Tony Blair’s Ex-Press Chief Sues News Corp. on Phone Hacking

Tony Blair’s Ex-Press Chief Alastair Campbell
Tony Blair's former director of communications Alastair Campbell. Photographer: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Alastair Campbell, once the director of communications for former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, sued News Corp.’s British unit and the private detective who pleaded guilty to hacking celebrities’ voice mails.

The lawsuit, filed Sept. 19 in the High Court in London, names the publisher of the now-shuttered News of the World tabloid and its former investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed in 2007 for intercepting messages. Former U.K. lawmaker Elliot Morley, who was jailed this year for false expense claims, also sued, as did Philip Hughes, the agent for soccer player George Best, who died in 2005 after battling alcoholism.

“We believe they’ve been hacked,” Gerald Shamash, the lawyer for the three men at Steel & Shamash Solicitors in London, said in a phone interview. “We’re off to process them the same as everyone else.”

The lawsuits were filed the same day the company agreed to pay 3 million pounds ($4.7 million) to settle claims the News of the World hacked the mobile phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, a person with knowledge of the matter said. The scandal forced New York-based News Corp. to close the 168-year-old tabloid and drop its bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc.

The Metropolitan Police, who are investigating the newspaper’s hacking of thousands of phones, informed Shamash that contact details for Campbell, Morley and Hughes were found in Mulcaire’s notes. The men join more than two dozen public figures who filed similar lawsuits, including actress Sienna Miller and former U.K. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

James Murdoch

The Parliament’s Culture Committee has recalled News Corp. Deputy Chief Operating Officer James Murdoch to testify after former employees questioned statements he had made about his knowledge of the extent of hacking at the News of the World.

News Corp. faces a trial in January, when the court will decide how much the company should pay in damages to five other victims, including actor Jude Law. Its News International unit has agreed to pay about 100,000 pounds to Miller and another 20,000 pounds to sports commentator Andy Gray.

A phone message left with News International’s press office wasn’t returned.

Morley, a former Labour Party minister, was sentenced in May to 16 months in prison for filing 30,000 pounds in false expenses. He had pleaded guilty earlier, joining a series of politicians targeted for expenses fraud after the Daily Telegraph ran a series of stories about the practice. The paper reported yesterday Morley was released after serving a quarter of his sentence.

Best, a former Northern Ireland and Manchester United forward, died of multiple organ failures at the age of 59 after having a liver transplant three years earlier. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets in Belfast in December 2005 to pay their last respects.

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