Years of phone hacking at Mirror Group were exposed today at the High Court as a judge found in favour of eight hacking victims.
The damages in all eight cases, which totalled in excess of £1.2m, beat the previous record for a privacy claim; and some of the awards are huge in recognising the extent of wrong-doing and the distress caused. The damages are about ten times what Mirror Group were hoping for.
The judge said that the phone hacking, which ran over a prolonged period from at least 1999 to 2010, was ‘very substantial indeed’ and the victims suffered a “serious infringement of privacy”.
Dr Evan Harris, associate director of Hacked Off speaking outside the court said:
“This shows criminal conduct taking place over a ten-year period and even after the arrest and conviction in 2006/07 of Glen Mulcaire and Clive Goodman for hacking at the News of the World.
“Questions must be asked about the failure of Trinity Mirror Group over the ten years, from 1999 to 2010, to prevent or even detect the wrong-doing and their failure for years, after allegations first broke in 2010, to investigate properly and identify what had happened.
“Trinity Mirror Group to all intents and purposes denied any hacking, refused to acknowledge evidence of hacking and vigorously contested civil claims until a sudden U-turn last September. Investors and employees are entitled to ask what on earth the board were doing in this time.
“We predict that there will be hundreds of claims, in addition to the existing 75, and that the Mirror Group has underestimated what it needs to set aside by a factor of ten.”
“Given that the Mirror has lost this case in every possible way, shareholders and staff are entitled to demand that the Directors get their heads out of the sand and admit the full-scale of the costs and damages they now face, which have been hundreds of millions of pounds for News Group.”
“Hacked Off, which support victims of hacking and other forms of press abuse, does not want to see any newspaper close as a result of this. Trinity Mirror Group has chance to save hundreds of jobs and withstand the financial threat by joining a Leveson-compliant recognised regulator as soon as possible. By doing so they can shelter under the arbitration scheme which would protect them from enormous court costs. Trinity Mirror should be paying journalists’ wages not lawyers’ fees.”