4 Jul 2012

Glenn Mulcaire loses court bid in ‘milestone’ ruling

Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire loses a supreme court fight to keep the identity of the person who instructed him to intercept messages a secret.

Following a dogged court battle by Nicola Phillips, who worked as personal assistant to publicist Max Clifford, the ruling was hailed by her lawyer Mark Lewis as “a significant milestone”.

Mr Mulcaire, who intercepted mobile phone messages while working for the News of the World, failed to persuade the UK’s highest court that he should be able to rely on privilege against self-incrimination in civil phone-hacking proceedings.

He had asked five supreme court justices to rule on whether he must disclose who instructed him, after Mr Clifford’s former PA Nicola Phillips began a legal battle against him claiming that her voicemail had been unlawfully intercepted.

Mr Mulcaire said his lawyers advised him that he should not have to give “potentially incriminating answers” to questions asked in civil cases at the high court and the appeal was made to protect his “legitimate legal interests”.

Ms Phillips’ lawyer Mark Lewis described the judgment as “a significant milestone” in the phone-hacking scandal, adding that the court had ruled that “Glenn Mulcaire cannot hide behind his right to silence”.

Witness statement

Mr Lewis said Mr Mulcaire would now have to serve a witness statement within the next three weeks answering questions about the News of the World staff who gave him instructions and the nature of that information.

Mr Lewis confirmed to Channel 4 News that he expected the infomation about who instructed Mr Mulcaire to be included in that statement.

Nicola Phillips began a legal battle against Mulcaire claiming that her voicemail had been unlawfully intercepted.

He added: “The Nicola Phillips judgment will have wide-ranging consequences in relation to all the phone hacking claimants and beyond.”

Five years ago Mr Mulcaire and former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman were jailed after the Old Bailey heard that they plotted to hack into royal aides’ telephone messages.

Mr Mulcaire says he is at risk of being charged with further criminal offences, and faces damages claims at the high court, many of which have been brought by celebrities.

He fears he may incriminate himself if he answers questions in the civil proceedings.

Mr Mulcaire appealed to the supreme court after losing fights in the high court and court of appeal.

Judges in the high court and appeal court ruled that Mr Mulcaire should disclose information relating to Ms Phillips’s claim.

Wider implications

Mr Mulcaire was again arrested in December following the launch of a new police investigation, the supreme court was told at a hearing in London in May.

A lawyer told the judges Mr Mulcaire had been released on bail without charge pending further inquiries.

After the hearing, in a statement issued through his lawyer, Mr Mulcaire said: “I will comply with the supreme court ruling to answer questions in Ms Phillips’ case.

“I will consider with my lawyers what the wider implications of this judgment are, if and when I am asked to answer questions in other cases.”

In a statement issued through her lawyer, Ms Phillips said: “This judgment will benefit a significant number of claimants who seek similar information.”

In May 2010, Ms Phillips began proceedings against News Group Newspapers in relation to voicemail messages left on her mobile phone by clients that included “factual information, some of which is private information and some of which is commercially confidential information”.

She applied to add Mr Mulcaire as a defendant and for an order that he serve a witness statement disclosing information under several heads, including the identity of the person instructing him to intercept the messages.