Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Hamiltons settle phone hack claims

Public figures including Neil and Christine Hamilton have settled phone hacking claims

Former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton, his wife Christine and ex-TV presenter John Leslie have settled their phone hacking damages cases.

The Hamiltons and Mr Leslie all accepted substantial damages, costs and a public apology from News Group Newspapers (NGN).

None of them were at London's High Court for the 15th case management conference relating to the second wave of the litigation brought by scores of people from all walks of life.

Political adviser Matthew Doyle also received a sum in damages, his legal costs and an apology from the publishers of the now defunct News of the World.

Mr Justice Vos was also told that claims brought by the estate of the late Jade Goody, the reality TV star who died of cancer in 2009, and TV producer Nigel Lythgoe had settled, but no details were given.

Reading from agreed statements, counsel Jeremy Reed said that the Hamiltons began proceedings last year "for misuse of private information and breach of confidence in respect of obtaining their call data by unlawful means". He said: "These events are believed to have taken place in around late 2001."

Mr Reed told the court that NGN "now admits that Mr and Mrs Hamilton's call data was obtained for the News of the World by unlawful means" and had accepted liability for breach of confidence and misuse of private information.

Turning to Mr Leslie, Mr Reed said that during the relevant period he was working on the Granada Television programme This Morning. Mr Leslie was "targeted by the News of the World because of a number of well-publicised allegations concerning his private life".

He was "deeply angry and upset to discover that, owing to the deliberate destruction of documents by the News of the World, he will never find out the true extent to which his privacy was invaded," said counsel. He added that NGN "has now accepted responsibility for its unlawful actions and has, quite rightly, agreed to apologise to the claimant for the invasion of his privacy".

Hugh Tomlinson QC told the judge, who will cease to be in charge of the litigation at the end of June pending his appointment to the Court of Appeal, that 149 out of 167 actions originally on the register had now settled, with eight further claims seeking to be added. Congratulating the judge on his promotion, he said it was an "entirely appropriate and richly deserved escape route from the phone-hacking litigation".

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