A London court on Friday rejected an attempt by the publisher of The Sun tabloid to quash a lawsuit by actor Hugh Grant alleging that he was illegally employed by reporters and investigators.
Justice Timothy Fancourt said a trial would have to determine whether Rupert Murdoch’s newsgroup newspapers gathered illegal information, including tapping Grant’s home phone, wrecking his car and breaking into his home .
“If true – which will be a case for the trial scheduled for January 2024 – these allegations would constitute very serious, willful wrongdoing at NGN, which will be conducted on a largely institutional basis,” Fancourt wrote. “Particularly relevant…, they will also institute a concerted effort to conceal and destroy relevant documentary evidence, make repeated public denials, lie to regulators and authorities, and make unwarranted threats to those who have dare to make allegations or to notify the claims intended against him. The Sun.”
During a hearing last month, the newsgroup argued that claims of illegal information gathering by Grant and Prince Harry should be dismissed because they were not brought within the six-year deadline.
The ruling did not address the Duke of Sussex’s case as the judge wants to hear more at a hearing in July about Harry’s allegations that a “secret agreement” between Buckingham Palace and the news allowed him to speed up his phone hacking claims. Was stopped from getting it. Group Officer.
The judge dismissed Grant’s phone hacking claims based on the time limit, saying the actor, who played a key role in the Hack Off press reform group, was well aware of the voicemail interception scandal and that such claims Could have brought it much earlier.
Grant had previously settled a phone hacking case with News of the World, a former publication of the News Group. That paper was shut down in 2011, at the height of a hacking scandal, when it was revealed that the tabloid had intercepted the voicemails of a murdered girl, in addition to celebrities, athletes, politicians and members of the royal family.
The newsgroup has claimed that The Sun has not collected any illegal information.
But the judge said the case could move on to other charges the actor said he only became aware of in 2021 after private investigator Gavin Burrows uncovered alleged acts of phone tapping, bugging and theft on behalf of the paper.
Grant said in a witness statement, “In addition to hacking my phone and tapping my landline, (Burroughs) knew that my premises had been burglarized by people working for The Sun and that my car A tracking device was placed in.” “I found it amazing.”
Grant said he could never piece together who broke into his fourth-floor apartment in 2011. The door had popped out of its hinges and the interior looked as if there had been a fight but nothing was missing. Two days later, The Sun had a story detailing the interior and “hints of a domestic row”.
Prince Harry alleged last month that the royal family had agreed to settle its affairs with the news group out of court following phone hacking litigation against the News of the World. They said the deal – reportedly agreed to by their grandmother, the late Queen Elizabeth II – was aimed at preventing the royals from testifying in court. He said the deal called for an apology.
In court papers, Harry said he brought his suit in 2019 – against the wishes of his father, now King Charles III – after he became frustrated a settlement was not being reached. He said his brother, Prince William, the heir to the throne, later received a “huge” settlement over phone hacking allegations against the newsgroup.
NGN has denied that there was any “secret agreement”. The palace did not respond to messages seeking comment on that or William’s alleged agreement.
A spokesperson for the newsgroup released a statement Friday saying it was pleased that the court dismissed Grant’s phone hacking allegations.
“The NGN strongly denies the various historical allegations of illegal information-gathering contained in Mr. Grant’s claim residuals,” the statement said.
Harry’s case against the newsgroup is one of three phone hacking suits he has brought against British tabloid publishers.
Fancourt is currently hearing evidence against the publisher of the Daily Mirror for alleged acts of illegal information gathering in the 1990s by counsel for Harry and three others. Harry is due to testify in the case next month.
A separate judge is currently reviewing whether cases brought by the Duke, Elton John, actor and model Elizabeth Hurley and others against the Daily Mail’s publisher should go to trial.