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News Corp. Searching Executives’ IPhones in Hacking Probe

News Corp. is examining iPhones used by four unidentified company executives for evidence sought by victims of phone hacking by the now-defunct News of the World tabloid, a company lawyer said in court today.

One of the phones examined contained no new material, News Corp. lawyer Michael Silverleaf said at the hearing in London, calling the request they be searched “completely pointless.”

David Sherborne, a lawyer representing some hacking victims, asked at a June 1 hearing that News Corp. unit News International be ordered to hand over records for at least two iPhones used by senior company executives, who he didn’t name. The existence of the phones was suggested by evidence given to a U.K. media-ethics inquiry and the devices may contain relevant e-mails, Sherborne said at the hearing.

Hugh Tomlinson, a lawyer representing victims of phone hacking, said outside of court the company had located three phones.

News Corp. is trying to move on from the scandal after the inquiry that began last year revealed damaging e-mails and text messages and a judge handling dozens of related civil cases said the company destroyed evidence. James Murdoch, the News Corp. deputy chief operation officer, testified in April at the ethics inquiry, where Judge Brian Leveson is reviewing the extent of illegal phone hacking. The Independent reported the company issued one of the iPhones to Murdoch.

Mary Kearney, a London spokeswoman for News Corp. declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

Church, Law

Dozens of settlements with celebrities including Charlotte Church and Jude Law have stalled previous attempts by Judge Geoffrey Vos to schedule a trial to determine damages in the civil cases. The next hearing is scheduled for July 13.

Tomlinson said there are 50 victims currently involved in the hacking case. There have also been 286 requests made to London’s Metropolitan Police since mid-April for disclosure of evidence about hacking.

“There are substantial numbers of potential claims,” Tomlinson said. Around 20 new cases are expected to be filed in the coming weeks, he said.

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