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Hugh Grant gets court go-ahead to sue publisher of Sun

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The High Court ruled that some lawsuits had been submitted too late to proceed

By Tom Symonds

Home Affairs correspondent

Hugh Grant is set to take the Sun newspaper on in court over claims it used illegal methods to gather stories about him.

The actor believes private investigators working for the Sun tapped his phone, bugged his house and car, and burgled his home.

The Sun's publisher News Group Newspapers (NGN) unsuccessfully argued his action should be blocked because he waited too long to launch it.

NGN denies the claims against it.

A judge was asked to rule on whether Mr Grant's lawsuit should be allowed to proceed because it dates back further than six years, the cut-off point for legal action of this kind in civil courts.

This time limitation has become a major legal battleground in cases against newspapers, because allegations of wrongdoing often go back 30 years.

Publishers attempt to argue that cases should not go to trial because alleged victims of unlawful newsgathering delayed their legal action.

But Mr Grant argued he should be allowed to bring the case now because material he and his lawyers will rely on only came to light in recent years.

Some of the evidence against the newspaper was contained in a 2021 witness statement made by private investigator Gavin Burrows.

It was only when NGN disclosed invoices for their payments to Mr Burrows around the same time that Mr Grant had access to potential evidence which could help him win his case in court.

In his judgement, Mr Justice Fancourt acknowledged that the 62-year-old actor and privacy campaigner had long believed that private investigators had been paid to look into his affairs.

The judge said there was a realistic chance Mr Grant would establish at trial that, before seeing the 2021 evidence, "he could not reasonably have believed with sufficient confidence that he may have been targeted by [private investigators] instructed by the Sun".

This judgment does not mean the issue of whether Mr Grant's claim is too late has been decided, but it will now be considered at the trial next year.

In a statement released through his lawyer, Mr Grant said: "I am pleased that my case will be allowed to go to trial, which is what I have always wanted - because it is necessary that the truth comes out about the activities of the Sun.

"As my case makes clear, the allegations go far wider and deeper than voicemail interception."

Mr Grant's statement in the case claims that for years newspaper published News UK lied about its involvement in phone hacking and illegal information gathering.

He said the company had a "vast, long-lasting and deliberate policy strategy plan 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.

While the actor was successful in securing his day in court on part of his claim, the court refused Mr Grant permission to sue NGN for allegedly hacking his phone voicemails, as the judge ruled he could have brought a case much earlier.

NGN said it was "pleased that, following our application, the High Court has ruled that Mr Grant is statute-barred from bringing a phone hacking claim against The Sun."

"NGN strongly denies the various historical allegations of unlawful information gathering contained in what remains of Mr Grant's claim."

A similar legal argument centred on the claims of the Duke of Sussex is due to be heard by the High Court in July.

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