A London court on Friday dismissed an attempt by the editor of the tabloid The Sun to dismiss a lawsuit brought by actor Hugh Grant alleging that journalists and investigators hired by him had illegally sniffed him.
Judge Timothy Fancourt said a trial must determine whether Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers conducted unlawful intelligence gathering, which included tapping Grant’s landline phone, tapping his car and breaking into his home.
“If these allegations are true – which will be the subject of the trial scheduled to take place in January 2024 – these allegations would demonstrate very serious, willful misconduct at NGN, committed on a large scale on an institutional basis,” Fancourt wrote. “Of particular relevance … they would also include a concerted effort to cover up the wrongdoing through the hiding and destruction of relevant documentary evidence, repeated public denials, lies to regulators and authorities, and unwarranted threats to those who dare to make allegations or intended claims against.” to sign them up, initiate The Sun.”
During a hearing last month, the News Group argued that allegations of illegal intelligence gathering by Grant and Prince Harry should be dismissed because they were not made within a six-year period.
The ruling didn’t address the Duke of Sussex’s case, as the judge wants to know more about Harry’s allegations at a hearing in July that he was prevented from pursuing his complaint over telephone due to a “secret agreement” between Buckingham Palace and News -Hacking much earlier to submit group executives.
The judge dismissed Grant’s phone-hacking claims on the grounds that it was a time limit and said the actor, who played a key role in press reform group Hacked Off, was aware of the voicemail tapping scandal aware and could have filed such a lawsuit much earlier.
Earlier, Grant had resolved a phone hacking case with the News Group’s former publication News of the World. This newspaper was shut down in 2011 at the height of the hacking scandal aCentre County Reporter it was revealed that the tabloid intercepted voice messages of a murdered girl, in addition to those of celebrities, athletes, politicians and members of the royal family.
News Group has claimed that no illegal intelligence gathering took place at The Sun.
But the judge said the case could go ahead on other allegations, which the actor says he only became aware of in 2021, aCentre County Reporter private investigator Gavin Burrows began disclosing allegations of phone tapping, wire tapping and burglary on behalf of the newspaper .
“In addition to hacking my phone and tapping my landline, (Burrows) also knew that my premises had been broken into by people working for The Sun and that a tracking device had been placed in my car,” Grant said in testimony . “I found that amazing.”
Grant said he could never find out who broke into his fourth-floor apartment in 2011. The door had been blown off its hinges and inside it looked like there had been a fight, but nothing was missing. Two days later, The Sun published a report on the interior and “signs of a domestic dispute”.
Prince Harry claimed last month that the royal family had agreed to an out-of-court settlement of their cases with News Group aCentre County Reporter the phone-hacking lawsuit against News of the World was settled. He said the deal – which his grandmother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, was said to have agreed to – was intended to stop the royals from testifying in court. He said the deal required an apology.
In court filings, Harry said he filed his lawsuit in 2019 – against the wishes of his father, now King Charles III – when he was frustrated that the settlement didn’t go through. He said his brother, Prince William, heir apparent, subsequently got a “big” settlement over phone hacking allegations against News Group.
NGN has denied that there was a “secret agreement”. The palace has not responded to messages seeking comment on this or William’s alleged settlement.
A News Group spokesman issued a statement on Friday saying he was pleased the court had dismissed Grant’s phone hacking allegations.
“NGN strongly denies the various historical allegations of unlawful information gathering contained in the remains of Mr. Grant’s claim,” the statement said.
Harry’s lawsuit against News Group is one of three phone-hacking lawsuits he has filed against British tabloids.
Fancourt is currently hearing evidence from a lawyer for Harry and three others against the Daily Mirror editor for alleged unlawful intelligence gathering dating back to the 1990s. Harry is due to testify in the case next month.
Another judge is considering whether lawsuits brought against the Daily Mail publisher by the Duke, Elton John, actress and model Elizabeth Hurley and others should go to trial.