37 phone-hacking settlements confirmed at High Court

Thirty-seven civil damages claims brought over the News of the World phone-hacking scandal have now been settled, the High Court heard today.

Actor Jude Law, former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott and Labour MP Chris Bryant are among 37 claimants whose settlements were confirmed.

Lawyers for the claimants said the majority of people pursuing damages claims had now settled.

The judge heard statements read out in court on behalf of 18 of the 37. It is expected more will follow at a later date.

Other claimants whose settlements were confirmed today include Shaun Russell, whose wife and daughter were killed in Kent in 1996, former cavalry officer James Hewitt, former MP George Galloway and Welsh rugby star Gavin Henson.

Also among the settlements confirmed in court were Sara Payne, the mother of murdered schoolgirl Sarah, the actress Sadie Frost, footballer Ashley Cole, singer Dannii Minogue and Meg Matthews, the ex-wife of former Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher.

The awards announced were:

  • £30,000 to MP Chris Bryant
  • undisclosed damages to footballer Ashley Cole
  • £50,000 to Jude Law’s ex-wife, designer Sadie Frost
  • £30,000 to Lisa Gower, who had a relationship with actor Steve Coogan
  • £60,000 to an anonymous individual known as HJK
  • £40,000 to Joan Hammell, former chief of staff to Lord Prescott
  • £40,000 to rugby player Gavin Henson
  • £40,000 to Jude Law’s personal assistant Ben Jackson
  • £130,000 to actor Jude Law
  • £32,500 to Labour MP Denis MacShane
  • £35,000 to PR consultant Ciara Parkes
  • £40,000 to entrepreneur Guy Pelly
  • £40,000 to Lord Prescott
  • £25,000 to journalist Tom Rowland
  • £25,000 to solicitor Graham Shear
  • substantial undisclosed damages including aggravated damages to Christopher Shipman, son of serial killer Harold Shipman
  • £27,500 to author and journalist Joan Smith
  • substantial undisclosed damages to former Labour MP Claire Ward

‘Lives have been severely affected’

Steven Heffer, of Collyer Bristow, who is representing a number of phone-hacking victims, told Press Gazette: ‘My three cases in this round of High Court litigation have settled, but that is subject to the sanction of the Judge Mr Justice Vos at today’s hearing.

‘There are many more claims to come outside of this litigation. I am acting for many further victims of phone hacking and the police are informing individuals that they have been victims on a daily basis. They simply have not yet got round to telling everyone.”

Tamsin Allen, of Bindmans LLP, who is also acting for many of the victims, said: ‘The claimants now have some clarity about what happened to them in the years between 2000 and 2005 and satisfaction that justice has finally been done.

‘Many of them have wondered for years how tabloid newspapers were able to obtain secret personal information about them, even suspecting their closest friends and relatives.

‘Lives have been severely affected by this cavalier approach to private information and the law.

‘News Group’s misguided decision to defend claims aggressively made matters worse. News Group have finally started to see sense and agreed to apologise and to pay compensation and costs in the majority of the remaining claims.

‘The Leveson Inquiry will, in time, reveal to the public the full extent of the perversion of good journalistic standards at the News of the World during the phone-hacking years.”

‘Years of denials’

Mark Thomson, of Atkins Thomson, who is also involved in the case, said: ‘After years of denials and cover-up, News Group Newspapers has finally admitted the depth and scale of the unlawful activities of many of their journalists at the News of World and the culture of illegal conduct at their paper.

‘After more than a year of litigation, they have now not only made admissions and apologies to many individual victims of the phone hacking conspiracy but also made general admissions about what went on. All of the claimants have been extremely brave to take on and succeed against a massive and influential multinational media organisation.

‘They can take the credit for triggering the new police investigation, the parliamentary inquiries and the Leveson Inquiry. They should be very pleased with what they have achieved.

“A number of claimants are still pursuing the matter to trial and, as a result, NGN will continue to disclose further information and evidence.”

Gerald Shamash, of Steel & Shamash, who is representing five high-profile victims including retired footballer Paul Gascoigne, said: ‘When the now defunct News of the World investigated and published stories about people, including people high up in Government as well as other people in the public eye, it systematically ignored any privacy rights and interests they might have, and knew no limits in what it was prepared to do to get a story.

