Soap actor ‘alienated quite a lot of decent people’, hacking trial hears

Mr Le Vell told the court he had ‘burned quite a few bridges’ (Jordan Pettitt/PA)
Mr Le Vell told the court he had ‘burned quite a few bridges’ (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell “burned quite a few bridges” and has been in some “really dark places”, the High Court heard in his claim against the Mirror’s publisher over alleged phone hacking.

The 58-year-old, who plays Kevin Webster in the long-running soap, is suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) – publisher of the Daily and Sunday Mirror and the Sunday People – for damages over alleged unlawful information-gathering between 1991 and 2011.

He claims journalists at the publisher’s titles were linked to phone hacking, so-called “blagging” or gaining information by deception and the use of private investigators for unlawful activities.

Tuesday saw the final day of evidence in the case as Mr Le Vell, who is bringing the legal action under his real name Michael Turner, finished his time in the witness box.

Asked by his barrister David Sherborne how the process had felt, Mr Le Vell replied: “It’s been one of the most distressing… this took about five years off my life.

“It’s been emotional, and it has made me go to somewhere I never thought I would go again – those really dark places – but sometimes you have got to stick up for yourself and this is the time to do that.”

In his witness statement, Mr Le Vell said that following his arrest in 2011 on suspicion of sexual offences – of which he was later cleared – he remembered seeing an article about the arrest and “wondering how the press got hold of this information”.

Discussing one of the 28 articles from MGN titles in the actor’s case, Mr Sherborne asked: “These quotes about how you were feeling… how do you feel about those being published?”

Mr Le Vell said he was “disgusted”.

Michael Le Vell
Mr Le Vell told the court he had ‘burned quite a few bridges’ (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

He continued: “It just makes me sound like I was a broken man, and I was, but I didn’t want the world knowing.”

In his written evidence before the court, Mr Le Vell said he had become “extremely paranoid” about stories about him in the press and that he blamed people around him.

He said on Tuesday: “I feel like I wasted quite a lot of years alienating quite a lot of decent people in my life.”

“I’ve burned quite a few bridges,” Mr Le Vell added.

Going through other articles in his case, the actor was asked about how he felt about the unlawful methods allegedly used by MGN to get the information after he repeatedly said the details would not have come from his colleagues, friends or family.

He told the court: “I don’t really understand the methods. The fact that information about me does get out baffles me.

“It’s distressing, it’s confusing and it makes you doubt the people around you.”

Mr Le Vell added: “When it says an insider, you wonder which insider it was…? You never know where to look.”

“It just makes me feel so vulnerable as well,” the actor continued.

Fellow Coronation Street actor Alan Halsall also gave evidence on Tuesday, supporting Mr Le Vell’s claim.

“To think that people did not trust him and wrongly suspected him of leaking information to the defendant is heart-breaking to me and to him,” he said in his witness statement.

MGN denies Mr Le Vell’s claim, arguing there is “no evidence” of voicemail interception or unlawful information gathering relating to him.

Richard Munden, for MGN, previously said Mr Le Vell’s case is “particularly weak”, saying some articles in the claim were before phone hacking started or when it had “significantly dropped off”.

The actor is the last of the four representative claimants whose cases are being considered as part of the long-running trial.

The other three are the Duke of Sussex, Hollyoaks actress Nikki Sanderson and Fiona Wightman – the ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse.

Ahead of closing submissions in the case, Mr Justice Fancourt said he had “a question in my mind” about whether several people “could and should have given some evidence”.

The judge then listed out more than two dozen names, including former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, “in no particular order”.

He also said that questions had been raised about why “three or four associates of the Duke of Sussex” had not given evidence.

Mr Justice Fancourt added that Mr Morgan and former editor of The People newspaper Neil Wallis “relatively recently had a lot to say about this matter outside of court”.

The trial is due to conclude at the end of the month, with a ruling expected at a later date.