Shobna Gulati has told the High Court that phone-hacking led to her son being bullied at school and to run away form home.
The actress, who played Sunita Alahan in Coronation Street, became emotional as she gave her evidence at a hearing to decide the amount of compensation to be awarded in eight representative cases brought against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN).
The others involve TV executive Alan Yentob, actress Sadie Frost, ex-footballer Paul Gascoigne, soap stars Lucy Taggart and Shane Richie, flight attendant Lauren Alcorn and TV producer Robert Ashworth.
Sadie Frost is one of the stars involved in hacking cases (Chris Radburn/PA)
Shobna told Mr Justice Mann in London that her phone started to be hacked from 2003, two years after she joined the soap opera, and at one point she wrote to the Press Complaints Commission after an article appeared in the Sunday Mirror about her ‘secret marriage’.
She said that the ‘salacious gossip’ about her past affected her son who was nine at the time and he was bullied ‘quite extensively’ the following day at school about who his father was. The article led to him having to leave when he was 14.
“I’m a single mum living on my own with my son. I believed it wasn’t in the public interest that the parentage of my child would be debated in a Sunday newspaper so I wrote this letter.
“I’ve always been very careful about answering questions about my son and had never been photographed with him until he was 18.”
Shobna Gulati (Eamonn and James Clarke/Empics)
She had never talked publicly about her son’s father: “This is personal information. It was extremely private.”
Shocked at the story being in the paper and not knowing where the information had come from, she was concerned that her new partner had given the story. “Obviously, given the evidence I have seen, he hadn’t, but I accused him and our relationship fell by the wayside.”
Ms Gulati said that when her son was 11, he ran away from home after another article appeared saying she had been ‘dumped’ both by her lover and bosses at Coronation Street and might be going into the jungle for I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here.
“I was in a very unsure position. My mother had also been seriously ill that year and, given I’m a single parent, my son was really concerned who was going to look after him if I was going into the jungle.”
The former Corrie star at the High Court (Chris Radburn/PA)
The 48-year-old actress, who is currently appearing in Mamma Mia in Liverpool, said she had never been offered the reality show and was not going into the jungle, but humorously referred to the possibility on voicemails she left.
She had not spoken publicly about her disappointment over leaving Coronation Street, but had on voicemail. Nor had she spoken out about the end of her relationship – although she left many voicemails for her boyfriend. “I was in a very difficult position. I probably left a message begging for him to come back which wasn’t for public consumption. It was between me and him.”
Breaking down briefly, she added: “It was a very, very difficult time, losing your job as a single parent….when you have no one to share it with. The one person you share it with is probably your lover at the time… These voicemails were very, very deeply personal.”
Ms Gulati said that she regarded a written apology she had received over the hacking at MGN as ‘hollow and disingenuous’. She said she continues to be caused ‘all sorts of pain and trauma’ because she is still unsure ‘as to how much of my personal life was listened to by faceless, nameless folk’.
Referring to the apology over hacking, she said she felt ‘great, you have said sorry’, but added: “However, it still leaves me feeling slightly empty inside.”
Matthew Nicklin QC, for MGN, asked her if she accepted that the group was ‘trying to put things right’.
The actress replied: “After a very long time they are trying. I would have felt less mad if it had been done sooner.”
Asked if she accepted they were ‘extremely sorry for what happened to you’, Ms Gulati told Mr Nicklin: “I accept your apology, yes.”
The court will hear evidence from Mr Ashworth this afternoon and from Ms Frost tomorrow morning.