Privacy lawyers scramble to advise celebrities on tabloid phone hacking claims

Lawyers are gearing up for litigation stemming from the News International phone hacking allegations.

Graham Shear

Graham Shear

Yesterday (9 July) The Guardian revealed that Rupert Murdoch’s empire News International had paid out more than £1m to settle legal cases that threatened to reveal phone hacking and other illegal action taken by its journalists.

The article has encouraged a number of celebrities and politicians to turn to lawyers seeking advice on potential legal action.

Teacher Stern Selby partner Graham Shear has assembled a team including Hugh Tomlinson QC of Matrix Chambers and David Sherborne of 5 Raymond Buildings to deal with inquiries from those affected by the allegations.

TV presenter Vanessa Feltz is among the celebrities seeking advice by Shear’s team.

Shear told The Lawyer: “I have been contacted by a number of clients from the film and TV, sports and political world. There are quite a high number of clients that we are working with on this. At the moment we are investigating how our clients have been affected.”

“I’ve been involved in a number of cases over the last five or six years where clients have been suspicious about members of the press have been able to obtain information. This an ongoing issue.”

The allegations against News International raise serious questions about privacy laws and reporting techniques.

Matthew Nicklin of 5 Raymond Buildings said: “It’s not yet clear what legal action will be taken. It does raise very serious questions about privacy laws and data protection. Depending on the detail The Guardian has there is potential for class action in the future.”

Meanwhile, Schillings partner Gideon Benaim told The Lawyer: “We have been warning our clients about these kind of tactics for some time now. The government needs to regulate the press and look closely at the reporting methods used, particularly by the tabloid press.

“The PCC is carrying out an investigation but it’s important that there is a completely independent investigation into this.”