News Corp. has made some progress in settling some of the civil lawsuits it faces in the UK stemming from phone hacking at its shuttered News of the World tabloid. Victims’ lawyers said the company has agreed to compensate victims on the basis that senior employees sought to cover up wrongdoing and destroy evidence.
Hugh Tomlinson, a lawyer for some phone-hacking victims, indicated in court 1/19 that the company has agreed to settlements in 19 of 26 so-called test and reserve cases that were to establish standards for damages. He added, however, that agreements have also been reached in 17 other cases, for a total of 36 new settlements.
The alleged victims—who include celebrities, politicians, victims of crime and others—generally claim that the News of the World weekly tabloid newspaper breached their privacy by intercepting their voice-mails. Those cases reaching settlements include ones brought by actor Jude Law and politician Chris Bryant, WSJ said. A number of the victims will continue to pursue their claims in court.
Statements read in court on Thursday disclosed the amount of the agreed settlements with some victims. Those include $200,720 plus legal costs to Law; $77,200 plus legal costs to Law’s former wife, Sadie Frost; £30,000 plus legal costs to Bryant; and $46,320 plus legal costs to politician John Prescott.
In announcing the settlements, however, victims’ lawyers said that News Corp. had made more sweeping admissions to wrongdoing than it had in the past.
A statement issued 1/19 by some of the lawyers representing the victims said that “News Group has agreed to compensation being assessed on the basis that senior employees and directors of (News Group Newspapers) knew about the wrongdoing and sought to conceal it by deliberately deceiving investigators and destroying evidence.” News Group Newspapers is a unit of News Corp.’s U.K. newspaper unit, News International, and had published News of the World.
“After years of denials and cover up, News Group Newspapers has finally admitted the depth and scale of the unlawful activities of many of their journalists at the News of the World and the culture of illegal conduct at their paper,” said Mark Thomson, one of the lawyers representing victims, in the statement.
Before Thursday, the company had agreed to settle at least about a dozen of those suits. That included an agreement in December to settle with Labour politician and former government minister Tessa Jowell for $308,800. And, earlier last year, the company paid $154,400 plus costs to resolve the claim of actress Sienna Miller.