Coronation Street’s Kevin Webster says he was branded a “mole” by fellow cast members when he was allegedly the target of phone hacking by journalists, the High Court has heard.
Actor Michael Le Vell, who has starred on the ITV soap since 1983, is suing the Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) over allegations of unlawful newsgathering.
At the start of a seven-week trial where fellow Corrie star Nikki Sanderson and Prince Harry are also bringing claims, statements were put forward setting out evidence which is due to be heard.
Mr Le Vell – real name Michael Turner – says he was the unofficial “union rep” for actors on the soap, and therefore “privy to private information about his Coronation Street co-stars”.
The star claims he was the target of phone hacking and unlawful information gathering across 15 years by MGN, and has highlighted 28 stories he believes resulted from unauthorised access to private information.
“Private information was appearing in newspapers, for which there was no legitimate explanation”, said lawyers for Mr Le Vell. “At the time he wrongly suspected those close to him.”
The actor describes the “upsetting”, “damaging” and “long-lasting” impact of stories about his private life, “explaining that Coronation Street cast members accused him of being a mole due to his position as union rep, which he was ‘absolutely devastated’ by”.
“He also became extremely paranoid and blamed people close to him for stories which were public, even abandoning his local pub as a result”, his lawyer David Sherborne added.
“He is shocked and horrified by MGN’s targeting of him for over 15 years.”
Le Vell’s co-stars Sally Dynevor, who plays his on-screen ex-wife, and Alan Halsall, who plays Tyrone Dobbs, have provided witness statements for the legal battle.
Ms Sanderson, who played Candice Stowe on Coronation Street before going on to join Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks, says she felt like she was “public property” and experienced abuse in the street as she featured heavily in tabloid newspapers.
“The impact of the stories on Nikki Sanderson was aggravated by their false insinuations that she was promiscuous, causing her great upset and giving rise to her being subjected to mental and physical abuse, having people shout at her in the street calling her a ‘whore’, ‘slag’ or ‘slut’ and even being physically assaulted on numerous occasions”, said her lawyers.
“It gave rise to her feeling in a constant state of paranoia, distrusting everyone around her.”
Coronation Street co-stars Tina O’Brien, Danny Young, Samia Ghadie, Lucy-Jo Hudson, and Ryan Thomas are due to be involved in the High Court battle.
MGN denies Mr Le Vell’s claims, arguing there is no evidence of voicemail interception or unlawful information gathering relating to him.
The publisher says Ms Sanderson’s claim is brought too late, but “unreservedly apologises” over four payments made to private investigators which it admits are evidence of instructions to unlawfully obtain her private information.
The publisher also claims that evidence does not suggest Ms Sanderson’s phone was successfully hacked.
MGN has also offered an apology to Prince Harry for unlawful newsgathering over a night out at club Chinawhite, but it denies his wide claims of phone hacking.
The trial continues.
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