NoW phone-hacking saga: the legal line-up
24 July 2011 | Updated: 25 July 2011 8:43 am | By Katy Dowell
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News International’s woes have created a new market for the media pack. Since the allegations of phone-hacking first emerged back in 2009 a handful of claimant lawyers have urged the owner of the News of the World (NoW) to come forward to answer questions about payments to private detectives.
Allegations that the tabloid paid a freelance detective to hack the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler took the scandal to another level. Now Prime Minister David Cameron has commissioned a judge-led inquiry to look into relations between Parliament, the police and the media. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, owner of the newspaper, has been forced to eat humble pie in front of a House of Commons select committee.
Here we look at the legal players dealing with the scandal.
Name: Mr Justice Vos
Position: High Court judge sitting in the Chancery Division
In March Chancellor of the High Court Sir Andrew Morritt assigned Mr Justice Vos to case-manage claims relating to phone-hacking enquiries against the Metropolitan Police. He ordered private investigator Glenn Mulcaire to disclose all papers relating to the Hackgate affair in February.
Vos J is a popular figure on the bench, which he joined in October 1999. He is perceived to be an even-handed judge who can handle the pressures of the limelight while dealing with a snowballing caseload.
Name: Lord Justice Leveson
Position: Court of Appeal judge
Lord Justice Leveson was appointed by the prime minister on 13 July to lead the inquiry into Hackgate. The appointment gave Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge the opportunity to hit back at judicial critics by hailing Leveson LJ as an indep-endent force who will clear up the mess.
While he may not bask in the public eye, Leveson LJ has been forced into the spotlight in the past. In 1989, three years after he took silk, Leveson was instructed by the Inland Revenue to lead the prosecution of comedian Ken Dodd, who was accused of tax evasion. Dodd was acquitted of all charges
News International legal team
Name: Sir Charles Gray
Position: 5RB associate member
Former High Court judge Sir Charles Gray is widely considered to be one of the most distinguished in the field of media law.
Last month (16 June), News International appointed Gray to act as an independent adjudicator for News Group Newspapers’ voluntary compensation scheme for hacking victims.
A week after the appointment Gray joined forces with former Times Newspapers lawyer Alastair Brett to launch a media dispute arbitration service, the latter lawyer having left the company last summer (The Lawyer, 21 July 2010).
Gray spent a decade as a judge in the Queen’s Bench Division, having been elevated to the bench in 1997 from 5RB.
Name: Tony Grabiner QC
Position: One Essex Court barrister
Widely considered as being among the top barristers in the country, One Essex Court’s Tony Grabiner QC is clearly worth splashing the cash on in a high-stakes situation.
Grabiner has been drafted in by News International to chair the management and standards committee set up by the company’s parent News Corporation to investigate the scandal.
News International is a new client for Grabiner, who is more accustomed to appearing for financial institutions. Last week he sat in the hot seat behind News International chairman James Murdoch as he was grilled by the House of Commons select committee.
As head of One Essex Court, Grabiner is a well-liked figure, who makes it his business to know the name of everyone in chambers, including the tea lady and the newest arrivals.
Names: Dan Tench and Mark Devereux
Positions: Olswang partners
It came as something of a shock when Olswang partners Dan Tench, a traditional adviser to Guardian Media Group, and Mark Devereux were hired to advise News International on a review of its practices and systems.
The partners are also advising on allegations that NoW paid private investigators to hack into phones belonging to crime victims.
It is widely perceived to be a shrewd appointment, with News International opting for an independent force rather than its traditional legal advisers at Farrer & Co.
Name: Julian Pike
Position: Farrer & Co partner
It may seem strange that the same firm that advises the Queen is the go-to adviser for NoW, but that has been the case for many years.
As head of Farrers’ contentious practice, Julian Pike is the relationship partner for News International and in the past has batted off many actions against its newspapers.
Perceived as a smooth operator with a commercial mind, Pike represented NoW when the hacking claims first emerged. With Pike now on sabbatical, News International has chosen Olswang to determine how best to respond internally.
Meanwhile, Pike is expected to keep his client as Farrers defends the claims in the High Court.
Name: Stephen Parkinson
Position: Kingsley Napley partner
Kingsley Napley criminal litigation head Stephen Parkinson sat alongside former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks as she answered questions from the select committee about her role in Hackgate.
