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Apology over phone hacking scandal

News of the World publisher News International has attempted to draw a line under the phone hacking scandal, apologising to a number of public figures including actress Sienna Miller and admitting liability.

The company said it had instructed lawyers to set up a compensation scheme to deal with "justifiable claims" and said "past behaviour" at the newspaper was "a matter of genuine regret".

The dramatic announcement came after a number of well-known figures took High Court action over allegations of phone-hacking. It is understood that along with Miller, the company has issued apologies to former culture secretary Tessa Jowell, her estranged husband lawyer David Mills and footballer-turned-broadcaster Andy Gray.

Football agent Sky Andrew, publicist Nicola Phillips and Joan Hammell, a former special adviser to Lord Prescott, are also believed to have received apologies through their solicitors.

News International said the move applied to allegations of voicemail hacking at the News of the World from 2004 to 2006. Designer Kelly Hoppen is also understood to have been issued with an apology, although only for that time period, and not for a later claim.

No one else is understood to have received an apology - other notable figures who have pursued the matter through the courts, including Leslie Ash and Lord Prescott, are not thought to be covered by the admissions.

Mark Lewis, who is acting for a number of stars who claimed their phones were hacked, said the final compensation bill could easily run into millions of pounds.

In a statement, the company said: "News International has decided to approach some civil litigants with an unreserved apology and an admission of liability in cases meeting specific criteria. We have also asked our lawyers to establish a compensation scheme with a view to dealing with justifiable claims fairly and efficiently.

The company is working with the Metropolitan Police and it said it was its own "voluntary disclosure" in January which led to the re-opening of the police investigation.

Reporter Neville Thurlbeck, 50, and former assistant editor Ian Edmondson, 42, were held by Scotland Yard detectives on Tuesday when they voluntarily attended separate police stations in south-west London. They have been bailed.


From Belfast Telegraph