Saturday, March 10, 2012

#Leveson :Charlotte Church's priest 'targetted by News of the World private eye'

The priest of singer Charlotte Church is taking legal action against the News of the World, claiming his phone was hacked by the jailed private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
The deliberate invasion of the "uniquely trusting" relationship between Ms Church's Catholic family and Father Richard Reardon threatens to derail News Corp's recent attempts to limit the public fallout from the scandal by settling every outstanding phone hacking claim.

Evidence that Father Reardon's voicemails had been illegally intercepted by Mulcaire was expected to be one of the most explosive and controversial revelations heard in the High Court if Ms Church's damages claim against Rupert Murdoch's News Group Newspapers had gone to trial.

Lawyers representing the Roman Catholic priest say they have now gathered evidence that points to Mulcaire listening to his private messages. Father Reardon, from the Archdiocese of Cardiff, has been told by the Metropolitan Police that his details are listed in Mulcaire's notebooks. They are gathered in a "family and friends" phone numbers section connected to Ms Church's stepfather James.

The priest was a trusted confidant of the Church family throughout the period 2002 to 2006, when phone hacking at the NOTW was at its peak. After accepting damages of £600,000 from NI last month, the Welsh singer said: "Nothing was deemed off-limits by those who pursued me and my family."

Tom Watson, the Labour MP at the centre of parliamentary investigations into NOTW's illegal practices, told The Independent: "People of faith will be horrified at this news. How did they [the NOTW] think that targeting a priest was in any way justifiable? It's a disgusting new low for Rupert Murdoch."

Austen Ivereigh, a leading Roman Catholic commentator , said: "Catholics are used to opening their hearts and minds to their priests. The idea that a private investigator could hack a priest's phone in order to get a glimpse into the private life of one of his flock is genuinely shocking. Its takes the invasion of privacy exposed by this scandal to a whole new level."

NI's leading counsel, Michael Silverleaf QC, told a pre-trial review held early last month that the company would dispute in court the claim that information contained in articles in the now-defunct tabloid could only have been obtained through hacking the priest's voicemails.
Yesterday it was confirmed that Mark Thompson, the lawyer who represented Sienna Miller and Jude Law in their successful claims against News International, has been hired by Father Reardon. At his home in Usk, Father Reardon refused to comment.

Ms Church was brought up a Catholic, and during the "lowest moments" of NOTW's years of hounding, the advice and guidance offered by the parish priest is said to have been invaluable.

In court last month the family's lawyer, Mike Brookes, described how the Church family were effectively under constant surveillance for years and that the tabloid gained access to the medical records of Charlotte Church's mother, Maria.

Father Reardon is understood to have been a key factor in helping the family cope with Maria Church's attempted suicide and the trauma that followed.

Ms Chuch's legal action against NI and her settlement was confined to the News of the World, but following consultations with her legal advisers after the settlement with NI, she has decided to seek damages from The Sun. Her advisers believe articles in the paper contained information which could only have come from phone hacking.

A spokeswoman from News International said last night they were not in a position to comment. Mulcaire's lawyer, Sarah Webb, said it would not be appropriate for her client to make any comment "pending the final resolution of all criminal proceedings against him".