Actor David Tennant and former racing driver Eddie Irvine are among dozens of alleged victims of phone hacking joining legal action against Sun publisher News UK.
Nearly 20 people including former footballer Jonathan Woodgate and entertainer Les Dennis were already suing News Group Newspapers over allegations they were hacked by journalists at the now closed News of the World and the Sun, but the new claims bring the total number of people suing to around 50.
Further claims are likely to be added before a deadline on Friday, with up to 70 cases in total expected to be part of the litigation. A trial is scheduled for October.
The expansion of the case comes at a sensitive time for Rupert Murdoch, the owner of News Group’s ultimate parent company News Corp, who is awaiting a decision by regulator Ofcom over whether to approve a bid by his film and TV business, 21st Century Fox, to take full control of UK broadcaster Sky. The regulator is considering both the deal’s impact on competition, and whether Murdoch and his family are “fit and proper” people to hold a UK broadcasting licence.
Fox is run by Murdoch’s son James, who was also chair of News International, the company which owned News Group, when the phone hacking story broke. Although there was no suggestion Murdoch knew of hacking when it took place, an Ofcom report in 2012 was scathing about his stewardship of the company.
Law firm Collyer Bristow is representing nine of the new claimants, also including actor Sophia Myles and designer Jess Morris. The lead legal firm for the claimants are Hamlins. Collyer Bristow partner Steven Heffer said his clients had been forced to bring the claims after News Group closed its compensation scheme for victims of phone hacking in 2013. The scheme paid compensation to more than 250 people.
Heffer said: “News Group withdrew its compensation scheme in 2013, giving no proper explanation for this move and has failed to compensate victims despite all attempts by lawyers to settle cases out of court.”
“My clients have been left with no alternative but to issue claims in the high court, and a number of other firms have done so this week. News Group has refused to provide disclosure of its wrongdoing forcing victims into court.”
Previous phone hacking cases against News Group have focused on the News of the World, but lawyers acting for claimants in the ongoing action have successfully argued that any trial should also consider whether phone hacking took place at the Sun.
They have also asked the court to order News Group owner News UK, which replaced News International, to hand over emails from the accounts of executives including James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International who now runs News UK, which they say could prove allegations there was an attempt to cover up the scale of phone hacking.
News UK declined to comment.