A lawyer acting for Virgin Atlantic Airlines has confirmed a staff member leaked celebrity flight details to a paparazzi agency.
Jillian Brady told the Leveson Inquiry today the individual, unnamed during the hearing, had admitted passing information to picture agency Big Pictures after denying the allegation. The scandal was first reported in the Guardian in April, and later industry publication Press Gazette. Both are said to have received legal threats from the agency since publishing articles on the matter.
The company confirmed on April 5 the data – including flight details of actress Sienna Miller and footballer Ashley Cole – must have come from internal data and reported it to the Information Commissioner. The Guardian story was published the same day.
The employee was interviewed again on April 16 and confirmed she had written the emails to Big Pictures, having already resigned. Brady said the employee had deleted all the emails sent from her account and closed it down. Big Pictures have not responded to Virgin Atlantic on the matter.
In a written statement, Big Pictures UK chief executive Nigel Regan said: “l am asked to give a full account of what occurred, and to answer a number of specific questions regarding the allegations made in The Guardian articles. For legal reasons I am not in a position to answer these.”
Guardian reporter Josh Halliday, who wrote the initial story, submitted emails from his source to the inquiry but refused to name the individual forwarding the information.
One email sent to the Virgin employee said: “Just trying to sort you out some money with accounts”.
Lord Justice Leveson said the case was an important example of how an organisation separate from the press industry deals with leaking allegations. Brady said the company had investigated a team of people to find evidence to back up the claims.