View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. Media Law
March 20, 2024

News of the World publisher ‘gave false evidence’ over missing Rebekah Brooks hard drive, claimants say

There are 45 separate claims ongoing against News Group Newspapers.

By PA Media

The publisher of the defunct News of the World “gave false evidence” to police about how the hard drive of its then-chief executive Rebekah Brooks went missing as it faced allegations of phone hacking, the High Court has been told.

News Group Newspapers (NGN) is being sued by Prince Harry and several other individuals over allegations of unlawful information-gathering, including the use of private investigators.

Lawyers for the individuals have claimed that a computer hard drive belonging to Rebekah Brooks, NGN’s former chief executive now in the same role at News UK, went missing in May 2011 and that NGN gave false evidence to the police to “explain away” its disappearance.

The allegations came in written submissions for a High Court hearing on Wednesday, where barristers for the claimants asked to update parts of their case, including aspects of Harry’s individual legal challenge, following the release of further information.

Allegation Rebekah Brooks hard drive was ‘sequestered and/or destroyed deliberately’

NGN is resisting the application, with its lawyers saying the changes are “wholly unnecessary” and “positively undesirable”.

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

In his written arguments, David Sherborne, representing Harry and the other people bringing claims, said it had already been alleged that the hard drive of Brooks’ computer was “sequestered and/or destroyed deliberately in order to conceal her and others’ knowledge of wrongdoing at NGN”.

Content from our partners
MHP Group's 30 To Watch awards for young journalists open for entries
How PA Media is helping newspapers make the digital transition
Publishing on the open web is broken, how generative AI could help fix it

The court was told the individuals want to include further documents in their claim, including a 2021 witness statement from an IT engineer at NGN who said the hard drive was intact in an audit in January 2011 but was found to be missing during a “routine inspection” in May that year.

Sherborne, who has also represented the duke in his other High Court legal actions, said the changes to the pleaded case show a “bigger picture” of NGN’s “concealment of unlawful information-gathering, the destruction of evidence and the cover-up of the concealment and destruction”.

45 claims against News Group Newspapers

The hearing at the High Court in London was told there are 45 separate claims against NGN, including from Harry, film-maker Guy Ritchie, actor Hugh Grant, and Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon, mother of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

A trial of the duke’s and others’ claims is expected to be held in January next year.

Mr Justice Fancourt previously ruled that Harry could not bring a claim in relation to phone hacking against NGN and that he could not rely on an alleged “secret agreement” between the royal family and senior executives working for media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Several high-profile individuals have previously settled claims against the publisher, including comic Catherine Tate, radio presenter Chris Moyles, Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm, former Boyzone member Shane Lynch, and actor Mathew Horne.

A spokesman for News UK, NGN’s parent company, previously said it had made an “unreserved apology” in 2011 to victims of phone hacking at the News of the World.

They said it was “drawing a line” under some cases and paying damages to those with “proper claims”, but that it did not accept liability or make any admissions to disputed allegations in ongoing claims against The Sun.

Changes ‘appear to be designed to grab headlines’

In written arguments, Anthony Hudson KC, representing NGN, said changing the claims would “substantially prejudice” the company as “they introduce over 200 new journalists, executives and private investigators”.

“A number of very wide-ranging and serious allegations concerning senior executives and political motivations are made, but made entirely in the abstract,” he said.

“They appear to be designed to precipitate a politically-fuelled quasi-public inquiry, and not to assist the court with its actual function of determining – in individual claims – whether there has been misuse of private information and, if so, how much compensation should be paid.”

Hudson also said the changes “appear to be designed to grab headlines, and not to progress the individual claims”, with NGN expected to argue at a hearing later this year that an initial trial should be held over whether the claims have been brought too late.

The hearing is due to conclude on Friday, with Mr Justice Fancourt expected to give judgment at a later date.

Topics in this article : ,

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network