Shock truth behind phone hacking scandal and who was targeted

Phone hacking scandal

Scandalous: Phone Hacking on Trial is a BBC Two documentary that takes a look at the sometimes murky way some of Britain’s biggest newspaper groups have gathered information…

Sienna Miller, Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan, Heather Mills and Shobna Gulati are among the famous faces who appear. They speak out about their claims of being targeted by newspapers.

So which celebs have accused the newspapers of hacking them? Has any of it been proven, and who is to blame?

Here’s everything you need to know about the phone hacking scandal, and which famous faces were targeted… And it wasn’t just stars of the screen – even murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler was a target.

Scandalous: Phone Hacking on Trial lifts the lid on the murky business (Credit: BBC Two)

Scandalous: Phone Hacking on Trial on BBC Two

This 90-minute documentary delves into the phone hacking scandal and the resulting civil court cases. Actors and celebrities discuss their allegations amid the bitter legal battle that is currently – decades later – still playing out in the courts.

The three main tabloid newspaper groups stand accused of using unlawful information gathering to secure headlines in the competitive world of publishing. These include the Mirror, News of the World, and The Sun.

The BBC Two doc is told through the testimonies of alleged victims. They claim they were targeted unlawfully by the papers. Sienna Miller, Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan, Heather Mills, Shobna Gulati and Simon Hughes all appear.

The project was filmed over two years, so expect it to be pretty extensive.

Which celebrities claim they’ve had their phone hacked?

There are dozens who claim they were hacked by leading newspaper groups. These include TV stars, actors, celebrities and members of the public.

Of course, most recently, Prince Harry appeared in court. He “fought back tears” while recalling his alleged phone hacking ordeal.

As part of the same trial, soap actress Nikki Sanderson entered the witness box in the High Court in London this month. She gave evidence in her representative claim against the Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN).

Sienna Miller in Anatomy of a Scandal cast
Sienna Miller as Sophie in the cast of Anatomy of a Scandal (Credit: Netflix)

Phone hacking scandal: Sienna Miller

TV and film actress Sienna Miller, 41, claims that the phone hacking scandal caused her to have a “breakdown”. She was one of a number of celebrities who had their phones hacked by the now-defunct News of the World.

Speaking to British Vogue at the end of 2022, she said being a victim of the phone hacking scandal led her to experience “an absolute breakdown on every single level”.

Layer Cake star Sienna Miller had a high-profile love affair with Jude Law. She was one of a number of celebrity victims who had the voicemails of their personal phones hacked by reporters from NOTW.

Sienna Miller shared her thoughts on the period. She said: “There are some things I regret, because I wish I’d been more protected. But life was so out of control. It’s a miracle that I actually retained a career and a life.”

The actress agreed a settlement with News Group Newspapers (NGN) in 2021.

Martine McCutcheon shows off her impressive weight loss on Instagram and fans beg her for tips
Hugh Grant in the hugely successful romcom Love Actually (Credit: YouTube/Universal)

Hugh Grant

Love Actually actor Hugh Grant, 62, is perhaps one of the more vocal celebs to speak out against the media amid the phone hacking scandal.

He claims that journalists at The Sun used private investigators to tap his phone and burgle his house. Hugh Grant, alongside Prince Harry, is currently suing Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers (NGN). He says the published was committed to widespread alleged unlawful information gathering.

The British actor appeared in court in April, with his latest phone hacking lawsuit.

An NGN spokesperson insists the claims are not true. They said: “NGN strongly denies the various historical allegations of unlawful information gathering contained in what remains of Mr Grant’s claim.”

Steve Coogan stars in Stephen on ITV
Steve Coogan as Clive Driscoll in Stephen (Credit: ITV)

Phone hacking scandal: Steve Coogan

Comedian Steve Coogan, 57, reportedly received a six-figure sum in damages from Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN). This came after the publisher admitted to unlawful phone hacking.

Speaking after the High Court judgement, the actor and comedian said he felt “vindicated”. It followed an action by Coogan for misuse of his private information.

Publisher Trinity Mirror said it had “no comment” on the case. But lawyers for MGN, which is part of Trinity Mirror, said the group had apologised.

