Publishers of the Daily Mirror have been accused in the High Court of hiring private investigators to look into the backgrounds of High Court judges including a judge on the Ryan Giggs super-injunction case.
Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) had the accusations levelled against them by lawyers of victims as part of a phone-hacking claim. It was said they attempted to unlawfully gather information “pursued anyone and everyone to suit its agenda in the most egregious way, including senior members of the judiciary”.
Further to this, the judges they targeted were “particularly those who granted anonymity injunctions in privacy proceedings”. The lawyers did not name the judges that were targeted but noted that it continued until mid-2011 up until the Leveson inquiry where the practices and ethics of the British press and in particular the tabloids was placed under a microscope.
Mirror Group Newspapers have faced a mountain of litigation for alleged phone-hacking including cases featuring famous figures such as former England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, a former nanny of David and Victoria Beckham’s children, James Hewitt, David Walliams and many more. Mirror Group Newspapers have been forced to settle a number of the claims but much remains outstanding.
In this particular case, Mr Justice Mann said that claimants wished to rely on evidence containing “an instruction to provide background – ‘b’ground’ – Mr Justice Eady”, the now-retired High Court judge who presided over the CTB v News Group Newspapers super-injunction case.
The CTB v News Group Newspapers case is of course the notorious case where former Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming used parliamentary privilege to name Ryan Giggs as the secret married footballer who had sought a super-injunction to prevent details of an affair being printed in the press shortly after Mr Justice Eady had refused to discharge the injunction.
The evidence came to light after The Mirror’s publishers were forced to release invoices relating to private investigators which included references to judges in the High Court as revealed by David Sherborne who is representing the claimants. The documents are alleged to relate to Mr Justice Eady and Mirror Group Newspapers also targeted “unspecified information about some unspecified members of the High Court and Court of Appeal”.
One of the solicitors representing some of the alleged victims made a witness statement stating: “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.”
Such is the number of cases that Mirror Group Newspapers are having to deal with that not all of the claims can be heard simultaneously. As of October 2020 there were 68 active claims with 18 of them being heard at trial this year.
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