On Thursday 12 March 2014, day 9, the Mirror Damages Trial heard evidence from former Mirror journalist Dan Evans and from actress Sadie Frost. Her evidence concluded on Friday 13 March 2014, day 10. The Court also heard evidence from James Hipwell. The case was adjourned to 18 March 2014 for closing submissions.
The first witness on Thursday was the former Sunday Mirror and News of the World journalist Dan Evans. He worked for the Sunday Mirror for about three and half years, from summer 2001 to the end of 2004 but his phone hacking activities did not begin until around April 2003. He said that he had the strongest impression that it was illegal.
Mr Evans told the Court said that he would receive call data from private investigators paid by MGN. This was typically in handwritten form although occasionally it was in the form of print outs. They also provided information such as credit card bills, people’s locations and other information. Sometimes they would be asked to “spin” mobile telephone numbers – to produce the name from the number. He said that he used the investigators only for illegal searches.
He said that phone hacking was kept secret amongst a trusted group, an inner circle. Which he explained as follows
When I used the phrase inner circle, I was referring to the small group of very, very senior journalists who tasked me, and tutored me, in the practice of phone hacking and who were entitled, throughout the period of my phone hacking, to have the entire product of that process passed up to them”
However, he told the judge that these were not the only individuals who had specific involvement and knowledge of phone hacking.
In relation to the amount of hacking which he carried out he said that “at any given time at the beginning, maybe we had … 150 people on the list, as a maximum, on the actual hacking list, and more like around about 100”. He confirmed that there were about 600 or 700 voicemails which he tried but failed to hack. He told that court that private investigators did not supply him with PIN numbers so that he had to crack them himself by repeatedly dialing and guessing the numbers.
Mr Evans told the Judge about his use of “pay as you go” telephones – or burners – to carry out hacking:
“The muppets were the burner handsets. The act of listening to them was called muppetry”.
The Court then heard evidence from one of the claimants, Sadie Frost. She complains of 31 articles, of which 27 are admitted to be the product of phone hacking.
One of the admitted articles concerned Ms Frost attending a meeting of alcoholics anonymous. She told the court that she felt incredibly embarrassed humiliated by this article. She said
Everywhere I went to try and get my life — try and make my life better, some photographer or journalist would write some untruths and just be pushing me further and further down until I was literally on the bottom … I could not take my son to the park, my youngest son for two years, because every time I went to the park, I was photographed. And he used to cry, it used to upset me, cause me to have panic attacks, so I lost three, four five years of my children’s life, down to being followed and these stupid articles.
She said she could not trust her own family and wanted her mother to sign a confidentiality agreement.
Every time I turned to somebody and confided in them, it ended up in the newspapers, which added to my distress and my torment.
The cross-examination of Ms Frost continued on Friday 13 March 2015, day 10 of the trial. She said that she thought that seven or eight journalists hacked into her voicemail messages.
She described her reaction on finding that her phone had been hacked as being upset, relief and anger:
the whole thing has been disturbing. It made me damaged, and for a long time thought I was going mad. So in a way there was a — it was a relief and I wanted some closure and I wanted to be – you know, I wanted an apology.
She repeated that money was not the main motivating factor for bringing the claim – she wanted closure, apology, acceptance. Counsel for MGN Limited asked her accept that the company was extremely sorry for the fact that her voicemails had been intercepted and she indicated that she accepted their apology.
The final witness on Friday was former Mirror journalist, James Hipwell. He was employed as a financial journalist until February 2000 and was dismissed and prosecuted in relation to creating a false market in shares. He was sentenced to 6 months in prison.
He denied that this evidence in relation to phone hacking was an “opportunistic attempt by a disgruntled former employee” to “get even”. He denied that this was the “ultimate payback”.
A number of unchallenged witness statements were put in evidence on behalf of the Claimants. These were from Mary Ashworth, Clare McGlinn, Holly Davidson, Ben Jackson, Kate Ford, Sushma Klausen, Christie Roche Phil Dale, Jessie Wallace, Chris Parker, Bobby Holland, Josephine Baker, Lady Ruth Rogers, Abi Titmuss, Bobby Davro and Alex Best.
MGN Limited called no evidence in support of its defence
The trial was adjourned for oral closing submissions to begin on Wednesday 18 March 2015, with the intention that the case should finish on Thursday 19 March 2015.