- By Tom Symonds
- Domestic correspondent
Hugh Grant has been granted permission to sue the publisher of the Sun newspaper for using profanity and wiretapping against him.
A judge has rejected an attempt by News Group Newspapers (NGN) to block his lawsuit because he did not bring it within six years.
The actor claims that private investigators working for The Sun tapped his phone, bugged his house and car and broke into his home to get stories about him.
The publisher rejects the claims.
Grant was denied permission to sue because his voicemails were tapped after the judge ruled he could have filed a phone-hacking case much earlier.
Some of the evidence against the paper was contained in a witness statement given by private investigator Gavin Burrows.
A similar legal argument centered on the claims of the Duke of Sussex is due to be heard by the High Court in July.
NGN said it was “pleased that, following our application, the High Court has ruled that Grant is barred from bringing a phone-hacking claim against The Sun.”
“NGN vehemently denies the various historical allegations of illegal information gathering contained in what remains of Grant’s claim.”
Hugh Grant’s statement in the case alleges that parent company News UK lied for years about its involvement in phone hacking and illegal information gathering.
He said the company had a “comprehensive, long-standing and deliberate policy strategy of false denials and other concealment in relation to The Sun, to prevent me, and others in a similar position, from bringing claims against them.”
This included, he said, false denials to the Leveson Inquiry into Press Standards, a press complaints body, and in public statements.
Cases of this type in the civil courts must be brought within six years, and this deadline has become a major legal battleground in cases against newspapers, because allegations of wrongdoing often go back 30 years.
Publishers are trying to argue that cases should not go to trial because alleged victims of illegal newsgathering delayed their legal actions.
Mr Justice Fancourt said, in his judgment, that Hugh Grant had long believed that private investigators had been paid to look into his private life.
However, it was not until 2021 when News Group Newspapers revealed invoices for their payments that Grant had potential evidence that could allow him to win the case in court.
This judgment does not mean that the question of whether Grant’s claim is too late has been settled, but it will now be dealt with in the trial next year.
The judge said there was a realistic chance the actor would establish at trial that before seeing this evidence he “could not reasonably have believed with sufficient certainty that he may have been targeted by PIs instructed by The Sun”.