A former News Of The World reporter, who is a central figure in the phone hacking scandal, is claiming whistleblower status in a wrongful termination lawsuit against the defunct tabloid’s parent company News International.
The Guardian reports that Neville Thurlbeck, the former chief reporter for the now-defunct paper, claims that he was unfairly fired by News International. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Friday before an employment tribunal.
Thurlbeck, who was arrested in April on charges related to the phone hacking scandal, was still on the NI payroll until fairly recently, though it’s unclear when exactly he was fired.
From The Guardian:
Ruth Neil, of employment law firm Stone Joseph, said that there are “very specific rules” in terms of what an individual whistleblower can claim under the act. She said to use it as a defence it was necessary to have reported any alleged wrongdoing to another person in authority, such as a police officer or other public servant.
A source familiar with the matter said Thurlbeck’s use of the whistleblower’s defence was “an extraordinary tactic to deploy”.
“We will vigorously contest this case,” News International said.
A key part of the phone hacking scandal relates to a piece of evidence from 2005 called the “for Neville” e-mail, believed to be referring to Thurlbeck, that contained transcripts of 35 hacked phone messages from the phone of former head of the Professional Footballers’ Association Gordon Taylor. The e-mail describes its contents as “the transcript for Neville.”
James Murdoch has repeatedly claimed that he didn’t know about the extent of the phone hackings when he agreed to settle the Taylor lawsuit in 2008. At the time, only former NOTW reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire had been convicted for their involvement.
But a former reporter and the former legal manager for NOTW claim that they told Murdoch of the e-mail before he agreed to the settlement, which, if true, implies that he did know that the practice was more widespread.
A second former top NOTW reporter was also revealed Wednesday to be filing suit against News International over wrongful termination claims. Ian Edmondson, The Guardian reports, filed a claim in April after he was terminated by News International in January. Mulcaire named Edmondson, who was an assistant editor at the tabloid, as the one who instructed Mulcaire to hack the phone of football agent Sky Andrew.