Tomlinson Mirror privacy claim to proceed

Actor and Royle Family star Ricky Tomlinson’s misuse of private information claim, and privacy actions by other claimants, against MGN Ltd over alleged “unlawful information gathering” (‘UIG’) will be allowed to proceed to trial, the High Court has ruled.

Tomlinson is one of dozens of claimants in the managed ‘Mirror Newspapers Hacking Litigation’ whose action against MGN is currently headed for trial in May 2023. In January, MGN applied for an order for summary judgment in 23 of those claims on the basis that the claims were brought too late, an attempt to bring them to an end in MGN’s favour without trial.

In April, Mr Justice Fancourt heard applications in respect of six of the 23 claims, including Tomlinson’s, the idea being that the Court’s decision in relation to the six would enable the parties to agree on the fate of the remaining actions themselves. The other five applications concerned claims by actress Nikki Sanderson; Zoe Grace, a close friend of several high-profile individuals; Ingrid Dupre, the former wife of TV presenter Chris Tarrant; Fiona Wightman, the former wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse; and Paul Sculfor, a model. In addition to alleged UIG, the claims were brought over articles published in the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and the Sunday People.

In a judgment handed down on 27 May, Mr Justice Fancourt rejected MGN’s argument that the alleged UIG claims should be disposed of in MGN’s favour at the current stage because the claimants knew, or with reasonable diligence could have discovered, the information necessary to bring their claims within the permissible six-year window. The ruling means that these claims can continue to progress towards trial next year.

However, the Judge ruled that the claims for misuse of private information based on the actual publication of the articles in the MGN titles should not proceed, on the basis that here each claimant had known the essential facts required to bring their action in time.

In a witness statement Tomlinson reportedly said he only realised he might have a claim against MGN in or around 2019, when his Royle Family co-star Ralf Little mentioned it to him, and contended that “[i]f I had known for one minute that this was going on, I would not have waited this long to do something about it”.