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October 3, 2017updated 04 Oct 2017 8:36am

Trinity Mirror agrees six-figure phone hacking payout to actor Steve Coogan

By Freddy Mayhew

Trinity Mirror has agreed a six-figure payout to actor Steve Coogan over phone-hacking conducted by journalists at its national titles.

The undisclosed damages settlement relates to 62 articles published by Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) titles, part of publisher Trinity Mirror, from January 1996 to late 2010.

Coogan alleges these articles contained details obtained unlawfully, by hacking his voicemail and obtaining information from third parties, as well as through the use of private investigators.

He said this had constituted a “misuse” of his private information.

A joint statement between Coogan and Trinity Mirror, read out in court, said: “Much of what was published caused enormous distress and significant damage to Mr Coogan’s relationships with those he wrongly suspected had leaked private information or who believed he was the cause of their private information being made public.”

Today’s settlement comes five years after the Alan Partridge star received £40,000 in damages from News UK over voicemail interception by journalists at the News of the World.

Speaking outside court, Coogan said he felt “vindication” at reaching the settlement with Trinity Mirror.

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Coogan first complained to Trinity Mirror about the stories in July 2015, at which time the publisher admitted liability and offered damages and an apology as well as an undertaking not to intercept any of his voicemails.

In October 2016, Coogan “sought disclosure to attempt to ascertain the extent of the wrongdoing” and identify relevant news articles, which he claims Trinity Mirror had concealed.

MGN said: “MGN acknowledges that Mr Coogan was the target of unlawful activities and that these activities were concealed until years later.

“It apologises to Mr Coogan for its wrongdoing over a decade ago and for any articles that were the product of unlawful activity and for the concealment of these activities.

“MGN apologises to Mr Coogan and accepts that he and other victims should not have been denied the truth for so long.”

In a prepared statement read outside court, Coogan said: “MGN, part of the Trinity Mirror group, started my case by apologising for hacking my phone and paying me a sum in damages which they have insisted I keep confidential, most of which will be distributed to good causes.

“Were it not for the Mirror’s threat to seek their costs If I continued with my case, I would have sought to scrutinise these activities further to get to the bottom of the extensive cover-up I believe took place.

“Whilst I was able to pursue this case to this point despite these risks, I fear that many other victims of press misconduct are too afraid to fight for their rights because of aggressive newspaper legal teams and our expensive legal system.”

The TV and film star, who is a supporter of press reform campaign group Hacked Off, added: “In the absence of an effective system of independent regulation in the press I think Hacked Off will be around to do its best to hold the press to account for any misdemeanors that take place.”

Hacked Off joint executive director Dr Evan Harris, said: “We know that hacking at Mirror newspapers took place on an industrial scale as a matter of course for any individual – including countless non-celebrities – who was in the news throughout the noughties, and yet, no Mirror editor has ever faced sanction for the illegality committed under their leadership.

“It is essential that the second half of the Leveson Inquiry proceeds immediately to discover how far up knowledge of hacking and the cover up went at Mirror Group newspapers.”

Trinity Mirror is believed to have faced more than 100 civil claims for phone-hacking. The publisher revealed in its half-year results that it had settled 80 per cent of the claims against it.

Much of the voicemail interception is believed to date from the early 2000s and involved The Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and People titles.

It has estimated that the litigation will cost the company a total of £35.5m.

Phone-hacking payouts awarded to targets of the Mirror titles include £260,250 for actress Sadie Frost, £188,250 for footballer Paul Gascoigne and £201,250 for TV producer Robert Ashworth.

Making these awards in 2015 Mr Justice Mann said: “The fact that they are greater than any other publicly available award results from the fact that the invasions of privacy involved were so serious and so prolonged.”

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