Phone-hacking victims file lawsuits against Daily Mirror

Four claims filed in High Court over newspaper formerly edited by TV presenter Piers Morgan

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2012, 4:31am

Four alleged phone-hacking victims have filed lawsuits against the publisher of Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper, a tabloid once edited by CNN presenter Piers Morgan, a prominent lawyer said.

The lawsuits are believed to be the first to hit a publication outside Rupert Murdoch's News Corp empire and could mark the further expansion of a scandal which has already tarnished a big chunk of Britain's establishment.

Mark Lewis said on Monday that the new suits had been filed against the Trinity Mirror Group at Britain's High Court.

He confirmed the claimants' identities as ex-England soccer coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, soccer star David Beckham's family nanny Abbie Gibson, former Blackburn Rovers soccer team captain Garry Flitcroft and UK actress Shobna Gulati.

Word that the Mirror now stands accused of eavesdropping on private voicemails may surprise few in Britain's scandal-scarred media.

Insiders have been warning since last year that the row over phone-hacking which first erupted at Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World tabloid would end up spreading to the paper's competitors.

Three months ago, the Metropolitan Police's deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers testified that detectives had begun investigating Trinity Mirror, along with the UK's Express Newspapers, owned by Richard Desmond's company Northern and Shell.

"Our assessment is that there are reasonable grounds to suspect offences have been committed," she said at the time.

The lawsuits are bad news for Trinity Mirror, which has struggled financially amid a general fall in newspaper readership.

The legal fallout from the News of the World saga has cost News Corp tens of millions of pounds in settlements and legal fees. The Mirror's bills, although likely to fall well short of News Corp's, could still be substantial.

The lawsuits are also a potential embarrassment for CNN and for Morgan, who has denied claims he knew phone-hacking had taken place at the tabloid he edited between 1995 and 2004.

Earlier this year, BBC host Jeremy Paxman spoke of a 2002 lunch at which Morgan teased Eriksson's one-time girlfriend about private messages she'd shared with the soccer coach.

Morgan has also revealed he listened to voicemails exchanged by Paul McCartney and his ex-wife Heather Mills, but has never explained how he became privy to the messages.