May 19, 2024

Four Phone-Hacking Cases to Be Tests for Further Claims, Judge Says

“Otherwise we will be going on forever,” said the judge, Geoffrey Vos. “Some people may want to, but I don’t.” Judge Vos added that he wanted to “achieve a resolution of all these cases in the shortest possible time at the minimum possible cost.”

He said he would decide later which cases to bring forward, but that he was inclined to proceed with those brought by the actress Sienna Miller; the designer Kelly Hoppen; Andy Gray, a television sports commentator; and Skylet Andrew, a sports agent. Those cases have advanced further than some others, he said, and represent a range of issues and possible levels of damage.

Judge Vos made his remarks at a hearing intended to bring some order to the mushrooming civil actions proceeding against the News of the World. Last week, the newspaper admitted to illegally intercepting the voice-mail messages of eight public figures in the mid-2000’s. It apologized and offered to pay compensation.

At the hearing on Friday, it emerged that the paper had offered one of the victims, Ms. Miller, about $163,000 in damages, and given her a deadline of 21 days to consider the offer. Her lawyer, Hugh Tomlinson, said she had not yet decided what to do.

At least 12 other people have begun cases against the newspaper, and at the hearing a lawyer for the Metropolitan Police said that officers had discovered at least 91 possible victims, and potentially many more.

The courtroom was crammed with lawyers: for phone-hacking victims like Ms. Miller and Mr. Andrew; for the News of the World’s parent company, News Group Newspapers; for the police department, which has assigned 40 officers to the criminal case; and for Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator hired in the mid-2000s by News of the World.

Along with the News of the World’s royalty reporter, Clive Goodman, Mr. Mulcaire was jailed in 2007 for hacking into the phones of aides to members of the royal family. Information found in his notebooks, which have been seized by the police, has led in the past few weeks to the detention and questioning of three senior News of the World journalists on suspicion of engaging in phone hacking.

At the hearing, Mr. Mulcaire’s lawyer, Alexandra Marzec, said he wanted to protect himself against possible criminal charges and was admitting to nothing.

“The admissions which have been made by News Group in the past week are made solely on behalf of News Group, and Mr. Mulcaire does not admit doing anything, and does not associate himself with these admissions,” Ms. Marzec said.

The police said that they were currently going through 9,200 pages of material seized from Mr. Mulcaire.

Meanwhile, in a separate but related case, the police said they were considering opening an investigation into whether journalists had paid police officers for information. The move stems from remarks made in 2003 by Rebekah Brooks, a former News of the World editor and now the chief executive of News International, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch and is News Group’s parent company.

Mrs. Brooks told the culture and media committee at the time that “we have paid the police for information in the past.” Asked this week about the remark, Mrs. Brooks said in a letter to a different parliamentary group, the home affairs committee, that she had been speaking generally.

“I was responding to a specific line of questioning on how newspapers get information,” she wrote. “My intention was simply to comment on the widely held belief that payments had been made in the past to police officers. If, in doing so, I gave the impression that I had knowledge of any specific cases, I can assure you that this was not my intention.”

In a letter to the home affairs committee, Assistant Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said that a senior officer had been assigned “to conduct a scoping exercise to establish whether there are now any grounds for beginning a criminal investigation resulting from the comments made by Rebekah Brooks” in 2003.

A spokeswoman for News International said the company had no comment.

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