Celebrities settle damages against News Of The World publisher

News Group Newspapers have agreed to pay 'substantial damages' to celebrities including Sean Bean and Sharleen Spiteri.

Celebrities settle damages against News Of The World publisher iStock

A number of celebrities and high-profile figures have settled phone hacking claims against the publisher of the News Of The World, the High Court has heard.

Statements were read before Mr Justice Fancourt on behalf of 15 celebrities and other figures, including actor Sean Bean, Texas lead singer Sharleen Spiteri and ex-cricketer and commentator Shane Warne.

News Group Newspapers (NGN), publisher of the now-defunct newspaper, has agreed to pay “substantial damages” to each of the claimants and also pay their legal costs.

The publisher, through its legal team, made public apologies to each of the claimants for the actions of the News Of The World, but did not admit any liability in relation to allegations of phone hacking at one of its other newspapers, The Sun.

The group who have settled cases also includes actresses Julia and Nadia Sawalha and Michelle Collins, ex-television presenter Dani Behr, singer Dane Bowers, and former Coronation Street actors Richard Fleeshman and Quintin Lawson – also known as Charlie Lawson – who played Jim McDonald in the popular soap opera.

The court also heard statements on behalf of agent Jane Epstein, Anne Diamond’s husband Michael Hollingsworth, former Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas, former journalist Louise Port and Natalie Cecil, the ex-wife of racehorse trainer Henry Cecil.

In a statement read on behalf of Ms Spiteri, her solicitor Callum Galbraith told the court she was an “obvious person for the press to target”, both as a result of her success with Texas and her friendship with a number of people in the public eye, including members of Paul McCartney’s family.

Mr Galbraith said the singer had identified a number of articles published between 1998 and 2009 which she claimed contained her private information.

He said: “Articles published reported on matters relating to, for example, Ms Spiteri’s separation from her then long-term partner (a private matter which she claimed was not then known to her close family), her home, her whereabouts and the birth of her daughter.

“Ms Spiteri believes that the publication of the articles had a harmful effect on her private and family life and is appalled she will never regain control of her private information.”

Mr Galbraith said she “became suspicious” as to who was providing the confidential information, adding: “Ms Spiteri believes that the publication of the articles generated distrust which impacted on her relationships and this has caused her considerable distress, upset and anger.”

On behalf of NGN, Ben Silverstone said: “The defendant is here today, through me, to offer its sincere apologies to Ms Spiteri for the distress caused to her by the invasion of her privacy by individuals working for or on behalf of the News Of The World.

“The defendant acknowledges that such activity should never have taken place, and that it had no right to intrude into the private life of Ms Spiteri.

Similar statements were read on behalf of each of the claimants, and apologies to each of them on behalf of NGN then followed.

Since the phone-hacking scandal led to the closure of the News Of The World in 2011, NGN has settled a number of damages claims concerning unlawful information-gathering – but the publisher has never admitted liability in relation to alleged phone hacking at The Sun.

A hearing relating to further claims which have not yet been resolved will be held later on Wednesday.

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