Monday, November 7, 2011

#Hackgate : #NOTW hired investigators to spy on hacking victims' lawyers

Exclusive: Investigators followed and filmed lawyers of hacking victims in apparent bid to gather material on their private lives
Mark Lewis, who has represented victims of phone hacking including the family of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, was one of the lawyers targeted. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The News of the World hired a specialist private investigator to run covert surveillance on two of the lawyers representing phone-hacking victims as part of an operation to put pressure on them to stop their work.

The investigator secretly videoed Mark Lewis and Charlotte Harris as well as family members and associates. Evidence suggests this was part of an attempt to gather evidence for false smears about their private lives.

The News of the World also took specialist advice in an attempt to injunct Lewis to prevent him representing the victims of hacking and attempted to persuade one of his former clients to sue him.

The surveillance of Lewis and Harris occurred during the past 18 months, when Rupert Murdoch's son James was executive chairman of the paper's parent company, News International.

He is due to give a second round of evidence to a House of Commons select committee on Thursday and is likely to face intense questioning about the quality of his leadership.

Neither lawyer would comment but friends say they are furious at what they see as an attempt at "blackmail" and are considering suing the News of the World for breach of privacy. They have previously had to reassure clients that their private lives would not be exposed if they dared to sue the more