Soap star Michael Le Vell says thought of voicemail hacking made him ‘furious’

Michael Turner, known professionally as Michael Le Vell, arrives at the Rolls Buildings in central London (James Manning/PA)
Michael Turner, known professionally as Michael Le Vell, arrives at the Rolls Buildings in central London (James Manning/PA)

Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell told the High Court it makes him “furious” to think journalists were hacking into his voicemails when he was accused of sexual offences and at his “lowest point”.

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 spanning 20 years.

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.

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

Michael Le Vell arrives at the Rolls Buildings in central London for the phone hacking trial against Mirror Group Newspapers
Michael Le Vell arrives at the Rolls Buildings in central London for the phone hacking trial against Mirror Group Newspapers (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Mr Le Vell, who is bringing the legal action under his real name Michael Turner, gave evidence at the High Court in London on Monday – the last of the four representative claimants whose cases are being considered.

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

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”.

The actor said: “This was an incredibly difficult period of my life, and the only people I was confiding in at the time were my close friends and family.

“I remember at the time looking at my friends and wondering who had leaked this information which was incredibly upsetting. I was blaming every Tom, Dick and Harry for what I thought were leaks to the newspapers.

“This caused me huge distress at the time, as I was so worried that the newspaper articles were causing damage to my reputation and prejudicing my defence to a very serious charge.”

He added: “To find out that, as my world was falling apart, MGN’s journalists and photographers were falling over themselves to dig up information and photographs about me makes me furious.

“Knowing what I know now, I think it is absolutely disgusting that MGN’s journalists were hacking into my voicemail messages as such a traumatic time in my life.

“It represents a total invasion of my privacy. It makes me so angry.

“Whilst ITV were brilliant at supporting me, I was at my lowest point. The defendant only wanted to capitalise on this.”

Michael Le Vell arrives at the Rolls Buildings in central London for the phone hacking trial against Mirror Group Newspapers
Michael Le Vell arrives at the Rolls Buildings in central London for the phone hacking trial against Mirror Group Newspapers (James Manning/PA)

Mr Le Vell also said he became an unofficial “cast rep” on Coronation Street who would act as a “go-between” for the management and the cast, and was “privy to a huge amount of personal information” about co-stars.

He said that when articles appeared in the press about other cast members, “everybody was pointing the finger” at him and he was considered the “Corrie mole” for a while.

The actor said “lots of relationships were damaged” by this, adding: “So many of my professional relationships cooled after this.

“Whilst most people know the truth now, the defendant’s actions caused irreversible damage to a lot of my friendships at the time, as well as damage to my reputation.

“I also became extremely paranoid about stories coming out and blamed innocent people close to me.

“I didn’t know who I could trust. I did the same things to my friends in the pub that my co-stars did to me.

“I thought that only they knew the information and had leaked it to the press. I am guilty of the same thing to my friends.

“I treated them with immense suspicion, and eventually abandoned my local pub as I felt so paranoid. I now deeply regret this.”

He also said in his statement he is a very private person and that he did not want to come to London, but wants to see “justice done for the injustices done by the defendant in the past”.

He added: “The whole thing is frustrating, annoying and needless.

“I don’t want to be reopening my private life ,but have been forced to relive the past again throughout the course of this litigation.

“I have had my fair share of the courts already, and am annoyed that I may be required to go to court again as the defendant is being unreasonable and refusing to engage sensibly with my claim.

“I feel that they are wasting everybody’s time. They know they have done wrong, and I cannot understand why they are unable to hold their hands up and admit it.

“Having revisited all this material again, I have decided that I want my day in court.

“I need an acknowledgment from MGN that it has had a huge impact on my life and needs to face up to what it has done.”

During cross-examination by Richard Munden, for MGN, the actor was asked why he had compared being a mole to being a sex offender in his witness statement, and said he had made that comparison before he was charged.

Mr Le Vell added that being a mole “was one of the worst things you could do in our business”.

He added: “If there’s no trust, then there’s nothing there.

“For Craig Charles to come up to me and accuse me of being a mole, it was mortifying.”

Asked again about the suggestion that being a mole was worse than being a sex offender, Mr Turner said: “It’s obviously not.”

Mr Le Vell’s case relates to 28 articles published in MGN titles between 1991 and 2011.

The court also heard evidence from David Seymour, a former political editor of the Mirror, who said he had “witnessed the work and behaviour” of the newspaper’s former editor Piers Morgan and regarded him as “unreliable and boastful who was apt to tell untruths when it suited him”.

Mr Seymour said in a witness statement that he had also witnessed Mr Morgan’s “involvement in relation to an incident relating to phone hacking”.

He referred to a 2006 Daily Mail article written by Mr Morgan in which he said he was played a tape of a message left by Sir Paul McCartney to Heather Mills towards the end of their marriage, in which he said the former Beatle sang We Can Work It Out into the phone.

Mr Seymour said in his statement: “What I know about this episode was that I was walking through the newsroom one day, I assume this was in March 2001, and Piers Morgan was standing in the middle with a group of reporters around him.

“He was holding a tape machine and was very jolly. He said to us all ‘listen to this’, then switched on the machine and we could clearly hear Paul McCartney’s voice singing the Beatles song ‘And I love her’.

“He replayed it a couple of times, laughing each time, mockingly. I am pretty sure from my recollection that the song was And I

Love Her, and that Mr Morgan gets this wrong in his article.”

Mr Seymour said he had recounted this story while giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards and ethics.

Mr Munden said last week that 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 trial before Mr Justice Fancourt is due to continue with further evidence from Mr Le Vell on Tuesday and conclude at the end of the month, with a ruling expected at a later date.