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December 5, 2023updated 06 Dec 2023 11:06am

Sun publisher pays out to celebs over claims of hacking, blagging and deception

News Group Newspapers apologised to the claimants, who include Mel C and Catherine Tate.

By Bron Maher

A group of celebrities have received “substantial damages” and public apologies from News Group Newspapers (NGN), publisher of The Sun and previously News of the World, over unlawful information-gathering practices.

Among the claimants are Spice Girl Melanie C, comedians Catherine Tate and Keith Allen and radio presenter Chris Moyles.

The publisher also paid damages to a victim of the London terror attacks on 7 July 2005, Davinia Douglass. He claimed that the publisher gathered information about her by deception, blagging and voicemail interception.

Former Lib Dem cabinet minister Chris Huhne was also reported to have received a substantial six-figure sum for damages and legal costs. Huhne was jailed in 2013 after swapping speeding points with his wife and lying about it.

NGN’s apologies were conveyed to Mr Justice Fancourt in the High Court on Tuesday morning.

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What were the claimants saying News Group Newspapers had done?

The claimants all alleged that NGN had intruded on their privacy. Christopher Hutchings, media disputes partner at law firm Hamlins which represented the group, said: “The impact of the publication of intrusive, private information can be long-lasting… We are pleased NGN has been held to account for its unlawful actions.”

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The court was told that each claimant had received substantial damages from the publisher.

Mel C, full name Melanie Chisholm, said in her claim that NGN published a “significant number” of articles between 1996 and 2009 which included details about her professional and romantic relationships, her mental health, her pregnancy and her sexuality.

Allen similarly said he had been caused “considerable distress” by the publication of private information he believed must have been obtained through voicemail interception.

Allen said: “I am so grateful to have received a public apology from NGN. As it is the season of goodwill, might I take this opportunity to wish NGN a Merry Christmas.”

Chisholm said: “To see these publications being held accountable goes some way to help compensate the damage to not only myself but the friends, family and colleagues around me who were also affected.”

Davinia Douglass, a survivor of the 7 July 2004 terror attacks in London who did not otherwise have a public profile, alleged that NGN had published several articles which contained information that had been obtained through deception and blagging.

She said on Tuesday that “it has been a very emotional and difficult process that brought back many memories of what was a very dark and challenging period of my life.

“I am relieved that my claim has finally been settled by NGN.”

The group also includes Rafferty Law, a son of actors Jude Law and Sadie Frost who was a child during the events relevant to the claim.

The full list of claimants in the action released by Hamlins is as follows:

  • Keith Allen
  • Melanie C
  • Catherine Tate
  • Twig Clark (who was previously in a relationship with Tate)
  • Davinia Douglass (7/7 terror attack victim)
  • DJ and presenter Jason King
  • Actor Matthew Horne
  • Former Boyzone member Shane Lynch
  • Radio presenter Chris Moyles
  • Former actor Catalina Guirado
  • Rafferty Law

NGN has faced numerous legal cases over the previous decade over allegations that it illegally gained information through tactics including phone hacking, blagging and deception. Most cases have been settled, and the business has insisted that unlawful newsgathering practices were confined to the News of the World, which was abruptly closed in 2011 following revelations that a private investigator in its pay, Glenn Mulcaire, had hacked the phone of murdered but then-missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Press Gazette reported in 2021 that the hacking scandal had cost Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp more than £1bn over ten years.

[Read more: News of the World closure ten years on – How hacking scandal cost Murdoch’s UK tabloid business £1bn]

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Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
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  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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