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Farrer & Co has been snubbed by News of the World (NotW) publisher News International, which has turned to Olswang for advice on drawing up a code of practice in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.
Farrers is the publisher’s preferred adviser, having acted for it on numerous occasions, including defending it in the High Court against phone-hacking claims.
Olswang routinely acts against the newspaper group and also counts The Guardian - the paper that has taken the lead on breaking stories about phone-hacking - as a client. This is believed to be the first time News International has turned to Olswang for advice.
Olswang senior partner Mark Devereux and media partner Dan Tench are advising the publisher on an internal review of its practices. A spokesperson for News International confirmed Olswang had been instructed but declined to comment further.
In a statement Devereux said: “I can confirm that we’ve been instructed by News International to help them conduct a thorough review of their practices and systems. Exact details of our terms of reference and all further communications around them will be provided by News International in due course.
“We’re delighted to have been selected to help with such an important project and we expect to come up with some recommendations of best practice which may also have some value for the news industry as a whole.”
Media lawyers said the choice of Olswang sent a signal that News International was taking the issue seriously by selecting an adviser that could be seen as anti-tabloid, rather than sticking with its usual counsel.
In April News International issued an apology to “some civil litigants” whose voicemails had been hacked, and established a compensation scheme for “justifiable claims”.
The phone-hacking affair has been ongoing for several years, since private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and NotW royal editor Clive Goodman were jailed for intercepting voicemail messages of royal aides. The Metropolitan Police is currently investigating the claims.
This week The Guardian claimed that NotW hacked into the voicemail of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. The claims have increased pressure on News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, who was editor of NotW at the time, to resign.