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LONDON – The mother of Hugh Grant’s baby daughter was hounded and threatened by the press because the actor has spoken out on phone-hacking, the Leveson Inquiry heard Wednesday.
The wide-ranging Judicial Inquiry into British press standards and intrusion – launched in the wake of the News of The World phone-hacking scandal – heard that the harassment was direct retribution for Grant’s decision to speak out against phone-hacking in a public campaign.
The claim was made by David Sherborne QC, the barrister representing a large number of phone-hacking victims at the Inquiry. His clients include Grant, the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, the parents of murdered toddler Madeline McCann and motorsports boss Max Mosley.
Sherborne told the inquiry that he had had to apply for an injunction to protect the woman, who had sustained “a campaign of appalling harassment” and has “received threats because of the fact that the father of her child has spoken out against the press.”
The harassment included abusive calls Sherborne said, though he did not claim to know who the calls were from.
“..Whilst Mr Grant was appearing on Question Time, discussing the closure of the News of the World, Rupert Murdoch and press standards generally, she received a barrage of telephone calls … when she finally answered she was threatened in the most menacing terms, terms which should reverberate around this Inquiry: ‘Tell Hugh Grant he must shut the fuck up.'”
Outlining a further litany of incidences of press harassment from a whole range of British newspapers – not just the News of The World – Sherborne told the inquiry that he believed press behaviour was partly responsible for the suicide attempt of singer Charlotte Church’s mother.
The singer’s mother took an overdose after lurid details of her husband’s affair were exposed.
And he said that his client Max Mosley – whose sexual tryst was exposed by the News of The World – believed that his son’s suicide was in part because of the effect of exposure on his family.
Earlier, the Inquiry heard from Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger that News Corporation’s power and influence had been a force of intimidation in British life.
“Did people, both internally and externally, feel a fear of News International? Was its influence across many aspects of British political and cultural life simply too dominant? How did News Corp leverage its commercial, political, journalistic and (as we now know) outsourced criminal muscle?” he asked.
The Leveson Inquiry has heard opening statements from various participants in its first week of hearings and will hear from Hugh Grant, JK Rowling, Max Mosley, Charlotte Church and Steve Coogan from next week. A second phase of the Inquiry will focus directly on criminal revelations at the News of The World, hearing evidence from, among others, Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch.
Earlier the inquiry heard from Neil Garnham QC, representing the Metropolitan Police, that it “could not be assumed” that all 28 names found in the notebooks of investigator Glenn Mulcaire were those of News of The World staff.
“Some of them probably are. For many others it’s impossible, at least thus far, to say if they were or not.”
News International’s lawyer Rhodri Davies QC had told the Inquiry on Tuesday that the number was disputed.
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