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  1. Media Law
November 6, 2013

Mirror fails in bid to throw out phone-hacking cases

By Press Association

The High Court has refused to throw out phone-hacking damages claims brought against Mirror Group Newspapers by ex-footballer Garry Flitcroft and Abbie Gibson, former nanny to David and Victoria Beckham.

Mr Justice Mann also dismissed applications to strike out parts of the claims brought by former England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and actor Shobna Gulati, who played Sunita Alahan in Coronation Street.

He said today that all four actions should survive in their present form.

An application for permission to appeal by MGN Ltd will be heard at a later date.

In his ruling, the judge said that none of the claims for breach of confidence and misuse of private information, which were launched a year ago, set out direct evidence of hacking but were based on inference from various facts which were said to be evidence of a pattern of phone hacking in the tabloid industry generally, and the Mirror Group in particular.

He said that the application relating to Flitcroft and Gibson was made on the basis that their claims have no reasonable prospect of success.

Lawyers for MGN said that Flitcroft's case was "fundamentally flawed" in that it had been demonstrated that phone hacking had no part to play in the story complained about.

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Neither Flitcroft nor Gibson had been told by the Metropolitan Police that they might have been victims of hacking.

The judge said that some significant blows had been landed on Flitcroft's case but they had not destroyed it to such an extent that it had no reasonable or real prospects of success.

He also rejected argument that Gibson's case was fatally flawed evidentially.

He took into account that, in her case, MGN had not denied that the source was phone hacking or sought to say that the source was a human source.

"The absence of even a bare denial is, for the purposes of the present application, of some significance, and the alternative disclosure would not require the identification of a source. It would simply require that the source be identified as human – or of some other nature that would exclude phone hacking.

"That has not been done. Of course, the newspaper is not obliged to do that, but its failure to do so cannot be ignored."

Gibson's case, while weakened, had real – certainly not fanciful – prospects of success, which should be allowed to proceed so that the full relevant material could be made to emerge.

Trinity Mirror earlier admitted that the Metropolitan Police is currently investigating the Sunday Mirror in relation to alleged phone-hacking. 

In a statement released in September, the company announced the probe: “Trinity Mirror plc notes that its subsidiary, MGN Limited ('MGN') publisher of the Group's national newspapers, has been notified by the Metropolitan police that they are at a very early stage in investigating whether MGN is criminally liable for the alleged unlawful conduct by previous employees in relation to phone hacking on the Sunday Mirror.

“The group does not accept wrongdoing within its business and takes these allegations seriously.

“It is too soon to know how these matters will progress and further updates will be made if there are any significant developments.”

 

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