MGN’s lawyer admitted Coogan was the target of unlawful activities. They said they were concealed until years later: “MGN apologises to Mr Coogan and accepts that he and other victims should not have been denied the truth for so long.”

The exact figure of the settlement was not revealed. However, the Stephen star said most of the money would be distributed to good causes.

Shobna Gulati Celebrity Best Home Cooks
Shobna Gulati took part on Celebrity Best Home Cooks (Credit: BBC One)

Phone hacking scandal: Shobna Gulati

Shobna Gulati appeared in court in 2015. She told the court her phone started to be hacked from 2003 – two years after she joined Coronation Street.

The 56-year-old actress wrote to the Press Complaints Commission after an article appeared in the Sunday Mirror about her “secret marriage”, she said.

Shobna said her son was bullied at school. He ran away from home because of stories Mirror Group journalists wrote after hacking her phone. The hacked voicemails were “deeply personal”, she told the High Court.

She had accused her partner of leaking information, causing their relationship to fall “by the wayside”, she said.

Mirror Group Newspapers subsequently published an apology for phone hacking, saying the practice was “unlawful, unacceptable and wrong”. However, Ms Gulati said that she regarded a written apology she had received over the hacking at MGN as “hollow and disingenuous”.

Nikki Sanderson as Maxine in Hollyoaks
Nikki Sanderson as Maxine in Hollyoaks (Credit: Lime Pictures/C4)

Nikki Sanderson

Hollyoaks actress Nikki Sanderson, 39, appeared at the Rolls Buildings in central London for her phone hacking trial against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) this month.

The soap star “lost some of her sparkle” because of the Mirror’s publisher, her mother told the High Court as part of Nikki’s phone hacking claim.

She is suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for damages. She claims journalists at its titles – which also include the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People – were linked to methods including phone hacking, so-called “blagging” or gaining information by deception, and use of private investigators for unlawful activities.

Several other people gave written evidence in support of her case, including her mother Judith Sanderson, ex-boyfriend Danny Young, and former co-star Tina O’Brien.

Judith Sanderson said in her witness statement: “We were expecting some changes, but we weren’t expecting for Nikki to have to deal with grown-up issues.”

She said her daughter “very quickly” turned from being a “carefree, happy girl with her friends who she loved dearly into somebody who was very suspicious”.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Netflix
Prince Harry appearing in his Netflix show with wife Meghan (Credit: Netflix)

Phone hacking scandal: Prince Harry

Prince Harry, 38, gave evidence in person in early June 2023, the first British royal to do so since the 19th century. He reportedly “broke down” in court following an intense grilling.

Harry testified in the High Court as part of his ongoing case against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN). The Duke was asked if he had any call data to support his phone hacking claims. He replied: “I wouldn’t know, my legal team would know that.”

He was asked if he claimed he was “consistently hacked” by MGN from 1996 to 2010. But Harry again said that he “wouldn’t know”. And when his barrister, David Sherborne, asked him how he found the experience of giving evidence, he seemed to choke back tears before replying that “it’s a lot”.

Harry also launched an attack on Piers Morgan in court, saying: “The thought of Piers Morgan and his band of journalists earwigging into my mother’s private and sensitive messages (in the same way as they have me) and then having given her a ‘nightmare time’ three months prior to her death in Paris, makes me feel physically sick.”

The High Court heard that Prince Harry launched his legal claim to stop wife Meghan from being abused by the press.

Caroline Flack on red carpet
Caroline Flack was a possible victim of phone hacking before her tragic death (Credit: Brett D. Cove /

Caroline Flack

The mother of the late Caroline Flack recently made a shocking claim about phone hacking after Prince Harry stood trial.

Echoing Prince Harry’s allegations, she claimed Caroline “knew her phone was being hacked” when she briefly dated Harry.

Within his testimony, Harry told one particularly chilling story as evidence of the alleged damage media intrusion had done in his life.

He recalled that while going to a dinner party with Caroline Flack in 2009, she had claimed there were photographers lying under a car nearby. At the time he had doubted her and thought instead that she had given stories to the press. He has since come to the conclusion that the incident reportedly occurred as a result of phone hacking.

