Sir Elton John, Prince Harry and Doreen Lawrence sue Associated Newspapers for 'phone hacking'

ITV News' Rebecca Barry reports on the allegations against Associated Newspapers.

The mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, Prince Harry, Sir Elton John and Elizabeth Hurley are suing Associated Newspapers over allegations of phone hacking.

Allegations also include obtaining medical information and accessing bank accounts.

Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish, the actress Liz Hurley, and actress Sadie Frost are all named in court documents dated October 6 accusing Associated Newspapers, which includes the Daily Mail.

It said the group have “become aware of compelling and highly distressing evidence that they have been the victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy” by the publishers. 

Baroness Lawrence, mother of Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered in a racially-motivated attack in Eltham, south London in 1993, has also lodged a claim against Rupert Murdoch-owned News Group Newspapers, publisher of various titles including The Sun and the now-defunct News Of The World.

In a statement, Associated Newspapers refuted the claims and called them a 'pre-planned' attempt to 'smear' the Mail titles.

The allegations include:

  • The hiring of private investigators to secretly place listening devices inside people’s cars and homes

  • The commissioning of individuals to "surreptitiously listen into and record people’s live, private telephone calls whilst they were taking place"

  • The payment of police officials, with corrupt links to private investigators, for inside, sensitive information

  • The impersonation of individuals to obtain medical information from private hospitals, clinics, and treatment centres by deception

  • The accessing of bank accounts, credit histories and financial transactions through illicit means and manipulation.

A spokesman for Associated Newspapers said: "We utterly and unambiguously refute these preposterous smears which appear to be nothing more than a pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone hacking scandal concerning articles up to 30 years old.

Rebecca Barry explains the claims could cost Associated Newspapers "dearly"

"These unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims - based on no credible evidence - appear to be simply a fishing expedition by claimants and their lawyers, some of whom have already pursued cases elsewhere."

In a subsequent statement, the company said allegations made by Doreen Lawrence,  mother of Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered in a racially-motivated attack in Eltham, south London in 1993, were “appalling and utterly groundless smears” adding: “The Daily Mail has campaigned tirelessly for 25 years to obtain justice for Stephen Lawrence and other victims of injustice.”

Lawyers, however, said the allegations were about holding "journalists responsible fully accountable."

"It is apparent to these individuals that the alleged crimes listed above represent the tip of the iceberg," lawyers said in a release sent by Hamlins LLP, the legal team representing Prince Harry on behalf of all claimants.

"And that many other innocent people remain unknowing victims of similar terrible and reprehensible covert acts.

Doreen Lawrence and her son Stuart at a memorial service in London to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Credit: PA

"They have now therefore banded together to uncover the truth, and to hold the journalists responsible fully accountable, many of whom still hold senior positions of authority and power today."

The statement adds the claimants are united in their "desire to live in a world where the press operates freely, yet responsibly."

"A press that represents truth, is sourced in fact and can be trusted to operate ethically and in the interests of the British public," it continues.

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While there have been a number of damages claims over unlawful activity at newspapers in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal – most of which have settled – this is the first claim to be brought against ANL.

NGN has settled claims relating to the now-defunct News Of The World, while never admitting any liability over claims made in relation to The Sun.

Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) has settled claims relating to its titles, including The People and The Sunday Mirror.

Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death in 1993

Both publishers are currently facing further claims, and have recently made attempts to bring the long-running litigation to an end.

In recent days, shortly before a deadline for claims to be submitted, Baroness Lawrence and various other high-profile figures filed claims at the High Court against NGN.

Court filings show claims have been launched against NGN by a host of celebrities, musicians, sports stars and politicians, including comedian Jimmy Carr, television presenter Jonathan Ross, Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles – the former husband of the Queen Consort – and former Liberal Democrat leaders Sir Vince Cable and Tim Farron.

Comedian Jimmy Carr. Credit: PA

The Mail, under then-editor Paul Dacre, campaigned for many years to bring Stephen Lawrence’s killers to justice.

Nathan Sparkes, chief executive of Hacked Off, which campaigns for media reform, said in a statement: “The claim lodged on behalf of Baroness Lawrence raises the possibility that, while publicly applauding themselves as the defenders of the family’s interests, the paper was actively listening on their voicemail messages, and spying on them, in pursuit of new stories.”

He added that the Government should re-establish the second part of the Leveson inquiry into press standards.