Blackstone silk triumphs against Mulcaire in ongoing phone-hacking case

Blackstone Chambers’ Michael Beloff QC has convinced the Supreme Court that Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator at the heart of the phone-hacking scandal, should disclose who instructed him at the News of the World.

Michael Beloff QC
Michael Beloff QC

The five Supreme Court justices were unanimous in the ruling, dismissing Mulcaire’s attempts to overturn decisions handed down by the Court of Appeal and High Court.

Doughty Street Chambers’ Gavin Millar QC, instructed by Payne Hicks Beach partner Sarah Webb, argued that Mulcaire should be allowed to rely on privilege against self-incrimination in cases being pursued against him at the High Court.

Following revelations that her phone had been hacked in May 2010, Nicola Phillips, who had worked for PR guru Max Clifford, launched a claim against Mulcaire in October that year demanding he reveal who had instructed him.

Taylor Hampton partner Mark Lewis instructed Beloff and Hogarth Chambers’ Jeremy Reed to lead the appeal at the Supreme Court. Beloff contended that the Senior Courts Act (1981) excluded privilegeif the offence to which the person would be exposed is a related offence or if the proceedings are related to intellectual property rights.

The court was asked to decide whether the messages on Phillips’ mobile fell within the definition of intellectual property and whether providing the information would expose Mulcaire to conspiracy charges that would be deemed a “related offence”.

The court ruled that the messages were intellectual property as the respondent’s phone had been used for business meetings in which “finances, incidents in which the police have become involved, personal security or publicity issues, commercial business transactions, professional relationships and future career plans” were discussed.

If Mulcaire conspired to intercept messages on mobile phones, an offence was committed when the unlawful agreement was made, the court added.

Supreme Court justice Lord Walker, who gave the substantive judgment with which Supreme Court Justices Lords Hope, Kerr, Clarke and Dyson agreed, stated: “If Mr Mulcaire conspired with one or more persons to intercept messages on mobile phones, an offence was committed when the unlawful agreement was made. But the offence continued so long as the agreement was being performed.”