21 Nov 2011

Hugh Grant accuses Mail on Sunday in hacking inquiry

Giving evidence at the Leveson inquiry, actor Hugh Grant has linked the Mail on Sunday to phone hacking and complained about the treatment of the mother of his baby.

The Leveson Inquiry was set up in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal which led to the closure of the News of the World. But Mr Grant also linked the Mail on Sunday to alleged hacking.

When pressed for evidence, he described an article that claimed his relationship with former partner Jemima Khan was on the rocks because of his late night calls with a “plummy voiced” studio executive from Warner Brothers.

I cannot for the life of me think of any conceivable source for this story in the Mail on Sunday other than the voicemails. Hugh Grant

He said the story, for which he sued and won damages, was untrue but that he had been unable to work out what its source was.

It was only while preparing for the Leveson appearance, he said, that “the penny dropped”. The only explanation was that it came from messages left on his phone by an executive’s assistant in Los Angeles.

He said: “I cannot for the life of me think of any conceivable source for this story in the Mail on Sunday other than the voicemails that were on my telephone.”

Robert Jay QC countered that this claim was “pure speculation.”

A spokesman for The Mail on Sunday said that the paper “utterly refutes” Hugh Grant’s claim. “In fact in the case of the story Mr Grant refers to the information came from a freelance journalist who had been told by a source who was regularly speaking to Jemima Khan,” said a spokesman. “Mr Grant’s allegations are mendacious smears driven by his hatred of the media.”

Hospital visits

Mr Grant then described several incidents where he believed that information on him was gathered unfairly by the press including an article published earlier this year about him attending Chelsea and Westminster hospital that described him waiting patiently in accident and emergency.

He said: “This is an article that says I went to hospital – it is my medical record saying I was dizzy with shortness of breath – which was a gross intrustion of my privacy. I think no one would expect their medical records to be made public or to be appropropriated by newspapers for commercial profit. That is fundamental to our British sense of decency.”

He alleged that someone at the hospital may have been paid to tip off the press.

‘They staked out a new mother’

Focusing on the most recent example of what he saw as press intrusion, Grant talked about the media interest in the birth of his first child in September to Tinglan Hong. “They staked out a new mother for three days, ” he said, adding that he had held off from visiting the mother so as not to draw attention.

But after a visit a day later, newspapers immediately knew about the birth, including the fake name Hong checked into the hospital under.

“All my fears about a leak seemed to be justified,” he explained.

Mr Grant also accused the Daily Mail of using “brinkmanship” to get him to confirm the story, by threatening to publish the next day.

A spokesman for The Daily Mail said that the paper “unequivocally denies” the allegation. “In fact the information came from a source in his showbusiness circle more than two weeks after the birth. We then spent a further two weeks seeking a response to the story from his publicists,” a spokesman said.

The lawyer went on to ask him about his meeting with former News of the World features editor Paul McMullan, whom he tape-recorded talking about “extensive” hacking at the paper.

Mr Grant also alleged that some police officers leaked information to journalists about celebrities who fell victim to crimes.

“All I know is that for a number of years, although it did get better in recent years, if someone like me called the police for a burglary, a mugging, something in the street, something that happened to me or my girlfriend, the chances are that a photographer or reporter would turn up on your doorstep before a policeman,” he said.

Mr Grant said that his fear of speaking out against the tabloids had meant he kept quiet for a long time about his real feelings: “Prior to a year ago, if the British tabloids came up I gave a neutral answer or a flippant answer because to speak out is to invite a terrible press storm on your head…”

Mr Grant’s appearance on Monday followed evidence from the parents of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.