Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Barrymore, Ifans settle hack claims

Michael Barrymore's phone was hacked
Michael Barrymore's phone was hacked

Entertainer Michael Barrymore and actor Rhys Ifans have settled their phone hacking damages claims.

They both received substantial undisclosed damages, their legal costs and sincere apologies from News Group Newspapers (NGN).

The settlements, announced at London's High Court before Mr Justice Mann, are the latest in the civil litigation against NGN, which published the now defunct News of the World.

Mr Barrymore, who attended court, said outside: "It is nice to get to this point. It has taken 13 years.

"It is a shame it was not dealt with quicker. I want to move on and forget it."

He added: "I do not believe journalists should be restricted. When they get it right they get it right, but when they get it wrong they should apologise a little bit quicker."

Hugh Tomlinson QC told the court that, from 2001 onwards, Mr Barrymore was the subject of numerous articles which contained intrusive and private information and created negative and damaging publicity.

He was targeted more particularly when a man was found dead in his swimming pool in March 2001, in relation to the inquest that followed and the subsequent termination of his contract with ITV.

"As a result of the first defendant's behaviour, the claimant lost confidence in those around him. He believed that all those around him had ulterior motives and were working to destroy him by selling stories to newspapers despite their denials.

"Consequently, his agent, who had worked for him since the mid '80s, was dismissed. His health suffered both physically and mentally."

Mr Tomlinson added: "The claimant does not feel that he can ever forgive the first defendant (NGN). In his view they conspired to damage him irreparably. The claimant is also angry that he will not be able to find out precisely what went on and what information was obtained by the first defendant."

Solicitor Mark Thomson told the judge that, from 2005 onwards, Mr Ifans regularly experienced hang-up calls on his mobile as well as unusual clicking sounds on the line.

In April 2013 he was contacted by the police and informed his details appeared in documents seized from NGN and the evidence suggested that his messages may have been intercepted by a News of the World journalist.

Mr Tomlinson read out details of a third settlement involving publicist Clair Dobbs who, between 2002 and 2006, represented numerous high profile actors including Christopher Eccleston, Sir Ian McKellen, Sienna Miller and Michael Sheen.

From 2003 onwards she, her colleagues and clients, began to suspect that private stories were being leaked to the tabloid media causing concern and suspicion.

She was nevertheless shocked to discover in 2010 and 2011 that intercepting mobile telephone messages had been widespread practice at the News of the World and that some of her friends and clients had been targeted.

Ms Dobbs has also received substantial undisclosed damages, her costs and an apology.

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