The private detective at the heart of the phone hacking scandal was on Wednesday ordered to reveal who commissioned him to intercept voicemails.

In a landmark ruling that lawyers said effectively scrapped the ancient common law right to avoid self-incrimination, Glenn Mulcaire was told he would have to reveal which News of the World managers ordered him to hack mobile phones.

Mr Mulcaire was jailed in 2007 for the offence when only a few victims were named, but subsequent police investigations have led to accusations that at least 800 people had their phones hacked and 5000 more were potential targets.

Mr Mulcaire had tried to argue that the principle of prevention of self-incrimination (PSI) should protect him from having to reveal the information to lawyers for Steve Coogan, the comedian and actor, and Nicky Phillips, a former assistant to the celebrity publicist Max Clifford.

But a top-level panel of judges found against him. The Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, said PSI, a common law right dating back to the civil war, was an idea that had “had its day”. Sitting with the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, and the vice president of the appeal court, civil division, Lord Justice Kay, he gave Mulcaire four days to lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court.

Unless he wins that appeal, Mr Mulcaire will be compelled to reveal who ordered him to hack phones and to whom he gave the information.

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