22 Jul 2011

Solicitors’ phones ‘hacked by News of the World’

Channel 4 News learns that media lawyer Mark Stephens may have been a target of phone hacking by the News of the World, as police investigate alleged attacks on the voicemails of solicitors.

Julian Assange's lawyer Mark Stephens who has told Channel 4 News his phone may have been hacked by the News of the World

High-profile media lawyer Mark Stephens has revealed to Channel 4 News that police have confirmed he is among the 4,000 potential News of the World phone-hack victims.

His name appears in Glenn Mulcaire’s notebooks, which police are currently trawling. Sixty officers working for Operation Weeting are contacting people whose mobile phone numbers were listed by the private investigator, who served a jail sentence for phone hacking in 2007.

Mr Stephens told Channel 4 News he contacted Scotland Yard to ask if his phone had been targeted. He said: “I asked them if I’d been hacked – they came back to me in 90 mins and said yes.

“It confirmed my worst suspicions, that I was in Mulcaire’s notebook.

“There is nothing I can do about it but the important thing is to ascertain which client [was the target] so I can advise them.

“My concern is for them, not myself.

“Until they [police] come and see me – I don’t know which client it’s in connection with.”

Mr Stephens’s former clients include James Hewitt, who had an affair with Princess Diana, and most recently the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Dowler lawyer targeted

The BBC’s Newsnight programme has revealed that three solicitors, including Mark Lewis, who is representing 70 alleged hacking victims, including the family of Milly Dowler, may also have had their voicemails illegally accessed.

There are also allegations that Mr Lewis was put under surveillance by a private investigator acting for the News of the World. And it is claimed this monitoring was not for the purposes of investigating a story. Mr Lewis has referred the allegations to the police.

Perverting the course of justice

The Law Society has expressed serious concerns following the development, pointing out that interfering with the voicemail of a solicitor is potentially a serious offence if it has been done with the intention of undermining court action.

Hacking into solicitors’ phones would be very serious indeed, and we urge the police to carry out a full investigation,” said the society’s chief executive Des Hudson.

“If hacking was carried out with the intention of undermining court action, it might well constitute an attempt to pervert the course of justice, which is a serious criminal offence.

“In any event, it is a shocking breach of the privacy of both solicitors and their clients.”