“It had a distorted idea of the ‘public interest,’ justifying its behaviour like a tyrannical father.”

Today’s hearing before Mr Justice Vos follows the settlement of a number of other claims against News International subsidiary News Group Newspapers, publisher of the now defunct News of the World.

When the case was last before the judge, in December, it emerged that seven cases had been resolved with a number of others likely to be so.

It was said in other High Court proceedings in December, involving private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and NGN, that, as of then, more than 60 claimants had commenced proceedings against NGN and Mulcaire for breach of confidence and misuse of private information, with the majority outstanding.

Jude Law: NI ‘prepared to do anything to sell their newspapers’

In a statement released after the High Court hearing, Jude Law said he brought legal proceedings “to try to find out the truth”.

He said: “For several years leading up to 2006, I was suspicious about how information concerning my private life was coming out in the press. I changed my phones, I had my house swept for bugs but still the information kept being published. I started to become distrustful of people close to me.

“I was truly appalled by what I was shown by the police and by what my lawyers have discovered. It is clear that I, along with many others, was kept under constant surveillance for a number of years.

“No aspect of my private life was safe from intrusion by News Group Newspapers, including the lives of my children and the people who work for me. It was not just that my phone messages were listened to. News Group also paid people to watch me and my house for days at a time and to follow me and those close to me, both in this country and abroad.”

Law added that he had “achieved everything I wanted from this litigation” in forcing the News of the World to admit “the extent of their illegal activity”.

He said: “They have accepted that the information published in the News of the World articles and the Sun articles that I complained about was private. I hope this means that they will never invade my privacy again. They have also finally given a proper apology.

“For me, this case was never about money. It was about standing up for myself and finding out what had happened. I owed it to my friends and family as well as myself to do this.

“I believe in a free press but what News Group did was an abuse of its freedoms. They have overstepped the mark for many years. They were prepared to do anything to sell their newspapers and to make money, irrespective of the impact it had on people’s lives.

“It was not just those like me, whose work involved them being in the public eye, but also many other people, often at the most vulnerable times of their lives. It is now up to the police and the Leveson Inquiry to continue their investigations into tabloid abuses.”

Here is the the full list of settled claims:

  • Actor Jude Law
  • MP Chris Bryant
  • Solicitor Graham Shear
  • Joan Hammell, former chief of staff to Lord Prescott
  • TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson
  • Dormer FA executive director David Davies
  • Shaun Russell, whose wife and daughter were killed in 1996
  • Jude Law’s personal assistant Ben Jackson
  • Former cavalry officer James Hewitt
  • Ex-Labour cabinet minister Tessa Jowell
  • Sara Payne, mother of murdered Sarah Payne
  • Lord Prescott
  • Entrepreneur Guy Pelly
  • Celebrity Abi Titmuss
  • Former Liberal Democrat MP Mark Oaten
  • Former MP George Galloway
  • An anonymous individual named as HJK
  • PR consultant Ciara Parkes
  • Rugby player Gavin Henson
  • Michelle Milburn, who is reportedly a theatrical agent
  • Colette Bos
  • Jude Law’s ex-wife and fashion designer Sadie Frost
  • Labour MP Denis MacShane
  • Kylie Minogue’s brother, Brendan Minogue
  • Footballer Ashley Cole
  • Former Labour MP Claire Ward
  • Journalist Tom Rowland
  • Police officer Dan Lichters
  • Author and journalist Joan Smith
  • Cornelia Crisan
  • Lance Gerrard-Wright, former husband of Ulrika Jonsson
  • Singer Dannii Minogue
  • Celebrity Calum Best
  • Meg Matthews, ex-wife of former Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher
  • 7/7 hero Paul Dadge
  • Lisa Gower, who had a relationship with actor Steve Coogan
  • Christopher Shipman, son of serial killer Harold Shipman

It emerged today that singer Charlotte Church is among 10 cases which are not yet the subject of formal settlement and are to be tried when the action comes to court on February 13.

That hearing, which was originally estimated to last three weeks, is designed to provide a framework for the level of compensation due in cases that do not settle and for any future cases.

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