Church settles phone-hacking claim for £600k

Charlotte Church and her parents settled their phone-hacking claims for £600,000 (€708,600) yesterday with up to 200 fresh claims on the horizon.

As the singer told reporters of her disgust at the behaviour of News of the World publisher News Group Newspapers (NGN), Mr Justice Vos was setting a timetable for the High Court to deal with the next wave of the litigation by this time next year.

Church, 26, sat in the packed London courtroom as her lawyer told the judge that the now-defunct newspaper targeted her and her voicemail messages repeatedly, and unlawfully obtained her private medical information and details of her personal relationships with family and friends”.

Solicitor Mike Brookes said it began in 2002 when Charlotte was just 16 and continued for many years.

“Charlotte was also regularly harassed and even placed under surveillance by the News of the World and those paid by them.

“They followed the every move of a teenage girl.”

He said James and Maria Church were not in the public eye, but their own privacy has been violated on a number of occasions.

“The motivation for this intrusion into the lives of two essentially private and ordinary individuals was to make money.”

He said Maria Church was a vulnerable person, with a complex medical history which the newspaper found out about, publishing private details of her hospital treatment. “At her lowest moment, the News of the World issued her with an ultimatum and coerced her into giving them an in-depth interview about her self-harming and attempted suicide. She felt she had no choice but to give the interview and was deeply traumatised by the publication of the story in the News of the World.”

Brookes told the judge: “My Lord this is the real story. The one that the News of the World never ran. It is only due to the courage and determination of Maria, James and Charlotte that I am able to stand before you today to confirm these events, and tell you that finally the News of the World have accepted responsibility for the way they have treated my clients.”

Brookes said that the newspaper had apologised and agreed to pay the family £600,000 in damages and legal costs.

Michael Silverleaf QC, for NGN, said: “I am here today to offer my client’s sincere apologies to the Church family for the way they have been treated.

“NGN acknowledges that they should never have had to endure what they have suffered and that NGN are liable for the damage that they have caused.”

The settlement of the Church case means that 55 of the original 60 claims have been resolved.

Corruption

Journalists at The Sun had a “network of corrupted officials” who provided them with stories in return for cash, a top police officer said.

Deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers told an inquiry into press standards that the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper had a “culture” of paying police, the military, health workers, government, and prison staff.

While admitting in a statement such payments had existed, Murdoch said: “The practices Sue Akers described at the Leveson inquiry are ones of the past, and no longer exist at The Sun.”

Akers is leading Scotland Yard’s bribery investigation, which has seen 10 current or former Sun journalists arrested since November, as well as a serving police officer, a ministry of defence worker and an army officer.

She told the inquiry that systems had been created at The Sun to facilitate illegal payments while concealing the identities of recipients.

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