Mirror hacking case 'unparalleled', High Court told
Lawyers for eight hacking victims suing Mirror Group Newspapers have asked for damages of up to £400,000 for those most seriously affected.
Mirror Group has admitted publishing more than 100 stories about the high-profile claimants in the case.
The hearing at London's High Court is considering what compensation should be paid by the publisher to the victims.
In his closing speech, David Sherborne, representing the victims, said the case before the court was "unparalleled".
He told Mr Justice Mann it was the result of a conspiracy involving "teams of journalists" across three national newspapers: The Mirror, The Sunday Mirror and the People.
Hacking was "rife" at each of the titles by 1999 at the latest, he said, adding that the case was about "the systematic gathering of private information for profit, using illegal means".
"It is this context in which damages fall to be assessed," he told the judge.
What the judge was being asked to do was "unparalleled", Mr Sherborne said, and the cases brought against Mirror Group were "exceptional" - even compared to other privacy actions.
Damages should take into account the victims' distress, loss of personal autonomy and the affront to their dignity, he added.
Mr Sherborne also said it had been inappropriate for Mirror Group to have required hacking victim Paul Gascoigne to attend court, saying it had been "extremely difficult" for the former England footballer to give evidence.
The High Court has heard evidence from the eight victims: BBC creative director Alan Yentob; actress Sadie Frost; soap stars Shane Richie, Shobna Gulati and Lucy Taggart; TV producer Robert Ashworth; flight attendant Lauren Alcorn, and Mr Gascoigne.
BBC correspondent Richard Lister, at the High Court, said Mirror Group had suggested that hacking was carried out by a small group of journalists and had sought to play down its impact.
But he said it had been revealed in court that about 100 other people had come forward to bring claims against the group.
Last month, Trinity Mirror, owner of the three titles, published a "sincere and unreserved" apology for the voicemail interception, saying it "was unlawful and should never have happened".
The hearing was adjourned until Tuesday when Matthew Nicklin QC, the barrister for Mirror Group, will make his closing speech.