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Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Sues News Corp. Over Hacking

The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, the junior partners in Britain’s coalition government, sued News Corp.’s U.K. unit over phone hacking at the now defunct News of the World newspaper.

Simon Hughes, the member of Parliament for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, filed a lawsuit yesterday in London against News International and Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator jailed in 2007 for illegally intercepting phone messages.

“It is important now that all those who were clearly the subject of criminal activity help to get to the bottom of what happened during this dark period in British journalism," Hughes said in an e-mailed statement. ‘‘The reason why I was most critical about illegal activity in my case was the not the effect on my reputation but the invasion of privacy of others -- constituents, colleagues, family and friends."

Hughes, 60, is at least the eighth British politician, including former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, to sue News Corp. over phone hacking. Hughes was named as a target of phone hacking in the 2007 criminal trial of Mulcaire, said Mark Lewis, who represents about 70 possible victims.

‘‘He is probably the first politician from the coalition government to take action about matters that occurred under the editorship of Andy Coulson,’’ Lewis, who doesn’t represent Hughes, said in an e-mail.

Coulson, who was Prime Minister David Cameron’s director of communications until he resigned in January over the hacking scandal, was editor of the News of the World from 2003 to 2007. Coulson was arrested last month in the phone-hacking probe.

Sun Newspaper

Hughes was also the subject of stories in 2006 in News Corp.’s Sun newspaper about his personal life and sexuality.

Daisy Dunlop, a spokeswoman for News International, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

A test case involving five celebrities, politicians and athletes will be held next year in London, when a judge will rule on the appropriate level of damages New Corp. should pay where this is clear evidence of phone hacking.

News Corp. was forced to close down the News of the World in July following revelations the 168-year-old tabloid had intercepted the phone messages of a murdered schoolgirl.

The case is: Simon Hughes MP v. News Group Newspapers Ltd & anr, HC11C02792, High Court of Justice, Chancery Division.

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