Elton John ‘did not see copy of child’s birth certificate before it was unlawfully obtained’ by Mail publisher
Sir Elton John and David Furnish had not seen a copy of their first child’s birth certificate before it was “unlawfully” obtained by the publisher of the Daily Mail and placed beneath a “derogatory” headline, the High Court has been told.
The singer and his filmmaker husband were described as “outraged” and “mortified” in court documents alleging that the privacy of their home was “ruthlessly invaded” – with their landline allegedly tapped and staff “targeted” – in order “to steal and exploit” information to fuel stories about them.
The couple’s allegations form part of a host of similar claims brought against Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL) by a group comprising Prince Harry, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, actors Sadie Frost and Elizabeth Hurley, and former Liberal Democrat MP Sir Simon Hughes.
All but two of the group – Hurley and Sir Simon – were pictured in attendance at London’s Royal Courts of Justice on Monday for the first of a four-day preliminary hearing of the case launched in October, which the publisher is seeking to have thrown out.
Among the allegations put forward by lawyer David Sherborne are claims that ANL monitored the bank accounts and landline of Baroness Lawrence while running a campaign for justice over the racially motivated 1993 murder of her son, Stephen, and made “corrupt payments” to serving police officers for confidential information about his case.
The publisher is also claimed to have hired a private investigator who bugged Hurley’s ex-partner Hugh Grant’s car to unlawfully obtain information about her finances, travel plans and medicals during her pregnancy. A private investigator is also alleged to have been paid to “unlawfully” source the address of a man believed to be Sir Simon’s lover, in a hunt for photographs of them together.
Mr Sherborne, whose clients accuse ANL of “even commissioning the breaking and entering into private property”, said that the alleged acts upon which the trial centres were carried out “covertly” across a period from 1993 to 2011.
ANL says it firmly denies that unlawful information-gathering took place at its newspapers and that the legal claims against it are being brought too late.
Documents filed on Sir Elton and Mr Furnish’s behalf, made available to the media on Monday, claimed the landline phone of their Windsor home was “tapped by private investigators acting on the instruction of Associated”.
“The claimants are outraged that Associated engaged in these unlawful and illicit acts in order to publish unlawful articles about them,” said Mr Sherborne.
“They are also mortified to consider all their conversations, some of which were very personal indeed, were tapped, taped, packaged and consumed as a commercial product for journalists and unknown others to pick over, regardless of whether or not they were published.
“The hurt remains the same, knowing that their lives have been treated as a commodity and their precious, priceless moments of privacy degraded in this way.”
Mr Sherborne alleged that Sir Elton’s personal assistant and the couple’s gardener were also allegedly targeted.
“In particular, they consider their private home a sacred space,” he said. “To learn now that this was ruthlessly invaded, their home so violated, and their family and loved ones targeted, all through unlawful acts designed to steal and exploit their information, is unforgivable to them.”
The barrister also said that Sir Elton and Mr Furnish were “appalled” by allegedly unlawful articles sourced by accessing medical information.
“Worse still was Associated’s unlawful obtaining of their first child’s birth certificate, before they had even seen a copy themselves,” he added. “They were heartbroken by the derogatory headline that Associated attached to it, clearly calculated to profit and generate public sensation about an event that they had so carefully guarded to keep precious.”
Mr Sherborne continued: “They are likely to never know the true extent of the intrusion they have been subjected to and certainly the consequences of that.
“They are truly appalled that individuals involved in what took place still hold executive positions of authority within Associated’s newspapers, and believe that these individuals now need to be held responsible for what they did through these proceedings.”
ANL’s lawyers say the cases are “stale” and should be dismissed without a trial, with it being up to the individuals bringing the claims to prove they did not know earlier, or could not have discovered earlier, that they might have had a claim against ANL.
Additional reporting by PA