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Friday, 01 August 2014

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Crash victims left reeling over phone hacking claim

Two Workington crash victims have spoken of their shock after allegations that private investigators illegally trawled through their mobile phone records.

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CRASH VICTIM: Daniel Morton has been left shocked by claims that his mobile phone was hacked

Danny Morton, now 33, and Jade McDowell, 21, suffered permanent brain damage in an accident on the old A66 at Great Clifton six years ago.

Their Mini Cooper flipped over at high speed in 2007.

According to court documents obtained by a national newspaper, insurance companies’ investigators illegally accessed private information belonging to the crash victims.

The pair are pursuing compensation claims over the incident.

Miss McDowell, of Westfield, and Mr Morton, of Moore Way, High Harrington, are being represented by David Dawson, of solicitors KJ Commons & Co.

At the time of the alleged phone hacking, Mr Morton was confined to a wheelchair and Miss McDowell was recovering from a brain haemorrhage.

Mr Morton said: “The worst thing about it is that I would have told them the truth if they had asked me, rather than having people sneaking around following me. They could have got the answers directly from me.”

His mum Jane, 53, of Bolton Street, Workington, who is her son’s carer, said: “Danny, Jade and the others – and their families – went through a horrific time without having someone spy on us.”

Mr Morton was in hospital for six months and spent two weeks in a coma. He has had to relearn how to walk and talk and is unable to work.

The father-of-three can only walk short distances and is reliant on a mobility scooter. He may require 24-hour care later.

Miss McDowell was confined to a wheelchair.

Mr Dawson said: “Jade and her family were very disturbed to learn that Jade’s mobile phone account had been hacked by private investigators.

“Not only has Jade had to deal with traumatic and life-changing injuries which have had a profound effect upon her future, but she has now discovered that investigators invaded her privacy in an attempt to discredit her.

“It is equally disturbing that Jade was not informed of the hacking of her phone until she was advised of this by the reporter.”

Insurance company Tradex declined to comment until it has completed inquiries with independent claims agent Watersheds, which was appointed by Tradex at the time of the accident.

The Motor Insurers’ Bureau has denied the allegations.

A spokesman said: “Whilst we are aware of the case, this is a claim now being handled solely by Tradex Insurance Co Ltd.”

The allegations prompted Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, to call for the second part of the Leveson inquiry to have its remit widened beyond the media to include the more widespread use of phone hacking by private detectives.

The crash happened near The Old Ginn House Inn at Great Clifton. Of the six passengers, Miss McDowell and Mr Morton were the most seriously injured survivors.

Andrew Thompson, 27, of Coniston Drive, Cockermouth, died at the scene.

Mark Houghton, of Main Road, Flimby, then 20, was driving at 130mph while high on cocaine and alcohol.

Houghton pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and was jailed for eight years.

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