Actress Sienna Miller has claimed The Sun newspaper tried to “profit out of her misery” as she formally settled a phone hacking claim against its publisher.
In a statement read on her behalf at the High Court, the 39-year-old described how she felt the newspaper “brutally took away her choice” by allegedly “leaking” that she was pregnant.
Miller brought legal action against News Group Newspapers (NGN), which denies any illegal information-gathering took place at The Sun and has agreed to settle her case for “substantial damages” without any admission of liability.
Her barrister David Sherborne told the hearing on Thursday that she issued legal action over alleged voicemail interception and misuse of private information in September 2019.
“Ms Miller was the subject of intense media scrutiny and serious intrusion into her private life from around 2003, which not only impacted her but most of her friends and family,” he said.
“In particular, The Sun published numerous intrusive stories about her that contained intimate private details about her relationships and feelings and even her confidential medical information.”
Sherborne said she claimed she was the “victim of unlawful information-gathering by various journalists and executives at The Sun” and she “also alleged that this had been concealed by senior executives including by the deliberate destruction of incriminating evidence”.
He said material disclosed left Miller “horrified” as she believed it showed expenses were claimed by a senior Sun journalist “and that he had met with a ‘medical records tracer’ in July and August 2005 to discuss Ms Miller’s pregnancy”.
He added that disclosure in January 2020 “comprised records of phone calls made by News Group journalists to mobile phones in relation to her and four of her friends and members of her family, as well as private investigator invoices to The Sun and records of contributor payments by The Sun to alleged private investigators”.
Sherborne said Miller found it “painful” when preparing a witness statement for her claim as she “had to relive what News Group had done to her over a number of years, including times when she was extremely vulnerable”.
He added that she “believes it was Rebekah Brooks, then editor of The Sun, who first called the claimant’s representative to say that she knew that the claimant was pregnant”.
Sherborne said Miller alleged Brooks – who has denied involvement in unlawful activity – and others were “responsible for leaking the pregnancy and that their actions, including the call, had led her to being unable to trust those closest to her when she really needed them”.
Sherborne added: “It was already an incredibly stressful and difficult time in her life but The Sun’s targeting of her made it traumatic.
“She felt at the time, and still does, that The Sun brutally took away her choice in the matter.
“Ms Miller felt that they were constantly hounding her so that she could not even visit a doctor’s clinic without being followed.”
He said Miller “continues to be distressed by the fact that she may never know the precise extent of News Group’s activities” and had wanted to pursue her claim to trial but was unable to due to costs as she faced “a potential bill of millions of pounds”.
Sherborne said Miller believes she was “targeted in pursuit of The Sun’s aim to profit out of her misery” and “cannot ever forgive what they did to her, but at the very least she hopes to hold them accountable”.
He said that given NGN had agreed to pay damages and “notwithstanding” the settlement being agreed on the basis of no admission of liability, Ms Miller believes “that this is tantamount to an admission of liability on the part of The Sun and she therefore feels fully vindicated in having brought this claim”.
Ex-footballer Paul Gascoigne also settled with NGN on Thursday.
His solicitor, Gerald Shamash, told the court Gascoigne was “horrified” to learn during the disclosure process that a number of payments were allegedly made to a private investigator who is said to have obtained his private medical information and who appeared to have issued an invoice for “Gazza suicide watch” around the time an article was published about him being sectioned.
Shamash, reading a statement to the High Court on behalf of Gascoigne, said the former Newcastle United and England star brought legal action against NGN in May 2020 alleging he had been the “victim of unlawful information gathering” by journalists at The Sun.
The solicitor told the court: “Mr Gascoigne was not only shocked to see the disclosure which he believed showed that The Sun had paid to obtain information on his mental health but that the references on the expenses and invoices appeared to him to be so blatant and yet seemingly not questioned by anyone at The Sun.
“This example was only one of several instances of payments which Mr Gascoigne believed were made in relation to obtaining private, very personally sensitive matters relating to Mr Gascoigne and his family and friends.”
Miller and Gascoigne’s settlements came after some 15 celebrities and high-profile figures also settled claims against NGN, publisher of the News Of The World, over phone hacking at the now-defunct newspaper.
On Wednesday, the court heard statements read out on their behalf, including for actor Sean Bean, Texas lead singer Sharleen Spiteri and ex-cricketer and commentator Shane Warne.
Picture: PA Wire/Victoria Jones