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  1. Media Law
May 17, 2017

Elizabeth Hurley wins phone-hacking payout from Mirror and gives ‘substantial sum’ to Hacked Off

By PA Mediapoint

Elizabeth Hurley is the latest celebrity to receive damages and an apology from Mirror Group Newspapers over phone-hacking.

The 51-year-old actress and model was not at London’s High Court on Wednesday for the settlement of her action for misuse of private information.

The amount of damages was not made public at the brief hearing before Mr Justice Mann.

Her solicitor, Anjlee Saigol, told the judge Hurley had donated the “substantial” sum to Hacked Off “to assist other victims of the press”.

Last month, Lord Jeffrey Archer and Dame Mary Archer, footballer Kevin Keegan, former home secretary Charles Clarke, actress Patsy Kensit, Jo Wood, the ex-wife of Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, and singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor were among 44 cases which were resolved.

It is understood that some of the settlements exceeded the £260,250 record damages awarded to actress and businesswoman Sadie Frost following a trial in 2015 – and that around 50 claims are still in the pipeline.

Saigol said that in March 2015 Hurley brought proceedings over the publication of 58 separate articles, published between July 1998 and March 2007 by all three of MGN’s newspapers.

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“Whilst Ms Hurley believed that each one of these articles intruded upon her private affairs, it was MGN’s relentless, voyeuristic interest in her pregnancy between 2001 and 2002 that she still recalled with particular anger and horror so many years later.

“During this period, MGN’s journalists published a stream of articles about her, each detailing the clearly sensitive circumstances of her pregnancy.

“Whilst it is not admitted by MGN that this was the product of unlawful activity, through the pages of MGN’s national newspapers, Ms Hurley’s private matters were unravelled, including details of the ensuing paternity dispute, the fact of a series of crisis talks with her former partner, the involvement of lawyers, emotional responses and reactions; and disputes over her son, all presented and treated by MGN as if this painful time in Ms Hurley’s life was a drama to be enjoyed and consumed.

“This was without any care or thought for the very real impact these activities and articles would be having on Ms Hurley and her pregnancy.

“Ms Hurley felt she was hounded by MGN’s journalists, and that these were private matters that were not in the public interest”.

She added: “Although these events may be historic, Ms Hurley’s grief remains in the knowledge that many private details of this time in her life have become accessible to her now grown son to read.

“She would never have chosen to disclose these matters to her son, knowing the hurt they would and have in fact caused him.”

Saigol said that in February 2016, MGN admitted that its journalists illegally targeted Ms Hurley by hacking into her voicemails – as well as the voicemails of those close to her – and by hiring private investigators to find out information about her.

“Ms Hurley believes that her case serves as an example of Trinity Mirror’s calculated attempt to conceal its wrongdoing from its victims.”

In November 2016, Hurley and MGN agreed to resolve her claim.

Richard Munden, counsel for MGN, said it admitted that “certain articles” Hurley complained of derived from illegal activity.

“MGN accepts that the interception of voicemail messages and the procurement of private information about Ms Hurley in this and other unlawful ways should have never happened.

“MGN acknowledges that this behaviour was morally wrong and it deeply regrets the wrongful acts of its former employees and the damage and distress that this has caused to Ms Hurley.

“MGN is here today through me to offer its sincere apologies to Ms Hurley for the upset it has caused her as well as the impact its activities and articles had on her.

“MGN’s intrusion into Ms Hurley’s private life was wholly unacceptable and it regrets that these wrongful acts happened.”

Hacked Off Joint Executive Director of the Campaign Dr Evan Harris said; “Hacked Off is extremely grateful to Elizabeth Hurley for her generous donation.  There are hundreds of victims of phone hacking and press abuse, the majority of whom do not have the resources to enable them to take legal action and obtain remedy for unlawful conduct by newspapers both in the past and today. Ms Hurley’s very generous donation will fund our work to support and campaign on their behalf.

“The original source of these damages is Trinity Mirror, and it is appropriate that their funds be used to help victims of their own misconduct and wrongdoing.  But we would rather that Trinity Mirror saved the tens of millions of pounds it has spent settling hacking claims by signing up to a recognised independent regulator such as Impress with a low-cost arbitration service.  Doing so would allow the publisher to better invest in quality journalism, and in particular to support the many local newspapers that Trinity Mirror owns across the UK.

“Under the settlement with Ms Hurley, Trinity Mirror have to pay their own costs and Ms Hurley’s, which are likely to be much greater than the sum of damages.  Under section 40, if commenced, such a scheme would protect the newspaper from having to pay the costs of similar claims brought against them in future.”

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