London: Besieged media baron Rupert Murdoch's News International Thursday agreed to another round of out-of-court settlements with 19 high-profile individuals, including actor Jude Law, and with the prospect of more claims being made in the phone hacking imbroglio numbering 742.
The latest round of settlements included former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, Labour MP Chris Bryant, footballer Ashley Cole and Alistair Campbell, former aide of Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Murdoch's company had earlier paid millions of pounds as compensation to the 13-year-old Milly Dowler's family, and to seven individuals whose phones were hacked at the behest of the now defunct News of the World.
Statements were read out today in the High Court from the individuals who agreed to the out-of-court settlements.
Hearings in the claims cases brought by the 19 individuals were due to start in court on February 13, but this may not take place in relation to the cases launched by the 19 individuals.
Overall, the settlement against the individuals is likely to cost Murdoch's company around 10 million pounds.
Actor Law received 130,000 pounds and his ex-wife Sadie Frost 50,000 pounds while Prescott got 40,000 pounds.
The level of payments made today is likely to influence future claims against the now defunct tabloid from potentially hundreds of victims of phone-hacking.
Scotland Yard has said that there were 742 victims of phone-hacking, some of whom are yet to be contacted.
It was the report of Milly's phone being hacked that set off a chain of events last summer, leading to several changes in British press, politics and the police.
The News International group had settled similar claims in December with seven individuals, including former army officer, James Hewitt.
There are so far 58 claimants who have fought to prove their phones were hacked by the News of the World.
The claimants alleged that senior employees and directors at News Group Newspapers (NGN), the News International subsidiary that published the News of the World, knew their journalists were engaging in illegal practices, and that the group deliberately deceived investigators and destroyed evidence.
The NGN has not admitted or denied the claims, but has agreed that compensation to the claimants can be assessed on that basis.
Bindmans, the solicitors company representing the victims, said that the claims had achieved the erosion of News Group's original position, "forcing them into a sequence of significant admissions about their unlawful behaviour and about their attempts to cover it up".
It said in a statement that the claimants had also achieved "substantial compensation for victims of illegal intrusion by journalists and private investigators.
The sums paid are far in excess of the usual range of compensation payments for misuse of private information, reflecting the aggravating features in these cases".
The claimants, Bindamans said, now knew much more about what private messages were listened to, who intercepted their messages and who authorised it, how and why the interceptions were carried out, what was done with the information, who was paid and how much.
They are also now aware of the vast scale of the illegal behaviour and the attempts by News International to deceive the police and public, it said.
First Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012, 22:33