Judge vetos more costly searches into News Group phone-hacking

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A judge has ruled that “more vast expenditure” should not be incurred in further disclosure to phone-hacking claimants.

Mr Justice Vos, who is due to assess compensation in 154 claims next June, has heard that the cost of searches carried out so far was “well into seven figures”.

Ruling on whether it would be proportionate to order further disclosure by News Group Newspapers, he said there was already enough generic material to permit a fair trial, so that further huge searches for generic material was not justified, although disclosure in specific cases would still be required.

He said: “It seems to me that, to put it bluntly: you can have too much of a good thing.

“The value of further generic disclosure in the light of the cost and what is presently available is unlikely to be justified.”

Earlier this week, he told lawyers at London’s High Court that they already had “far-reaching” admissions, a great deal of disclosure and as complete a picture as they could get without “a further bucketload of money being spent”.

“The question is why, in the face of all that history, should there now be more vast expenditure. What are you going to get out of it?”

He said today that his conclusion did not come easily to him, in the light of the history of the litigation.

“The history shows that NGN has, even during the course of this litigation, failed to disclose material that ought to have been disclosed, and has been recalcitrant in providing the documents necessary to enable the court to conduct a fair trial.

“I am not saying that that recalcitrance is continuing. But it has formed the backdrop to these proceedings, and it must also be looked at alongside the admitted destruction of relevant material.

“I remind myself once again that, had it not been for orders made earlier in this litigation, much of what has now come out might have been successfully concealed forever.”

A spokeswoman for News International said later: “We have always been committed to bringing these proceedings to a fair, appropriate and expeditious conclusion and welcome today’s judgment which will assist that process.”