers stories. MacKenzie hasn’t been editor for 17 years.

Sun lawyer Richard Spearman said the order shouldn’t be granted. “The order sought is unnecessary and disproportionate,” he said. A search of all e-mails and texts would be “wholly unprecedented,” he said, adding that Tomlinson is engaging in a “fishing expedition.”

Justice David Eady said he would consider the application. He didn’t indicate when he planned to rule.

Gagging orders, sometimes referred to as “super-injunctions” typically bar U.K. media from writing about extra-marital affairs or identifying celebrities involved.

The flurry of rulings brought opposition from Prime Minister David Cameron, who said Parliament, and not the courts, should set U.K. privacy law.

Related News and Information: Bloomberg case filings: {BBLS <GO>} Top legal news: {NI TLAW <GO>} Media law news: {NI MEDIALAW <GO>} News on U.K. court rulings: {TNI UK VERDICTS <GO>}

To contact the reporter on this story: James Lumley in London at jlumley1@bloomberg.net

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