In conversation with Jeremy Vine on June 08, Caroline’s mother, Christine, spoke out in support of Prince Harry, calling him “brave”.

She said: “When she [Caroline] was seeing Harry, she knew her phone was being hacked. So we used to use a different telephone.”

While she admitted that it was impossible to prove, she said simply that the press “had private conversations of hers that they wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else”.

She even went on to claim that while she couldn’t be sure, she believed journalists had tried hacking her family’s phones as well. Caroline was 40 when she died by suicide in February 2020.

Kym Marsh on the phone
Kym Marsh was targeted by phone hackers (Credit: Aaron Parfitt /

Phone hacking scandal: Kym Marsh

Strictly star Kym Marsh, 47, was among 21 celebrities who were paid damages after settling phone-hacking claims with Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN).

Cases involving 21 people – including Davina McCall, Nigel Havers and Rhys Ifans – were settled at London’s High Court. The settlements all involved undisclosed damages, costs and an apology.

MGN publishes the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and the People.

Milly Dowler Credit: YouTube
Milly Dowler was Levi Bellfield’s last known victim (Credit: YouTube)

Phone hacking scandal: Milly Dowler

Perhaps most shockingly of all, newspapers hacked the phone of murder victim Milly Dowler. In July 2011, it was revealed that the phones of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, relatives of deceased British soldiers, and victims of the 7 July 2005 London bombings had also been hacked.

The News of the World illegally targeted the missing schoolgirl and her family in March 2002, interfering with police inquiries into her disappearance.

The messages were deleted by journalists in the first few days after Milly’s disappearance in order to free up space for more messages. As a result friends and relatives of Milly concluded wrongly that she might still be alive. Police feared evidence may have been destroyed.

The Dowlers’ family lawyer, Mark Lewis, issued a statement describing the News of the World’s activities as “heinous” and “despicable”. The Dowler family subsequently pursued a damages claim against the now defunct newspaper.

Milly Dowler disappeared at the age of 13 on her way home in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, on 21 March 2002.

Paul Gascoigne with Piers Morgan on Life Stories
Paul Gascoigne with Piers Morgan on Life Stories in 2011 (Credit: ITV/Shutterstock)

Who else claims they’ve been hacked?

Retired footballer Paul Gascoigne agreed a settlement with News Group Newspapers (NGN) over alleged phone hacking in 2021. He alleged his privacy was invaded.

Former Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes filed a case against the Daily Mail’s parent company in 2022. He alleged that Associated Newspapers misused his private information. He believes the newspaper publisher employed a private investigator who improperly accessed his voicemail messages.

In 2019, Paul McCartney’s ex-wife Heather Mills was among 90 other people who were awarded a “substantial” settlement following a phone-hacking claim against the News of the World.

More than 40 celebrities subsequently settled phone-hacking claims against MGN, including Lord Archer, footballer Kevin Keegan and actresses Patsy Kensit and Michelle Collins. They were resolved by the payment of undisclosed sums and an apology from the newspaper group.

Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke and actors Joe Swash and Denise van Outen joined a long list of individuals who were the subject of agreed statements read out to Mr Justice Mann at the High Court in 2017.

Former Corrie star Tina O’Brien has previously settled her own claims with MGN, too. Les Dennis, Frank Bruno, singer Samuel Preston, and Bob Mortimer also settled.

Model Nancy Moir, Cherie Blair’s former fitness trainer Carole Caplin, Emmerdale actor Ben Freeman, and Coronation stars Jimmi Harkishin, Alan Halsall, Lucy-Jo Hudson, Kate Ford and Samia Longchambon all settled in 2018. That same year, model Danielle Lloyd and former footballers Dwight Yorke and Andrew Cole received undisclosed damages from Mirror Group Newspapers over phone-hacking.

Read more: Prince Harry ‘fights back tears’ in court during grilling amid phone hacking trial

Scandalous: Phone Hacking on Trial airs on BBC Two at 9pm on Thursday, June 15, 2023.

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