Hacking victims considering legal action

High profile figures whose phones were allegedly hacked by the News of the World are considering suing the newspaper, according to lawyers.

High profile figures whose phones were allegedly hacked by the News of the World are considering suing the newspaper, according to lawyers.

Several barristers and solicitors have been contacted by various public figures seeking advice, media lawyer Mark Stephens said.

A legal action could result in a payout of more than half a million pounds for each individual.

Mr Stephens, of London law firm Finers Stephens Innocent, said he had been approached by two high profile figures seeking advice. He also knew of three barristers and three solicitors who had been approached.

Mr Stephens said: “At the moment it’s fair to say that people are looking at their options, they want to see what is going on.

“The first hurdle for any individual is to ascertain whether they were the subject of criminal behaviour or a conspiracy for criminal behaviour.

“That requires them to obtain from the police, the information commissioner or the court details of what was happening.”

Scotland Yard last night ruled out a new investigation into claims thousands of public figures had their phones hacked.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates said police had seen no additional evidence since its last investigation, which saw News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire jailed for four months and six months respectively.

But he added police would now inform any potential victims that their phone may have been hacked where there was any suspicion.

Keir Starmer QC, Britain's director of public prosecutions, said he was carrying out an “urgent” review of evidence from the original investigation.

The furore broke after the Guardian reported that News Group Newspapers, which publishes the News of the World, had paid out more than £1m (€1.17m) to settle cases that threatened to disclose evidence of its journalists’ alleged involvement in telephone hacking.

It quoted sources saying police officers found evidence of News Group staff using private investigators who hacked into “thousands” of mobile phones.

The victims are said to have included former British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, PR agent Max Clifford, London mayor Boris Johnson and actress Gwyneth Paltrow.

Telephone messages from football manager Alex Ferguson and player Alan Shearer were also allegedly intercepted.

News International, which publishes the News of the World, said it was prevented by “confidentiality obligations from discussing certain allegations” by the Guardian.

But, it added: “Since February 2007, News International has continued to work with its journalists and its industry partners to ensure that its journalists fully comply with both the relevant legislation and the rigorous requirements of the PCC’s Code of Conduct.

“At the same time, we will not shirk from vigorously defending our right and proper role to expose wrongdoing in the public interest.”

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