LONDON – A police blogger unmasked by The Times of London is suing the paper after it admitted hacking his email, a lawyer said Friday. It’s the latest fallout for Rupert Murdoch’s British media empire as the scandal over its reporters’ misdeeds grows.
Lawyer Mark Lewis told The Associated Press that his firm had filed suit against the 227-year-old publication over its hacking of Richard Horton’s email account. “We did lodge papers,” Lewis confirmed in an email, adding that the suit was filed Tuesday.
The Times identified Horton as the detective behind the award-winning “NightJack” blog in a controversial 2009 piece which Horton unsuccessfully sued to try to suppress. The blog provided a rare, behind-the-scenes look at policing in Britain, where many forces are so media shy that even spokespeople demand that their names be kept secret.
According to an account of the 2009 lawsuit published in Britain’s New Statesman magazine, Horton’s lawyer raised the possibility that the detective’s Hotmail account had been illegally accessed â€” an allegation dismissed as “baseless” by Times lawyer Alastair Brett.
However, in recent public statements and in testimony before an official inquiry into media ethics, senior Times managers admitted that one of their reporters had accessed Horton’s account.
“‘Baseless’ was not the best word to use,” Brett told the inquiry last month.
The inquiry, headed by Lord Justice Brian Leveson, was set up in the wake of the uproar over phone hacking at Murdoch’s now-defunct News of the World. The top-selling Sunday tabloid had spent years routinely eavesdropping on the voicemails of celebrities, politicians, sports stars and other public figures in an effort to stay ahead of its competitors.
The scandal has led to dozens of arrests, resignations, and suspensions across Britain’s police and press. It has also spread to other arms of the Murdoch empire, including Fox News’ British sister channel Sky News, which earlier this month acknowledged hacking into emails to score scoops.
Times publisher News International, which has already settled some 60 lawsuits over phone hacking at the News of the World, declined to comment on the lawsuit.