Phone-hacking lawyer Mark Lewis has added Glenn Mulcaire’s solicitors to the list of potential sources for The Guardian’s bombshell story on News International‘s legal settlement with PFA chief Gordon Taylor.
Nick Davies’ article, published on 8 July 2009, was one of the first indications that phone-hacking was widespread at the News of the World and not limited to so-called ‘rogue reporter’Clive Goodman.
The source of the story, which was described at the time as ‘one of the most significant media stories of modern times’by former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil, has been a source of speculation for more than two years.
Two lawyers were grilled on the subject by the culture select committee last month: Farrer & Co’s Julian Pike, who was instructed by NoW during the legal settlement with Taylor in 2009, and Taylor’s then lawyer Mark Lewis, who worked for the Manchester-based law firm George Davies.
Pike agreed that The Guardian’s 2009 article – which contained details of both the settlement sum and details from court documents filed as part of the Taylor case – represented a ‘very serious breach of the confidentiality agreement’with Taylor.
Pike told MPs on 19 October he believed there were four possible sources: Farrer & Co, News Corporation, Gordon Taylor and his lawyers at Manchester law firm George Davies.
He agreed when committee chair John Whittingdale said: “To have those documents, one of those four must have given The Guardian the documents”.
Pike told the committee he had ‘absolutely not’handed documents to the paper.
The Guardian’s July 2009 report stated that after the settlement fee with Taylor was agreed, News Corp ‘persuaded the court to seal the file on Taylor’s case to prevent all public access”.
But when Lewis appeared before the committee, also on 19 October, he said the confidentiality agreement between Taylor and News Corp was ‘misunderstood”, adding: ‘That was confidential, but the confidentiality did not extend to before there was a confidentiality agreement and the court file was sealed.
‘The court file was open; it was open for any journalist to go in and see that News of the World and News Group newspapers were being sued. I am sure that the confidentiality agreement was effectively locking the stable door after the horse had bolted; that is what happened.”
He added: ‘I suspect that The Guardian and Nick Davies already knew about this before there had been any settlement. I am sure that is how it came out.”
When Whittingdale pointed out that Davies could not have got a copy of the now infamous “For Neville” email from court documents, Lewis appeared to suggest the paper received it from the police, which he said was a fourth potential source of the information.
‘The police leaking information to The Guardian has been quite topical recently,’Lewis said, in a reference to reporter Amelia Hill being questioned by police over alleged leaks from an officer at the Met’s phone-hacking unit Operation Weeting.
Lewis denied that he or anyone else at George Davies had ‘any conversation with Nick Davies, or anybody else at The Guardian’before the July 2009 hacking story was published.
He also said that Gordon Taylor’s new solicitors, Brabners, had made a complaint about him to the Law Society about allegedly disclosing information about the case, which he said was “not based on any evidence”.
‘I dealt with that in response to the Law Society, pointing out that there were parts of that information that I could not have possibly have known in The Guardian article.
‘When it came down to it, it was thrown out by the Law Society. It was rejected as a complaint and so on.’
In a letter sent to the committee this week Lewis suggested a sixth possible source for the leak: Glenn Mulcaire’s law firm David Price Solicitors and Advocates.
Referring to his appearance before the committee last month, he said: “Although I suggested that there was another category of source for the Guardian story in 2008 [sic], in fact there were other potential sources.
In addition to the four categories that you mentioned and the fifth that I added (the Metropital Police Service), I forgot to point out that Glenn Mulcaire was represented in the case [Gordon Taylor’s privacy action against the News of the World] by David Price Solicitors and Advocates. As such there were at least two more sources.”