Heather Mills has received an apology at the High Court after settling her case against the News of the World over phone hacking for a “substantial” sum.
The businesswoman and campaigner, who was formerly married to Sir Paul McCartney, settled her claim against News Group Newspapers (NGN), the ex-publisher of the newspaper, in February for an undisclosed sum.
An apology to Heather and her sister Fiona Mills – whose claim was also settled – was read out at a hearing in London, before Mr Justice Mann, on Monday.
Ben Silverstone, for NGN, said: “The defendant is here today, through me, to offer its sincere apologies to Ms Heather Mills and Ms Fiona Mills for the distress caused to them by the invasion of their privacy by individuals working for or on behalf of the News of the World.
“The defendant accepts that such activity should never have taken place and that it had no right to intrude into the private lives of Ms Heather Mills or Fiona Mills in this way.”
David Sherborne, for the Mills sisters, said: “The claimants were, and still are, profoundly upset to discover the sustained and repeated invasions of privacy by individuals working for or acting on behalf of the News of the World.
“The claimants believe that the publication of articles in the defendant’s newspapers had a seriously corrosive effect on (their) relationships with their friends and family, some of which can never be repaired.”
The sisters’ claims were settled on the basis that NGN made no admission of liability in relation to their allegations of voicemail interception or other unlawful information gathering at The Sun.
In a statement outside court after the hearing, Ms Mills said her feeling was one of “joy and vindication”.
She added: “My motivation to win this decade-long fight stemmed from a desire to obtain justice, not only for my family, my charities and myself, but for the thousands of innocent members of the public who, like me, have suffered similar ignominious, criminal treatment at the hands of one of the world’s most powerful media groups.”
When asked if this was the end of her litigation against NGN, she replied: “This is the end for now – unless anything else pops up.”
In her statement, Ms Mills also made reference to “the highest media libel settlement in British legal history”.
However, her case was a privacy, rather than a libel, claim and it was not clear whether Ms Mills was referring to the total amount paid to all those who have settled privacy claims against NGN over phone hacking so far.