Belfast Telegraph

Cilla and others settle hack cases

Cilla Black is among the latest group of celebrities to settle phone hacking claims for "substantial" damages, the High Court has heard.

A judge in London was told that EastEnders star Jessie Wallace, singer and TV personality Peter Andre and actor and singer Darren Day have also settled actions against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN).

Their barrister David Sherborne told Mr Justice Mann today that the actions related to the "widespread and habitual practice of voicemail interception and the unlawful obtaining of personal information" which took place during the period of 2000 to 2006.

Mr Sherborne told the judge that a claim brought by singer and TV personality Cilla's son Robert Willis, who is the star's manager, had also been settled.

He read out statements on behalf of Ms Black and Mr Willis, Mr Andre, Mr Day and Ms Wallace, and also a further five in the cases of other individuals whose settlements have previously been reported, including former England head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, actor Christopher Eccleston and David and Victoria Beckham's former nanny Abbie Gibson.

Their claims for "misuse of private information" were brought against MGN Limited, a subsidiary company of Trinity Mirror plc, and publisher of a "number of well-known and highly influential newspaper titles".

Mr Sherborne added: "In particular, it is the publisher of The Daily Mirror, The Sunday Mirror and The People newspapers, which enjoy not just an enormous circulation and readership within this jurisdiction but also have a large number of readers online."

He told the judge: "In summary, these 10 individuals all bring claims that cover unlawful activity by each of the three newspaper titles over a lengthy period.

"They have all expressed their feelings of distress and anger that their private information has been treated in this way, and their privacy has been so grossly violated by these newspapers solely for profit."

Mr Sherborne said the 10 individuals "all believe that they have now achieved everything which they set out to achieve through the pursuit of these proceedings".

Matthew Nicklin QC, for the defendant, said MGN "accepts that the methods which were used to obtain private information about these 10 individuals through the unlawful accessing of their voicemails and the obtaining of their personal information should never have been employed and, further, that there was no legitimate justification for this or the publication of the articles about their private lives to which Mr Sherborne refers, and which were based on information obtained through these unlawful methods".

He added: "MGN is here today, through me, to offer its sincere apologies to these claimants for the damage and distress caused to them by hacking into their voicemail messages and by obtaining private information about them, including the use of blagging."

Mr Nicklin said that, in addition to paying them "substantial sums by way of damages and their reasonable costs", MGN has agreed to give an undertaking to the court that "it will not in future republish the articles or intercept the claimants' voicemail messages".

No damages figures were announced as part of the statements read to the judge, but it has been previously reported that Mr Eriksson and Mr Eccleston settled for £30,000 each and Ms Gibson for £15,000.

It is understood from a court document before the court today that Mr Day's damages are £85,000.

Statements giving details of the 10 settled claims, which included those of Christie Roche, wife of actor Shane Richie, and of his friend and agent Phil Dale, were read out during the latest case management hearing in civil litigation brought against MGN by various claimants.

A trial of eight "representative" cases, which have not been settled, is expected to be held at the High Court at the end of next month.

Scores of people, including high-profile celebrities, have reached similar settlements with the publisher of the now-defunct News Of The World newspaper after taking legal action in the wake of phone-hacking revelations.

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