Mirror Damages Trial: Court hears evidence of Shobna Gulati and Robert Ashworth

10 03 2015

Shobna-GulatiOn Monday 9 March 2015, the sixth day of the Mirror Damages Trial, the Court heard evidence from former Coronation Street actress Shobna Gulati and from former TV producer Robert Ashworth.

Ms Gulati told Mr Justice Mann that following the publication of an article in the Sunday Mirror on 23 November 2003 entitled “Real life secret marriage of Corrie Street bride Shobna” she wrote to the PCC. She said

“I believe that this was not in the public interest that the parentage of my child would be debated in a Sunday newspaper.  So I wrote this letter”

Ms Gulati told the Court that, as a result of the article her 9 year old was bullied at school about the identity of his father.

She gave evidence that she had left a jokey voicemail saying “Next thing for me is the jungle, probably” and that shortly afterwards an article had appeared in the Sunday Mirror suggesting that she had landed a place in I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.”   The article, which also said she had been dumped by her lover and by Coronation Street, caused her son to run away from home

When being questioned about the MGN apology to victims of phone hacking Ms Gulati said that for her, the articles which were admitted to based on phone hacking were “only the tip of the iceberg”.

She said that

 The thing that has affected me the most deeply and has caused me all sorts of pain and trauma, and still does this day, because some of those articles that have  appeared are still referred to in press that I have done recently, besides all of that is the fact that I’m  — and when I read this I’m still unsure — as to how much of my personal life was listened to by faceless, nameless folk who… who knew the ins and out of my life. It still leaves me feeling slightly empty inside.

The next witness was Robert Ashworth who gave evidence as to the effect of phone hacking on his life and his relationship with his then wife the actress Tracey Shaw.

MGN Limited admitted that an article which referred to his contact with his divorce lawyer was the product of phone hacking.  Mr Ashworth told the Court that this article

“caused a huge amount of problems.  The only person that knew that I was going to see a solicitor was the solicitor themself and my mother.  I kept it this way because I was only exploring at this point the option of getting a divorce.  … When Tracy sees this — saw this in the newspaper, and we were still trying to mend things, that completely destroyed the trust between us. 

Mr Ashworth said that his wife and her family thought that he was leaking the information to the press.

He dismissed MGN’s apology, telling the judge

“They think that an A4 piece of paper can say sorry for the damage that they created.  Not only did I lose, through their use of their articles, my marriage, I lost my career  … how many times were they listening to all my deepest darkest thoughts?  All the times I was crying, the times Tracy was crying to me, what, and laughing in the office?”

He said that

“The phone hacking articles that were there caused an awful lot of distress.  They broke the trust between myself and her.  They broke the trust between her family and my family.  These are the things which should not have been in the public domain.  I didn’t have any choice or control over the information that was put out there”.

In In addition to Mr Gulati and Mr Ashworth there are six other representative claimants, BBC Executive Alan Yentob, soap stars Shane Roche, and Lucy Benjamin, actress Sadie Frost, former footballer Paul Gascoigne and flight attendant Lauren Alcorn.

The court will, today, hear evidence from Ms Alcorn, Mr Roche and Steve McFadden.

The evidence is likely to conclude this week, with closing submissions the following week.

 


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