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Tabloid lawyer accuses disgruntled Grant of 'perjury'

Actor Hugh Grant was "reckless" when he claimed the 'Mail on Sunday' newspaper hacked into his voicemails, a lawyer for UK publisher Daily Mail & General Trust has told a judge-led inquiry into press ethics.

Mr Grant told the inquiry in November that his messages must have been intercepted for a 2007 story claiming he received late-night phone calls from a "plummy-voiced studio executive".

The paper's description of the woman's voice wasn't proof it had listened to the actor's voicemails, lawyer Liz Hartley said yesterday at the inquiry, which was set up in response to the phone-hacking scandal at News Corp's 'News of the World' tabloid.

"To make a very serious allegation against us on something as thin as this was not something that should have been done," Ms Hartley said in her testimony. "I don't think that's a reasonable inference. It's not the sort of detail you would have got from a voicemail interception."

Mr Grant , who starred in 'Notting Hill', has become an unofficial spokesman for victims of Glenn Mulcaire, former private investigator for the 'News of the World', who police say hacked about 800 phones before his arrest in 2006.

Judge Brian Leveson, who is overseeing the inquiry, told Ms Hartley she was accusing Mr Grant of perjury. Robert Jay, a lawyer for the inquiry, said Mr Grant's claim was based on a reasonable assumption about the facts in the news article.

Ms Hartley said that at the time the article was published Mr Grant had claimed it was completely false and that no such woman existed, implying that that claim didn't fit with his new assertion that voicemails from the woman were hacked.

The inquiry, called for in July by British Prime Minister David Cameron, is separate from dozens of civil lawsuits filed by phone-hacking victims and the three police investigations that have yielded more than 20 arrests.

The 'Mail on Sunday' said in November that the information in the 2007 story came from a freelance journalist who spoke to a source close to Mr Grant's then girlfriend, Jemima Khan. Ms Khan has denied the claim, the inquiry was told yesterday.

Irish Independent