Soap star Nikki Sanderson breaks down in tears after 'traumatising' questioning in hacking case

Nikki Sanderson at the High Court
Nikki Sanderson Credit: PA Images

Actress Nikki Sanderson has told the High Court she is “not an object” as part of her claim against the Mirror’s publisher over alleged unlawful information-gathering.

Former Coronation Street star Ms Sanderson, 39, who is from Bury, is suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for damages.

She claims journalists at its titles – The Daily and Sunday Mirror and the Sunday People – were linked to methods including phone hacking and use of private investigators for unlawful activities.

MGN 'unequivocally apologised' to Ms Sanderson but is still contesting her claim. Credit: PA

Ms Sanderson, who played Candice Stowe in the ITV soap between 1999 and 2005, broke down and left court in tears at the end of her evidence, before returning to her seat.

The actress is bringing her claim in relation to 37 articles published in Mirror titles between 1999 and 2009.

MGN has previously denied that 35 of the 37 articles involved phone hacking or unlawful information-gathering, with one article being not admitted.

During the second day of her evidence, Ms Sanderson was taken through several of the articles by MGN’s barrister, along with some examples of similar stories in non-MGN publications.

One of these stories, a short piece in the Daily Mirror from May 2005, showed Ms Sanderson and her then-boyfriend Danny Young on a beach together, which MGN say came from a photography agency.

Ms Sanderson described the photo as “unflattering”, adding: “I just don’t understand how they knew I was talking about going on holiday with my friends.”

The actress, who has played Maxine Minniver in the Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks since 2012, was then taken to a front-page photoshoot she starred in with the men’s magazine Maxim in August 2005.

Andrew Green KC, for MGN, noted that Ms Sanderson was in lingerie.

Ms Sanderson replied: “I’ve chosen to do it, I’ve got control on the day, I’ve consented to it.”

The barrister later said: “You took the view that this sort of article was good for your career.”

“This sort of article is something I consented to,” the actress replied. “I should have consent over my own life and own image, who I see.”

Ms Sanderson later told the court that she is “within my rights” to make her choices.

She continued: “I’m not public property, I’m not a commodity, I’m not an object, I’m still a human. I have the right to choose what I’m doing.”

Ms Sanderson added that having done interviews and photoshoots “doesn’t mean that the illegal activity against me is okay”.

The court later heard that one of the articles described Ms Sanderson as having an argument near the Coronation Street set.

The Duke of Sussex is among four representative claims in the case Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

Mr Green said: “It says you were fuming … there is a reference to an onlooker.

“This appears to be reporting something someone had seen rather than being gathered from voicemail messages.”

However, Ms Sanderson said she would not have had a row outside of the set, where she could be seen by the public.

She added: “I just don’t feel like that would have happened.”

The actress later denied a suggestion that another article was “utterly trivial”.

“To you it might seem trivial, to me it’s like I was being watched and followed,” she said.

In a witness statement prepared for the trial, Ms Sanderson said that MGN journalists “abused” her when she was a “child”.

Questioned about this on Monday, Ms Sanderson said this related to “the abuse of power towards me as a child”.

In its trial defence, the publisher says Ms Sanderson’s claim is brought too late but “unreservedly apologises” over four payments made to private investigators which it admits are evidence of instructions to unlawfully obtain her private information.

Mr Green told the court on Friday that the evidence in Ms Sanderson’s case is “weak” and the publisher "does not accept that it establishes a case of voicemail interception” and does not show “systemic hacking” of her phone.

Nikki Sanderson at the British Soap Awards 2023. Credit: PA Images

The final question she was asked was how it had been for her to give evidence?

At that point she became tearful and described it as "humiliating and really traumatising" and said it made her feel like she was "on trial".

"This weekend has been the most isolating I've ever felt".

Unable to talk about the proceedings with friends and family, she said: "It's been an horrific experience from the start to the end".

Ms Sanderson’s case is one of four representative claims being heard in London.

They include similar claims brought by the Duke of Sussex, Coronation Street actor Michael Turner, known professionally as Michael Le Vell, and comedian Paul Whitehouse’s ex-wife Fiona Wightman.

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