Actor Hugh Grant’s claims of blagging, unlawful newsgathering, and phone tapping against The Sun newspaper will go ahead to a full High Court trial, a judge has ruled.
The 62-year-old star believes he was illegally targeted by the newspaper between 1995 and 2011, with journalists allegedly using private investigators to tap his landline phone and obtain private information.
Grant even claims The Sun placed a tracker on his car and ordered the burglary of his flat in the pursue of stories.
In a ruling on Friday, Mr Justice Fancourt blocked Grant’s claim that he had fallen victim to hacking of his mobile phone voicemails, saying the actor had long suspected he was a victim of phone hacking and should have brought the legal claim years ago.
But the judge allowed Grant’s other allegations of unlawful newsgathering to go ahead to a full trial, set for January 2024.
The Four Weddings and a Funeral star appeared alongside Prince Harry for the preliminary High Court hearing last month. Harry is bringing similar claims against both The Sun and the now-defunct News of the World.
A summary of the judge’s decision outlined that Grant brought claims for alleged voicemail interception against him and associates, tapping of his landlines, bugging of his home and car, burglary of his home and office, blagging of confidential information from third parties, and instructing private investigators to commit unlawful acts.
News Group Newspapers (NGN) - which denies the allegations - made submissions to the court that the claims were brought out of time, with a six-year limit on filing allegations at the court.
“Mr Grant’s case was that he had long suspected that News Group had caused his and his associates’ phones to be hacked, but that he did not bring a claim against News Group previously in relation to phone hacking because he believed the denials of phone hacking at The Sun that News Group issued publicly, in particular on oath to the Leveson Inquiry and to the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee”, read the summary.
“The decision of the court in the application is that, by January 2016 at the latest, Mr Grant knew enough relevant facts about phone hacking at The Sun, or could easily have discovered them by asking his lawyers, to believe that he had a worthwhile claim for phone hacking.
“He was aware that his lawyers had evidence from people involved in phone hacking that appeared to show that News Group’s denials in relation to The Sun were false, and that claims against News Group were being brought on that basis. That was sufficient to start time running no later than January 2016 for his phone hacking claim.
“Time therefore expired before Mr Grant issued his claim.
“In relation to the other Unlawful Acts, however, the decision is that Mr Grant will have a realistically arguable case at trial that he did not know enough by 9 March 2016 about landline interception, bugging, burglaries, blagging and the commissioning of private investigators to do these matters, to believe that he had a worthwhile claim for them.
“There is a clear distinction between the state of Mr Grant’s knowledge of facts relating to phone hacking activities and his knowledge of facts in relation to the other Unlawful Acts in respect of which claims are brought.”
Reacting to the ruling, a spokesperson for NGN said: "News Group Newspapers is pleased that, following our application, the High Court has ruled that Mr Grant is statute barred from bringing a phone hacking claim against The Sun.
“NGN strongly denies the various historical allegations of unlawful information gathering contained in what remains of Mr Grant’s claim."