UK

Phone hacking hearing due at High Court

Sienna Miller
Image caption Actress Sienna Miller is one of several celebrities accusing the News of the World of breach of privacy

A hearing at the High Court on Friday is to consider the next steps in handling civil cases relating to News of the World phone hacking allegations.

The hacking scandal has so far led to 24 cases involving breach of privacy coming before the court, including that of actress Sienna Miller.

News International, owner of the paper, has already apologised to eight victims and set up a compensation fund.

On Thursday, police investigating phone hacking arrested a third person.

News of the World journalist James Weatherup - who has also worked as a news editor for the tabloid - was questioned by officers at a central London police station.

He was held on suspicion of conspiracy to unlawfully intercept communications, but was bailed until September. The News of the World said it was not commenting on Mr Weatherup's arrest.

It followed the arrest last week of chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and ex-news editor Ian Edmondson on suspicion of having unlawfully intercepted voicemail messages. Both were also released on bail until September.

Paper's apology

The High Court hearing scheduled for later on Friday could shed light on the wider scandal.

It is rumoured there may be as many as 5,000 potential victims of phone hacking.

The BBC's legal correspondent Clive Coleman said more might emerge about which victims will accept compensation under the scheme, who will fight on, and how many more are bringing civil claims.

With so many cases, High Court judge Mr Justice Vos will try to find the most efficient way to establish common legal and factual issues, so that claims can be resolved as speedily as possible, our correspondent added.

The hearing comes in the wake of News International's apology and admission of liability in some cases, and its proposal to set up a compensation scheme.

The BBC understands News International was ready to settle claims with eight people, including former Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, her estranged husband, lawyer David Mills, designer Kelly Hoppen, sports broadcaster Andy Gray, and Joan Hammell, a former aide to ex-deputy prime minister Lord Prescott.

Since January, the Metropolitan Police have been re-examining the scandal after receiving "significant new information".

In 2007, the first police investigation led to the convictions and imprisonment of the then NoW royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was employed by the paper.

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