News Corp. (NWSA:US)’s U.K. unit was sued by a Welsh priest whose mobile-phone voice mail was intercepted by the News of the World tabloid to get scoops about one of his parishioners, the British pop star Charlotte Church.
Father Richard Reardon, a Roman Catholic priest in Cardiff, Wales, sued yesterday in London, court records show. The Metropolitan Police Service told him the newspaper’s former private detective, Glenn Mulcaire, had his phone number among thousands of pages of notes about victims, according to a court transcript of a Feb. 17 hearing in a related case.
Reardon “was informed by the police that his phone had been intercepted, and that has been made good on the documents,” Church’s lawyer, David Sherborne, said at the February hearing in her privacy lawsuit against the publisher. The New York-based company agreed to pay 600,000 pounds ($967,000) to settle her case later that month.
The new lawsuit is the first by a religious figure, as the scandal has focused on the targeting of celebrities, lawmakers, crime victims and their families. Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp., closed the News of the World in July 2011 to help contain public anger as the scandal peaked.
Reardon, who was on the “friends and family” mobile-phone list of Church’s father James, spoke with the Church family members regularly, exchanging voice mails and text messages with them, a person familiar with the matter said in February.
Reardon’s lawyer, Mark Thomson, declined to comment, as did Daisy Dunlop, spokeswoman for News Corp.’s U.K. publisher, News International. Sherborne also declined to comment.
As part of its settlement with Church, News Corp. said its best-selling Sunday tabloid had intercepted her voice mail from the time she was 16-years-old, hacked into her father’s messages and harassed her mother when she was suffering mental distress.
A trial that would have set guidelines for money damages in other hacking cases was called off after News Corp. reached deals with dozens of victims, including Church, who sang at Murdoch’s wedding in 1999, when she was 13. A second wave of lawsuits filed since then by more than 60 people is scheduled to go to trial in London sometime after May 1.
The civil cases are running parallel to three police probes into phone hacking, computer hacking and bribery of public officials by News Corp. journalists. Eighty people have been arrested, including former News International Chief Executive Officer Rebekah Brooks, who was charged in July.
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