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Ex-News Corp. Phone Hacker Approved for Supreme Court Appeal

The ex-News Corp. private detective who was jailed in 2007 for intercepting mobile-phone voice mails won permission to appeal to the U.K. Supreme Court in a dispute over giving incriminating evidence in civil cases against him.

Glenn Mulcaire, 41, won the court’s approval today in London, according to his lawyer Sarah Webb. The private eye, who hacked into phone messages for News Corp.’s News of the World tabloid, was re-arrested last year as part of a new police probe involving hundreds of newly identified victims. The appeal relates to parallel civil lawsuits filed by victims.

“It’s clearly a very important matter of law which the Supreme Court have decided they should rule on,” Webb, of Payne Hicks Beach in London, said in a phone interview. A two-day hearing scheduled to start May 9 could affect how British courts deal with self-incrimination in lawsuits, she said.

Mulcaire and Clive Goodman, a reporter for the News of the World, pleaded guilty and were jailed for as long as six months in 2007 for intercepting phone messages for members of Prince Charles’s staff and five other public figures. Police opened a new probe a year ago after celebrities’ civil lawsuits revealed evidence of thousands more potential victims and the involvement of more News Corp. journalists.

Mulcaire, whose phone-hacking notes were seized by police in 2006, has been named in many of the claims filed against News Corp.’s U.K. newspaper unit since the scandal erupted again in 2010. The appeal stems from lawsuits by actor Steve Coogan and Nicola Phillips, a former employee of celebrity publicist Max Clifford, whose voice mails were intercepted.

Intercept Messages

The Court of Appeal on Feb. 1 upheld a ruling that Mulcaire must disclose who at the tabloid told him to intercept messages left for Coogan and Phillips, what information was collected and to whom he gave it. Mulcaire’s lawyers argued that by doing so he would incriminate himself if he’s charged in the new police probe. While Coogan has since settled his case, Phillips hasn’t and the ruling could affect future cases.

Mulcaire had to ask the Supreme Court directly for permission to appeal because the Court of Appeal denied his request to do so. Britain’s top court will only hear appeals in such circumstances if they address legal questions that will benefit the public.

In a separate phone-hacking suit filed by the Welsh pop star Charlotte Church, scheduled for a trial starting Feb. 27, Mulcaire’s lawyers are seeking to block the press from reporting on evidence about the private detective’s activities that could potentially undermine him in a criminal case.

London police, who are examining Mulcaire’s notebooks and identified more than 800 likely victims, have arrested about 30 people in three related investigations, including the newspaper’s former editors, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson. The other probes involve police bribery and computer hacking.

News Corp. closed the News of the World in July to help contain the scandal. Mulcaire has successfully sued the company over claims it improperly stopped covering his legal fees after lawmakers questioned the payments.

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