Phone hacking


Phone hacking is a criminal offence that is punishable by a maximum of two years in prison or a fine, or both. It has recently received much media attention, following The Leveson Inquiry in 2011.

What is the law on phone hacking?

Phone hacking is covered by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). RIPA:

  • Makes it an offence for anyone to intercept telephone calls, with the exception of the police and security services acting with a warrant from the Secretary of State
  • Makes it an offence to gain access to material which is stored on a communication system, such as a voice message, without a search warrant or ‘production order’, both of which require approval from a judge

The right to privacy has been a contested issue for many years especially since the death of Princess Diana where it was pushed to the forefront of public scrutiny and questions were raised over when enough is enough, and just how far journalists can be allowed to push the limit.

Unfortunately as time healed the scars, the tragedy faded into the background of our memories, often overshadowed by shocking stories such as 9/11. The press found that once again all was fair in pursuing a story and that whilst the public was distracted from such trivialities it could do it with fervour.

20 years ago we questioned the legalities of ‘journalists’ rifling through their intended subjects' rubbish to find the next big scoop. These days, instead of physically scouring your bin, this new breed of techno-wise reporter is willing to ‘rummage’ through our emails, our voicemails and even physically tap into our phones to find the next big story.

The big difference with doing this is that this is illegal.

How can a solicitor help?

If a person suspects that their phone calls or messages have been intercepted illegally, they are advised to call a specialist privacy solicitor. A solicitor will be able to prevent the acquired information from being used, or they can help to minimise the damage. In many cases this will be done by obtaining an injunction from the court.

Phone hacking is not only a criminal offence - it is also a breach of an individual’s right to privacy. A specialist privacy solicitor can help a victim of phone hacking sue for breach of privacy in the civil courts, while the Crown Prosecution Service will be responsible for prosecuting the hacker.

If you are a public figure and suspect your phone is being hacked, it is recommended to seek legal advice from a specialist privacy lawyer to ensure your privacy is protected.

More information can be found on our FAQs on The Leveson Inquiry information page.

Are you looking for a privacy lawyer to represent you for a phone hacking case, or another related privacy law issue? Contact Law works with some of the best privacy lawyers in the country and can recommend a specialist based on the requirements of your case. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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