News Corp could face up to 50 legal claims and be bogged down in five years of litigation, according to a lawyer representing Sun reporter Mazher Mahmood’s former targets.
The Crown Prosecution Service has identified 25 cases where convictions are being reviewed because of evidence provided by Mahmood.
Mahmood was convicted yesterday of conspiring to change a statement, and then lie about it, in the trial of pop-singer Tulisa for supplying cocaine.
Mark Lewis of Sneddons, who was involved in much of the litigation around the phone-hacking scandal, said he has been instructed by 18 individuals so far but the total number of claimants could be 40 or 50.
He estimated that litigation could now be ongoing for four or five years.
Mahmood himself claimed that he had secured more than 100 criminal convictions as a result of his work as a journalist (20 years of which were spent at the now defunct News of the World).
Lewis said the cost of litigation for News Corp (which owned the News of the World) could rise to £800m.
Explaining how he came to that figure, he said: “If you take all the people who are going to sue, in some cases whose lives have been ruined for 25 years, legal costs for both sides and take into account legal claims in America which are massive by comparison – it’s very easy to get to that sort of figure.”
An American financier who once dated Sarah Ferguson, John Bryan, has filed a legal claim against News Corp in the US for damages of $150m.
In 1992 the News of the World published photos of him sucking the toes of the former royal whilst she was still married to Prince Andrew.
The first UK civil claims against News Corp in the UKe expected to be filed in the coming weeks.
Claimants are expected to include former actor John Alford and former model Emma Morgan, both of whom were involved in News of the World drugs stings which were similar to the one Mahmood used against Tulisa.
Lewis told Press Gazette: “More and more people are coming forward. This goes a lot deeper.”
He added that Mahmood “gave a bad reputation to journalists”.
Although privacy and libel claims are time limited, Lewis believes that the clock will effectively be reset as a result of the new information which has come to light through Mahmood’s conviction.
This was the case for phone-hacking claims, which in some cases related to invasions of privacy which happened 12 or 13 years previously.
He said that claimants may also seek to recover damages for loss and injury arising from criminal convictions secured as a result of Mahmood’s actions.
Lewis believes that Mahmood was guilty of entrapment, plying his targets with alcholol and then offering them huge incentives to do things which they would not normally do – such as supply drugs.
Although many of Mahmood’s stings were based on video evidence, Lewis believes videos may have been selectively edited to incriminate his targets.
He said that, as with phone-hacking, compensation claims would take into account the nature of the methods used by Mahmood.
There have been more than 700 legal payouts by News Corp as a result of the hacking scandal at a total cost of more than £300m.