The News of the World’s ex-chief reporter, who was arrested over the phone-hacking row, is taking Rupert Murdoch’s News International to a tribunal claiming unfair dismissal, officials said on Wednesday.
News International, the British newspaper arm of Murdoch’s US-based News Corporation empire, said it would “vigorously” contest Neville Thurlbeck’s claim that he was sacked for whistleblowing at the now-closed tabloid.
An official at the East London Employment Tribunal told AFP a preliminary hearing in the case was scheduled for Friday. The official confirmed that the case was Thurlbeck versus News International.
A News International spokeswoman said: “News International will vigorously contest the case.”
Thurlbeck, 50, is at the centre of the phone-hacking scandal due to an email that allegedly showed hacking at what was Britain’s biggest-selling Sunday newspaper was more widespread than previously claimed.
The email was entitled “for Neville” and contained hacked information about Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor, who later received a £425,000 (480,000 euros, $680,000) payout from News International.
Earlier this month the News of the World’s former lawyer told a parliamentary committee that News International chairman James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son, was told in 2008 about the email — a claim James Murdoch has denied.
The News of the World had long maintained that hacking was limited to former royal editor Clive Goodman and a private detective, who were both jailed in 2007. The paper was shut down in July as the scandal spiralled.
Thurlbeck was arrested in April, one of the first of 16 people held for questioning over alleged illegal phone hacking.
He and two other men, reported to be the paper’s former news editor Ian Edmonson and reporter James Weatherup, were bailed on Wednesday until March 2012, London’s Metropolitan Police said.
The phone-hacking scandal led to the closure of the News of the World after 168 years and the resignation of Metropolitan Police chief Paul Stephenson, while also raising questions about links between British politicians and Murdoch’s empire.