Names passed to Steve Coogan by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire will not be disclosed after Scotland Yard intervention
The names of several News of the World journalists who ordered a private detective to hack into mobile phones belonging to six public figures will not be publicly disclosed after Scotland Yard intervened to prevent their publication.
The names were passed to Steve Coogan on Friday by Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who worked for the paper, in compliance with a high court order the actor obtained earlier this year.
The names are critical to the phone-hacking investigation because they could show how far the practice was widespread at the paper, which was closed down by Rupert Murdoch last month, despite consistent denials from its owner News Group Newspapers. Coogan is one of several celebrities suing the paper for breach of privacy.
The high court order instructed Mulcaire to reveal who at the paper asked him to illegally intercept messages left on mobile belonging to former model Elle Macpherson, publicist Max Clifford and four others.
Mulcaire, who was employed exclusively by the News of the World, was also told to reveal who at the paper ordered him to target Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes, PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor, his colleague Jo Armstrong and football agent Sky Andrew.
He was refused leave to appeal against the order earlier this month and handed over the names on Friday, the deadline set by the high court for making the information available.
Law firm Schillings was contacted by Mulcaire's solicitor Sarah Webb of Payne Hicks Beach on Friday and asked not to make the names public. Webb said: "The issues of confidentiality are of concern to the Metropolitan police and we asked Coogan's solicitors not to disclose the information until the Met could consider the matter."
She added: "The issue is not that my client requires to keep matters confidential but rather that the police require him to. We were concerned that our [client] did not breach orders of the court in this respect. The Met are now dealing [with this] and there is nothing more I can add."
Similar high court orders have contained restrictions on publishing the names of News of the World journalists on the grounds that doing so could compromise Operation Wheeting, Scotland Yard's ongoing investigation into phone hacking, by tipping off potential suspects.
Scotland Yard had not responded to requests for a comment by the time of publication.
There is some confusion over whether the order obtained by Coogan allows the names to be released, however. Sources close to the actor insisted they can be identified. News Group's parent company News International refused to comment.
Mulcaire is also taking legal action against News International after it stopped paying his legal fees in July, claiming the company is contractually obliged to do so.
Meanwhile, Coogan has also won a separate high court order to force Mulcaire to name the News of the World executives who ordered Mulcaire to hack into his own phone.
Mulcaire is appealing against that order on the grounds that he would incriminate himself by complying with it because he would be confessing to a crime he has not been charged with or admitted to.
Crucially, that defence is not available to him as regards Max Clifford, Elle Macpherson and the others, because Mulcaire already pleaded guilty to illegally intercepting messages left on their mobiles in the original 2007 phone-hacking court case, which resulted in his imprisonment.
Mulcaire was jailed in January of that year along with the News of the World's former royal editor Clive Goodman.