Mirror Group Newspapers allegedly tasked private investigators with finding “background” on a judge dealing with Ryan Giggs’ application for a super-injunction, the High Court has heard.
Lawyers representing dozens of victims of alleged phone-hacking, including the former Manchester United star, claim the publisher of the Daily Mirror targeted senior judges – “particularly those who granted anonymity injunctions in privacy proceedings” – for unlawful information-gathering.
Invoices from private investigators allegedly show MGN sought information on High Court and Court of Appeal judges until “at least as late as the middle of 2011”, the claimants’ lawyers say.
The judges said to have been targeted were not identified in court documents filed for that hearing and no reference to the claims was made in documents filed by MGN’s lawyers.
But, in a ruling on Tuesday, Mr Justice Mann said the claimants’ lawyers wanted to rely on material which is said to have “evidenced an instruction to provide background – ‘b’ground’ – on Mr Justice Eady”, a now-retired High Court judge.
Mr Justice Mann explained that Mr Justice Eady was one of the judges “involved in hearing a claim for a so-called super-injunction” sought by Giggs.
In 2011, Giggs was named in Parliament as having obtained an injunction preventing the publisher of the News of the World from identifying him as the footballer who had an affair with reality TV star Imogen Thomas.
Shortly before Giggs was named in the House of Commons, Mr Justice Eady refused an application to discharge the injunction at the High Court.
Mr Justice Mann said the claimants wanted to rely on invoices from, and requests made to, private investigators which are said to relate to Mr Justice Eady, as well as “unspecified information about some unspecified members of the High Court and Court of Appeal”.
In the ruling, Mr Justice Mann also said former Atomic Kitten singer Kerry Katona, rugby player Danny Cipriani, former England manager Glenn Hoddle and Peter Crouch’s wife Abbey Clancy were among the claimants currently suing MGN.
At the hearing in October, the claimants’ barrister David Sherborne said disclosure of private investigators’ invoices revealed MGN targeted “High Court judges involved in high-profile privacy injunction proceedings and Court of Appeal judges”.
James Heath, a solicitor with Atkins Thomson who represents some of the claimants, said in a witness statement for that hearing: “Contrary to the popular impression that MGN’s newspapers ‘only’ targeted celebrities with its unlawful activities, MGN pursued anyone and everyone to suit its agenda in the most egregious way, including senior members of the judiciary, such as High Court judges, particularly those who granted anonymity injunctions in privacy proceedings – with such targeting continuing to be carried out at least as late as the middle of 2011.”
Picture: Reuters/Lorraine O’sullivan