Belfast Telegraph

Ex-intelligence officer awarded substantial damages for hacking

By Jan Colley

A former Northern Ireland-based Army intelligence officer whose computer was hacked has accepted substantial damages.

Ian Hurst brought proceedings at London's High Court against News Group Newspapers, publisher of the defunct News of the World, and News UK & Ireland Ltd (formerly News International Supply Company Ltd) for breach of confidence and misuse of private information.

Mr Hurst served in the Intelligence Corps and the Force Research Unit in Northern Ireland between 1980 and 1991. His main role was to recruit and run agents within republican terrorist groups to obtain intelligence.

Mr Hurst's counsel, Jeremy Reed, told Mr Justice Mann yesterday that NGN now accepted that Mr Hurst's privacy had been invaded.

He added that NGN recognised it would be impossible to determine the full extent of the wrongdoing directed at Mr Hurst and his family, but it acknowledged that, at the very least, his emails were intercepted routinely and intensively over a period of several months during 2006.

It had agreed to pay him substantial damages and his legal costs.

Anthony Hudson QC, for NGN, said it offered its "sincerest and unreserved" apologies.

"News Group Newspapers accepts that such activity happened, accepts that it should never have happened, and has undertaken to the court that it will never happen again.

"Indeed, News Group Newspapers took steps several years ago to ensure that nothing like this could happen again."

Mr Reed said the reason why Mr Hurst was initially targeted is likely to have been because a then, but now former, employee of News Group Newspapers Limited wished to locate the whereabouts of Freddie Scappaticci, the former head of the IRA Security Division.

Mr Hurst had named Mr Scappaticci in a book he co-authored as being an agent of the British government with the codename "Stakeknife".

He added that Mr Hurst regularly engaged in sensitive and confidential and in some cases, privileged, correspondence by email with a variety of people.

These included his solicitors at the time, members of the Irish republican movement, people within the security services, members of the PSNI, and former members of the Armed Forces who had infiltrated the IRA - including individuals in the police witness protection programme, resulting from their inclusion near the top of the Real IRA's hitlist.

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