Sir Elton John and David Furnish are “outraged” and “mortified” over allegations of unlawful information gathering by the publisher of the Daily Mail – including tapping their home landline – the High Court has been told.
Sir Elton and Mr Furnish appeared at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Monday for the start of a four-day hearing over privacy claims brought by the couple against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL).
Along with the Duke of Sussex, Baroness Doreen Lawrence of Clarendon, Sadie Frost, Liz Hurley and former Lib Dem MP Sir Simon Hughes, the couple are bringing claims over allegations it carried out or commissioned illegal or unlawful information-gathering – including the accessing and recording of private phone conversations.
ANL says it firmly denies that unlawful information-gathering took place at its newspapers and that the legal claims against it are being brought too late.
Documents filed on the couple’s behalf, made available to the media on Monday, claimed the landline phone of their Windsor home was “tapped by private investigators acting on the instruction of Associated”.
David Sherborne, for the couple, said: “The claimants are outraged that Associated engaged in these unlawful and illicit acts in order to publish unlawful articles about them.
“They are also mortified to consider all their conversations, some of which were very personal indeed, were tapped, taped, packaged and consumed as a commercial product for journalists and unknown others to pick over, regardless of whether or not they were published.
“The hurt remains the same, knowing that their lives have been treated as a commodity and their precious, priceless moments of privacy degraded in this way.”
Mr Sherborne said that as well as having their landline tapped, Sir Elton’s personal assistant and the couple’s gardener were also allegedly targeted.
He continued: “In particular, they consider their private home a sacred space.
“To learn now that this was ruthlessly invaded, their home so violated, and their family and loved ones targeted, all through unlawful acts designed to steal and exploit their information, is unforgivable to them.”
The barrister also said that Sir Elton and Mr Furnish were “appalled” by allegedly unlawful articles sourced by accessing medical information.
He continued: “Worse still was Associated’s unlawful obtaining of their first child’s birth certificate, before they had even seen a copy themselves.
“They were heartbroken by the derogatory headline that Associated attached to it, clearly calculated to profit and generate public sensation about an event that they had so carefully guarded to keep precious.”
Mr Sherborne continued: “They are likely to never know the true extent of the intrusion they have been subjected to and certainly the consequences of that.
“They are truly appalled that individuals involved in what took place still hold executive positions of authority within Associated’s newspapers, and believe that these individuals now need to be held responsible for what they did through these proceedings.”
ANL’s lawyers argue the privacy claims against it could have been brought before October 2016 and that it is too late to have them heard now.
They say the cases are “stale” and should be dismissed without a trial, with it being up to the individuals bringing the claims to prove they did not know earlier, or could not have discovered earlier, that they might have had a claim against ANL.