The publisher of the Daily Mail will bring a bid to end legal action against it by a group including the Duke of Sussex, Sir Elton John and Baroness Doreen Lawrence over alleged unlawful information-gathering at its titles.
The group of high-profile people, which includes Sir Elton’s husband David Furnish and actresses Liz Hurley and Sadie Frost, announced in October they were bringing claims for misuse of private information against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL).
Their lawyers said at that time the group have “become aware of compelling and highly distressing evidence that they have been the victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy” by ANL, which is also the publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline.
In a statement announcing the launch of the legal action, released by Hamlins law firm, it was alleged the unlawful acts included hiring private investigators to secretly place listening devices inside cars and homes and the recording of private phone conversations.
The publisher hit back at the allegations, describing them at the time as “preposterous smears” and a “pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone-hacking scandal”.
A spokesperson for ANL also said the allegations were “unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims, based on no credible evidence”.
ANL is seeking to have the cases dismissed by a judge, without the need for a trial, and will argue they have been brought too late.
In a court order made in December, which was made public on Thursday, Mr Justice Nicklin said that a four-day hearing to consider ANL’s bid to end the cases is due to take place at the High Court between March 20 and April 5.
While there have been a number of damages claims over unlawful activity at newspapers in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal – most of which have settled – this is the first claim to be brought against ANL.
News Group Newspapers (NGN) has settled claims relating to the now-defunct News Of The World, while never admitting any liability over claims made in relation to The Sun.
Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) has settled claims relating to its titles, including The People and The Sunday Mirror.
Both publishers are facing further claims, and have recently made attempts to bring the long-running litigation to an end.
Baroness Lawrence, mother of Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered in a racially motivated attack in Eltham, south London, in 1993, has also lodged a claim against Rupert Murdoch-owned NGN.
The details of that claim are not known but it is understood to also relate to misuse of private information.