Former Brighton and Hove journalist to sue Met in phone hacking case

Posted On 23 May 2011 at 5:53 pm

A journalist who lived in Hove and worked in Brighton has won the latest round in his battle with police over the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

Brendan Montague, 36, a freelance who used to work for The Argus, is one of four claimants who were given permission to take the Metropolitan Police to judicial review.

The other three were former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott, the Labour MP Chris Bryant and the former Met police commander Brian Paddick.

The four claim that the police deliberately misled them over evidence that their mobile phones had been hacked.

A High Court judge, Mr Justice Foskett, believes that they have enough of a case to bring a judicial review of the way that the Met handled their cases.

The judge said that although he was “not truly persuaded” that Mr Montague had an “arguable claim”, he would allow his application to proceed for “pragmatic reasons”. Scotland Yard is still assessing the evidence that it holds.

At an earlier hearing the court was that the Met told John Prescott repeatedly that he was not a victim of phone hacking.

But his voicemail had been intercepted 45 times by the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed for his role in the scandal.

Public interest

Mr Montague’s case follows an incident when he tried to sell a story to the News of the World in his capacity as a freelance journalist. He believes that someone working for the newspaper hacked into his mobile phone to obtain information illicitly and costing him up to £30,000.

Mr Montague has written about his case previously for The Guardian. He wrote: “Blagging your way into someone’s phone records would be morally defendable if there was a genuine and compelling public interest.”

His case appears to have owed more to journalistic and commercial rivalry.

Mr Montague, who worked for the Hollingbury-based Argus in 2003 and 2004, added: “This is an abuse of power by newspapers owned by one of the most powerful media tycoons in the world, Rupert Murdoch.”

Mr Justice Foskett said that he was reversing an earlier refusal to allow the claimants to pursue a judicial review.

He said that the change of heart had come about because the fresh police investigation into the scandal had produced significant new evidence supporting their claims.

And he said that he now expected full disclosure from the police in the judicial review, warning them to be aware of their “duty of candour”.

The four men are claiming that their human rights were breached and Mr Justice Foskett ruled that their cases could be heard in a High Court judicial review. No date has been set for the hearing.

Steve Coogan, the actor and comedian who lives in Hove, is suing the publisher of the News of the World in a separate case for hacking his phone.

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