News Corp.’s U.K. unit, which has settled hundreds of lawsuits related to phone hacking since 2011, was sued by at least 30 more people this year seeking to participate in a civil trial.
Singer Craig David, designer Kelly Hoppen and former soccer player John Fashanu are among the 32 people who have filed lawsuits this year. Some of the claims may have been spurred by testimony in the parallel London criminal trial.
News Corp. newspapers have been at the heart of investigations over the past three years that have uncovered alleged bribery and phone hacking at two of its tabloids. News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch closed the weekly News of the World in 2011 after revelations journalists had accessed messages on the mobile phone of a murdered school girl.
Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, former editors of the newspaper, are among seven people currently on trial for criminal charges related to the probe.
The new suits are a mix of claims relating to hacking carried out by ex-News of the World reporter Dan Evans, who testified at the criminal trial last week, and also the private investigator employed by the weekly tabloid, Glenn Mulcaire, Hugh Tomlinson, a lawyer for the victims said at today’s hearing in London.
Evans pleaded guilty to hacking-related offenses that occurred when he was at Trinity Mirror Plc’s Sunday Mirror while Mulcaire pleaded guilty to similar crimes at the News of the World.
Hoppen, actor Sienna Miller’s stepmother, filed her latest lawsuit after Evans testified that he hacked her phone to get a story on Miller.
Previous civil trials were canceled as News Corp. reached last-minute settlements with celebrities, politicians and athletes who said their phones were hacked by the News of the World. Hoppen settled an earlier claim with News Corp. in 2011 for 60,000 pounds ($98,000).
“We could have a trial in June but I do not think it is sensible or fair to proceed in a helter-skelter fashion,” Judge George Mann said today, suggesting an October trial date. “We have got to get some of these cases to trial.”
There are currently 68 cases pending in the civil proceedings, Tomlinson said. “By the time we get to April they may probably be only 15.”
The case is Kelly Hoppen v. News Group Newspapers Ltd., in the U.K. High court of Justice, Chancery Division, case no. HC14A00449.