Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) -- News Corp. was sued by a former union boss over claims the News of the World hacked into his phone messages, adding to the company’s legal troubles as it seeks to avoid the first civil trial over the scandal.
Andy Gilchrist, the U.K. general secretary for the Fire Brigades Union from 2000 to 2005, sued Feb. 10 in London over “incidents” during that period, his lawyer Tom Jones, of Thompsons Solicitors, said in a phone interview today.
While the phone-hacking litigation has focused on the now- defunct News of the World tabloid, Jones declined to say which title is involved in the Gilchrist case. Gilchrist told the Independent newspaper last year that police were investigating whether News Corp.’s daily Sun newspaper hacked his phone during a union pay dispute.
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, who shuttered the News of the World in July to help contain public anger over the scandal, flew to London this month to tell Sun staff he’s committed to the title after 10 of its journalists were arrested in a probe of reporters bribing public officials.
News Corp.’s U.K. unit, News International, is preparing to launch its first Sunday edition of the Sun to replace the News of the World.
News International’s press office didn’t immediately return a call for comment. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police, who declined to be identified in line with office policy, declined to comment.
Gilchrist led the union during a strike over pay, during which armed forces covered for firefighters for 15 days between November 2002 and February 2003 -- the first national strike by firefighters in 25 years. The News of the World and the Sun both wrote stories about Gilchrist’s personal life at the time, including a marital affair.
The only confirmed phone-hacking claim against the Sun was made by the actor Jude Law, who focused most of his lawsuit on the News of the World. That case settled last month for 130,000 pounds ($204,000).
Welsh singer Charlotte Church agreed to settle her lawsuit days before it was scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 27 in London, her spokesman said in an e-mailed statement. While News International has paid more than $15 million to settle other cases, police have identified more than 800 likely victims.
Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with News Corp. units in providing financial news and information.
The case is Gilchrist v. News Group Newspapers, High Court of Justice Chancery Division, No. HC12C00562.
--Editors: Anthony Aarons, Christopher Scinta
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