Parkinson is no stranger to clients in the media glare, having advised the former prime minister Tony Blair on the Hutton Inquiry. Other former clients include Margaret Thatcher and John Major and the former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine, who he advised during the BSE Inquiry.
Called to the bar in 1980, Parkinson retrained as a solicitor in 2005, when he joined Kingsley Napley. Between 1999 and 2003 he was deputy head of the Attorney-General’s office.
Name: Jon Chapman
Position: Former News International director of legal affairs
Earlier this month Jon Chapman resigned as News International director of legal affairs as news broke that the tabloid had hacked into crime victims’ phones.
Chapman is used to high-pressure environments, having joined the newspaper group from Enron, where he worked as in-house counsel between 1996 and 2001.
Last Friday (22 July) Chapman, together with former News International legal head Tom Crone, responded to claims made by James Murdoch that Chapman had not passed on critical information about the extent of the Hackgate affair. Together they insisted that they did inform James Murdoch about emails that revealed that the scandal was more widespread than originally thought.
Name: Tom Crone
Position: Former News International head of legal
A week after James Murdoch implied that his lawyers had failed to inform him about the extent of Hackgate, Tom Crone resigned from the company.
A stalwart of the Fleet Street legal set, Crone is highly regarded in media circles and is seen as a tough negotiator.
In 2007 he told a parliamentary select committee examining the hacking
claims: “I tasked myself with finding out what exactly had happened, what was known [and] who knew what other documents there might be. At no stage during their investigation or our investigation did any evidence arise that the problem of accessing by our reporters, or complicity of accessing by our reporters, went beyond the Goodman/Mulcaire situation.”
It is this evidence that is now being called into question by the news group.
Name: Lawrence Jacobs
Position: Former News Corporation group general counsel
In June Lawrence Jacobs resigned from News Corporation, the parent group of News International. According to a statement from the company, he had chosen to pursue “new opportunities”.
Jacobs joined News Corp in 1996 as senior vice-president and deputy general counsel and in 2004 was named senior executive vice-president and group general counsel.
He was the highest-ranking legal adviser at News Corp and has not been cited by the Murdochs in evidence presented to the select committee.
Name: Sarah Webb
Position: Payne Hicks Beach partner
Payne Hicks Beach partner Sarah Webb began advising private investigator Glenn Mulcaire when she was a partner at Russell Jones & Walker. She moved to private client firm Payne Hicks in February this year, taking her clients with her (The Lawyer, 7 February).
Working on both the claimant and defendant sides, in the past Webb has been instructed in cases against The Sun, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail.
Questions had been raised about who was paying Mulcaire’s legal fees. Last week Murdoch confirmed that News International had picked up the tab, but that it would not continue to do so.
Webb is a tough negotiator with a thick skin. She has spent most of the year working for Mulcaire, responding to the court order that forced him to disclose papers about his activities.
Name: Lawrence Abramson
Position: Fladgate partner; formerly managing partner at Harbottle & Lewis
The former Harbottle & Lewis managing partner and litigator, who moved to Fladgate last month (17 June), has worked on a range of high-profile media cases, including acting for Gary Brooker, the singer who wrote A Whiter Shade of Pale, on a copyright dispute with Matthew Fisher.
On 15 July Rupert Murdoch told The Wall Street Journal that Harbottle had made a “major mistake” in underestimating the scope of the Hackgate affair.
The firm was prevented from responding because it owed a duty of confidence to its former client. But when the Murdochs told the select committee that a review of the affair conducted by the firm in 2007 had failed, Harbottle requested to be released from that duty.
Permission was granted and Harbottle has submitted evidence to the police and the select committee.
The Claimant lawyers
The High Court will hear five test cases early next year in relation to phone-hacking. These are being pursued by MP Chris Bryant, former footballer Paul Gascoigne, football agent Sky Andrew, actor Jude Law and interior designer Kelly Hoppen.
The lawyers are:
Bindmans partner Tamsin Allen instructed for Chris Bryant MP.
Steel & Shamash partner Gerald Shamash instructed for Paul Gascoigne.
Mishcon de Reya partner Charlotte Harris instructed for Sky Andrew.
Atkins Thomson partner Mark Thomson instructed for Kelly Hoppen and Jude Law.
The lawyers have jointly instructed Matrix Chambers’ Hugh Tomlinson QC to lead on common issues. Other counsel invoved are Jeremy Reed of Hogarth Chambers, David Sherbourne of 5RB and Sara Mansoori of Matrix.