Monday, April 16, 2012

Times of London Sued in Hacking Scandal

By ALAN COWELL AND RAVI SOMAIYA


Published: April 13, 2012

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DiggRedditTumblrPermalink.LONDON — As Britain’s hacking scandal shows little sign of easing, a high-profile London lawyer who has been closely involved in pursuing cases involving Rupert Murdoch’s British tabloids said on Friday that his firm was suing the upmarket Times of London over e-mail hacking for which the newspaper has apologized.



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.The lawyer, Mark Lewis, said in an interview Friday that the “claim has been issued,” and that he would soon be filing a comprehensive statement of case against the London newspaper, also part of Mr. Murdoch’s British newspaper group, News International. The suit, filed Tuesday, concerns a case in which a reporter who is no longer with the newspaper hacked into the e-mail account of Richard Horton, a police detective who ran an award-winning blog under the pseudonym NightJack. The claim, Mr. Lewis said, “is not just on misuse of information or privacy grounds, but also a claim for what lawyers would call deceit,” based on denials the newspaper made. A spokeswoman for News International confirmed the suit had been filed, but declined to comment further.



The blogger’s true identity was not publicly known until an article in The Times of London in 2009 identified him as Mr. Horton.



At a hearing in February of the so-called Leveson inquiry into press ethics and practices, James Harding, the editor of The Times of London, apologized on behalf of the newspaper, saying “I sorely regret the intrusion” into the e-mail account.



His acknowledgment reversed earlier denials by the newspaper.



Britain’s hacking scandal has focused largely on the illicit interception of voice mails, which are at the center of overlapping police, parliamentary and judicial inquiries mainly involving News International, the British newspaper subsidiary of the giant News Corporation.



Investigators are also examining the payment of bribes to public officials at two Murdoch-owned tabloids, The Sun and the now-defunct News of the World.



Hacking into people’s e-mails is a potentially more serious crime than listening to their voice mail messages, and last summer the police opened Operation Tuleta, an investigation into computer hacking that is being held in tandem with one on phone hacking (Operation Weeting) and another on bribing the police (Operation Elveden).



The scandal may be poised to go beyond Britain.



On Thursday, Mr. Lewis, the lawyer, said that he planned for the first time to sue on behalf of alleged victims in the United States, the center of Mr. Murdoch’s global media empire.



In a telephone interview, he said that he would take legal action on behalf of three people — a well-known sports person, a sports person not in the public eye and an American citizen, none of whom he would further identify.



“The News of the World had thousands of people they hacked,” Mr. Lewis said, when announcing the suits in an interview with the BBC, referring to the Sunday tabloid that Mr. Murdoch closed down last year as the hacking scandal engulfed it. “Some of them were in America at the time, either traveling or resident there.”



It was not immediately clear how or whether the action would affect the News Corporation. News International declined immediate comment on the cases.



Mr. Lewis’s clients in the hacking scandal include the family of Milly Dowler, an abducted teenager who was found murdered in an outer London suburb in 2002, and whose voice mail was said to have been hacked after she disappeared. Public outrage at the case helped propel the hacking scandal to new heights in July, leading to the closure of The News of the World.



Reports last year said News International had offered a package of compensation worth some $4.8 million in that case, made up of $3.2 million to the Dowler family, with an additional payment of about $1.6 million to go to charity.



News International has so far paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in other compensation settlements to dozens of hacking victims. But, the BBC said, more than 4,000 people have been identified by the police as possible victims of phone hacking.



The scandal spread further earlier this month when a British satellite news broadcaster, Sky News, whose parent company is partly owned by News Corporation admitted that one of its reporters had hacked into e-mails on two occasions while pursuing news coverage, the first time that such accusations had spilled into television news.



The acknowledgment came just two days after Mr. Murdoch’s son James resigned as chairman of Sky’s parent company, British Sky Broadcasting, or BSkyB, of which News Corporation owns around 39 percent. Company officials said there was no link between the resignation and the hacking revelations, which were made public only as a result of an inquiry by the newspaper The Guardian.



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