On Sunday night, CNN aired part five of The Murdochs: Empire of Influence, a new documentary series that is basically the real version of Succession. Sunday’s episode, “Hack Job,” relived the imbroglio of phone hacking that rained infamy Rupert Murdoch‘s British tabloids in the early 2010s. For those of us painstakingly obsessed with every twist and turn in this sordid affair, it was a hearty dose of nostalgia.
And yet the news of phone hacking suddenly feels anything but nostalgic. A series of new allegations from some very prominent people have not only thrown the case back into the headlines, but also one of Britain’s most powerful media organisations, the daily mail, who is now facing a “legal offensive” – as the plaintiffs’ lawyers describe it – from a group made up of: Prince Harry (already at war with British tabloids over their coverage of Meghan Marklea); Baroness Doreen Lawrence; Sir Elton John and his husband, David Furniture; and the actors Elizabeth Hurley and Sadie Frost.
In a press release issued Oct. 6 through the law firm of Hamlins, these individuals publicly claimed that they had been “victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross violations of privacy” at the hands of Associated Newspapers, the parent company of the Mail and its sister titles, the Post on Sunday and Mail Online. More to the point, the press release claims that “private investigators have been hired to secretly place listening devices in people’s cars and homes,” “instructing individuals to covertly listen to and record people’s private telephone conversations.” as they happen”; and the “access to bank accounts, credit histories and financial transactions through unauthorized means”, among other illegal practices.
The plot soon thickened: four days after Hamlins’ announcement, it was revealed that former British MP Simon Hughes (I heard Hughes filed his claim on the same day as the others, but it didn’t initially appear in the court’s e-filing.) Again, details are sparse, but the guard reported that Hughes’s case was “expected to allege that the newspaper publisher employed a private investigator who improperly accessed his voicemail messages.” Also known as phone hacking.
In a separate but adjacent story, the guard reported that Murdoch’s Sun is facing eight more cases of phone hacking that are “working their way through the justice system”. world news, which was discontinued in 2011. (The following year came the findings of the Leveson inquiry into British press practices; a highly anticipated second installment of the inquiry, examining the relationship between British journalists and the police, was scuttled by Theresa Maygovernment in 2018, with broad support from the newspapers.) The scandal, as many expected, was not limited to News of the world. Lawsuits eventually spread to The sun, that has steadfastly denied phone hacking while still pursuing lawsuits alleging the practice News from the world and The sunMurdoch’s News Group Newspapers, a British division of News Corp, has paid hundreds of millions of pounds to a veritable army of litigants.) Meanwhile, outside Murdoch-world, the parent company of the Daily mirror has also been hit by dozens of claims.
Now, with the Mail Taken to court by a cabal of A-listers, some of them veterans of the phone hacking wars, it looks like we’re at the beginning of a new chapter in the more than a decade old saga. part two of the Leveson study, this is the most important development,” said evan harris, a former MP and champion of press responsibility, who settled his own phone hacking claim against Murdoch’s British newspaper branch earlier this year. Mail always said it wasn’t involved [in criminal behavior]and his executives, in fact, said so under oath during the Leveson investigation. That is one of the many reasons why the stakes are very high. This is a very powerful media group, even more powerful than the Murdoch press, and it is about whether the Leveson investigation was misled or misinformed.”
The Mailfor its part, does not take the allegations to heart. “We completely and unequivocally refute this preposterous defamation,” the Associated Newspapers statement said, “which appears to be nothing more than a pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to Mail titles in the phone hacking scandal involving articles up to 30 years old. These baseless and highly defamatory claims – based on no credible evidence – appear to be simply a fishing expedition by plaintiffs and their lawyers, some of whom have already pursued cases elsewhere.”