UK court to rule on Murdoch tabloid hacking names

LONDON, Sept 1 Thu Sep 1, 2011 9:58am EDT

LONDON, Sept 1 (Reuters) - The names of newspaper staff a private investigator says ordered him to carry out phone hacking for one of Rupert Murdoch's British tabloids could be made public in a court ruling next month, a lawyer involved in the case said on Thursday.

Last week, lawyers for Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed for illegally intercepting voicemail messages for a News of the World journalist, handed over a list of names following an order from a judge.

The document had been delivered to law firm Schillings. The firm is representing the actor Steve Coogan, who believes his phone was hacked and is suing News International, the UK newspaper arm of Murdoch's News Corp.

Disclosure of the names would pile pressure on News International and give a clearer picture of how widespread phone-hacking was at the tabloid.

But police investigating the allegations have requested that the details be kept secret.

"The Met Police have made an application that information remain confidential in the interests of justice," Allan Dunlavy, a lawyer with Schillings, told Reuters.

Dunlavy said the firm agreed not to disclose the names until the police application was heard at London's High Court on Oct. 7. "We'll see where we get to at the end of that," he said.

Mulcaire was jailed in 2007 along with the newspaper's royal affairs correspondent, Clive Goodman, for illegally accessing the voicemails of royal aides and five other people, including supermodel Elle Macpherson.

News International had maintained until recently that phone hacking was limited to a single rogue reporter.

Following civil action by a number of individuals, including Coogan, who believed their phones had been hacked, the company said earlier this year it had evidence the practice was widespread, prompting a police inquiry.

Some executives, including Murdoch's son James, chairman of News International, now face accusations they knew about the illegal activities at a far earlier date than they had previously admitted.

Other senior figures, including former News of the World editorial staff, have been arrested by police probing the allegations the tabloid's journalists illegally intercepted the voicemails of celebrities, politicians, as well as victims of crime and their families.

News International closed the News of the World in July after the disclosure that the phone of a missing schoolgirl, later found murdered, had also been hacked. (Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Karolina Tagaris)