Police Said to Want Names Tabloid Hacker Disclosed Kept Secret

London police will seek to block a comedian’s lawyer from disclosing which News Corp. employees directed private detective Glenn Mulcaire to hack into celebrities’ voice mails, a person familiar with the case said.

Mulcaire, who was jailed in 2007 for phone-hacking while employed by the News of the World tabloid, gave the names to the London-based law firm Schillings on Aug. 26. He was required to do so as part of a lawsuit filed by Stephen Coogan, an actor who claims his messages were also intercepted. Mulcaire lost a court ruling last month in which he sought to avoid naming who at News Corp.’s U.K. unit asked him to intercept phone messages left for six public figures.

The Metropolitan Police, which is investigating the extent of hacking by the tabloid, wants a court to order the names kept secret, according to the person, who declined to be identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss the case publicly. London police are also probing whether police officers were paid for news and whether journalists hacked computers for stories.

While 14 arrests were made this year, the only person known to have worked with Mulcaire is Clive Goodman, the paper’s former royal reporter who was also jailed. News Corp. was forced to abandon its claim the hacking was limited to one “rogue” reporter, after evidence from civil lawsuits by celebrities showed the practice was more widespread. London police opened a new probe in January, leading to the recent arrests and News Corp.’s decision to close News of the World and scrap a planned bid for British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc.

‘Industrial Scale’

The U.K. Court of Appeal backed a High Court ruling that having the identities of journalists who instructed Mulcaire could assist Coogan in proving there was a conspiracy at News of the World and that hacking was done on an “industrial scale.”

Mulcaire argued unsuccessfully the identities weren’t relevant since he has already admitted the privacy breaches. His lawyer, Sarah Webb, declined to comment today. The Met Police also declined to comment.

The order applies to the celebrities whose phones Mulcaire tapped when he pleaded guilty to hacking in November 2006, including model Elle Macpherson, according to the ruling. Mulcaire also pleaded guilty to conspiring to hack the phones of three members of the royal household.

Those arrested this year include former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, former managing editor Stuart Kuttner, former assistant editor Greg Miskiw, former news editor Ian Edmondson, former features writer Dan Evans and former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck.

In January 2007, when Mulcaire was sentenced to six months in jail, his lawyer told the court voice mails left for people other than the royal family hadn’t been intercepted for Goodman, “but for others in the same organization,” according to court records in the case.

Mulcaire sued News Corp.’s U.K. newspaper unit earlier this month. He claims a breach of contract because the company stopped paying his legal bills, according to a person familiar with the case.

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