News of the World publisher fails in bid to end phone hacking allegations | world news

The News of the World publisher has failed in its attempt to impose a deadline for potential victims of the phone-hacking scandal to file complaints against it.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers (NGN), which published the now defunct newspaper as well as the Sun, has called for an end to the litigation 15 years after the scandal broke.

Around 1,028 claims have already been settled, along with an additional 358 that were filed with a compensation program run by parent company News International between 2011 and 2016.

But NGN’s lawyers were rebuffed when they argued at a hearing in London that it was time to impose a final deadline for potential victims to bring new claims against the organisation.

The failed bid comes as The Sun posted a loss of £51million last year. NGN spent £49m on legal fees and damages related to historic phone hacking allegations in the year to June 27, 2021. This compares to the £80m spent by NGN l ‘last year.

There could be as many as “20,000 to 25,000 potential victims of NGN’s illegal information gathering” and there should be no deadline, lawyers representing a number of victims argued.

David Sherborne, representing the plaintiff group, said NGN’s request for a final deadline was “ill-conceived”.

He argued that “the vast majority of victims are unaware they have a claim due to the intentionally covert nature of NGN’s illegal information gathering and deliberate concealment”.

Anthony Hudson QC, for NGN, told the court on Thursday: “We say that after 15 years of litigation, the resolution and settlement of over 1,000 claims, the enormous use of court time during this period, large disclosure quantities [of evidence] and the enormous costs that have been incurred and paid, we suggest that now is the time to ensure that all contemplated claims are brought within a reasonable time and that the slow drip-feed of evidence – which, depending on the plaintiffs’ approach, could go on for many more years, maybe another decade – is brought to a conclusion.

The lawyer said there had been around 45 hearings since 2016, occupying around 70 hours of hearing time, and that the legal costs had been “exorbitant”, with the total cost of the third installment of the litigation reaching up to almost £35m alone.

He said the allegations had been in the public domain since the arrest of former News of the World reporter Clive Goodman in 2006 and that it would be ‘hard for anyone living in this country to ignore’ the hacking scandal telephone.

But delivering his judgment on Friday, Judge Fancourt said he disagreed with NGN’s assertion that the majority of potential victims already know they can press charges. The judge said: ‘Other claims are now being filed which do not arise from an article being published. Even when the claimants did publish an article about them, it is not clear that this is how the information was gathered.

He added that the new plaintiffs were still aware of the potential claims after appearing as witnesses in other plaintiffs’ cases, but said the court’s position may change in the future.

The court heard there are currently 52 claims on file, with a further 436 claims at the pre-action letter stage and another 82 “in preparation”.