Bloomberg News

News Corp.’s Times Sued Over Hacking of U.K. Cop’s E-Mail

April 13, 2012

News Corp.’s Times newspaper in London, which escaped the phone-hacking and bribery scandals at Rupert Murdoch’s other U.K. titles, was sued by a former police blogger for hacking into his e-mail account in 2009.

The lawsuit by detective Richard Horton, who wrote an unauthorized, anonymous blog about police work that gained national media attention, was filed April 11 in London. The Times in January admitted the hacking, which allowed it to reveal Horton’s identity three years ago.

Horton, of the Lancashire Constabulary in Northwest England, seeks “substantial” damages, his lawyer Patrick Daulby of Taylor Hampton Solicitors Ltd., said in a phone interview yesterday. The suit was filed after the Times failed to respond to a letter describing the claims, he said.

The Times, Britain’s oldest daily paper, is the third U.K. title of New York-based News Corp. (NWSA:US) to come under suspicion of wrongdoing during police probes of phone hacking and bribery at the Sun daily tabloid and the News of the World. Mark Lewis, another Taylor Hampton lawyer who represents hacking victims, said this week he is preparing to file suits in the U.S. on behalf of three people, spreading the scandal across the Atlantic.

London’s Metropolitan Police have said more than 800 people, including celebrities, lawmakers and crime victims, had their voice mail intercepted by News Corp. journalists and more than 30 arrests have been made. Murdoch, News Corp.’s chairman, shuttered the 168-year-old News of the World in July to help contain public anger over the scandal.

Mary Kearney, a spokeswoman for London-based News International, which publishes the Times, confirmed the lawsuit had been filed and declined to comment further.

NightJack Author

The Times’ editor, James Harding, told a judicial inquiry into media ethics in February that the paper misled a judge who oversaw Horton’s failed 2009 lawsuit to block publication of his name. The publisher won by claiming it deduced the author of the “NightJack” blog through legitimate means, even though it was aware of the hacking, Harding said.

Alastair Brett, the newspaper’s lawyer from 1977 to 2010, told the inquiry the publisher’s claims in the 2009 case were “not entirely accurate.” Harding has apologized to Horton and the judge in the 2009 case, the editor said.

Reporter Patrick Foster hacked Horton’s e-mail in May 2009 to expose him as the writer of the blog, and the newspaper argued that his identity was in the public interest. Horton, in his earlier lawsuit, had raised the possibility that his e-mail had been illegally accessed.

‘Not Aware’

Foster told his editor and the newsroom’s lawyer at the time about the e-mail hacking, and he was advised to continue to pursue the story through legitimate means, Harding said at the inquiry.

Murdoch told the company’s annual general meeting in Los Angeles on Oct. 21 that he was “not aware” of computer hacking by its British papers. A week earlier, Harding submitted a prepared witness statement to the ethics inquiry, admitting the hacking of Horton’s e-mail.

Labour party lawmaker Tom Watson, who is part of a Parliamentary committee investigating News Corp. wrongdoing, has said police are now investigating computer-hacking claims against the company.

The News Corp. scandal started in 2005 with the discovery mobile phones linked to Britain’s royal family were hacked, and it was revived last year after revelations the practice was far more widespread.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in London at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net


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