The civil claim by eight representative claimants against MGN Ltd, publishers of the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and the People began today – after yesterday was devoted to preliminary legal argument. MGN has admitted liability in relation to each of the claimants and the main purpose of the trial is to establish damages guidelines for subsequent cases.
Counsel for the Claimants David Sherborne began his opening of the case today. He told Mr Justice Mann that phone hacking was rife at the showbusiness desk of the Daily Mirror by mid 1999 and that it could be inferred that it was rife at the other papers as well at or around the same time.
A former Daily Mirror journalist, James Hipwell, had said that phone hacking being “endemic” at the newspaper when he was there in 1999-2000. Former Sunday Mirror (and later News of the World) journalist Dan Evans said he was making up to 250 phone hacking calls a day in 2003 and 2004.
Mr Sheborne said
“The evidence demonstrates that voicemail interception, as well as the unlawful obtaining of personal information by blagging or use of private investigators, was in widespread and habitual use by a large number of journalists across all three MGN titles.”
Mr Sherborne said that MGN had admitted that all the representative claimants were victims of voicemail interception.
He said that the hacking was on an industrial scale – far larger than that which took place at the News of the World – involving dozens of journalists making thousands of calls to scores of celebrities’ phone numbers.
The claimants are TV executive Alan Yentob, soap stars Shane Richie, Shobna Gulati and Lucy Benjamin, TV producer Robert Ashworth, actress Sadie Frost, former footballer Paul Gascoigne and flight attendant Lauren Alcorn.
The trial is continuing. The opening is due to last for another two days, with three and a half days of evidence from up to 27 witnesses for the claimants and half a day of evidence from one witness for MGN. Closing speeches are due to take place on 11 and 12 March 2015.
We draw attention to the following reports of the hearing
- Phone hacking at Mirror titles was on mass industrial scale, court told, Josh Halliday, The Guardian.
- Phone hacking was ‘rife’ at the Daily and Sunday Mirror, court told, Jane Croft, Financial Times
- Phone hacking ‘rife’ at Mirror Group Newspapers, BBC.
[Update] There have now been additional mainstream media reports
- Phone hacking was ‘rife’ at MGN papers, Jamie Campbell, Independent.
- Mirror hacking trial: Staff ‘sung Ying Tong song’ as they hacked Yentob’s phone, James Cusick, Independent
- Lawyer: Phone hacking ‘rife’ at Britain’s Mirror tabloids, MailOnline (from Associated Press)
- Mirror Group journalists hacked ‘on a massive scale and made News of the World’s crimes look like a cottage industry‘, Chris Greenwood, Mail
- Hacking Was ‘Rife At Three Mirror Papers’, Sky News.
- Mirror Hackers, [£] The Sun
- Mirror ‘100 celebrities every day‘ [£], Frances Gibb, The Times
[Update2] And finally, something in the Mirror “Compensation Trial over Mirror Group newspapers’ phone hacking”