Phone hacking: Murdoch pays out millions of pounds

Media baron Rupert Murdoch`s group on Thursday agreed to a multi-million pounds settlement with high-profile victims.

London: Media baron Rupert Murdoch`s group
on Thursday agreed to a multi-million pounds out-of-court-settlement
with 19 high-profile victims who had filed cases when they
realised their phones had been hacked by the now defunct News
of the World.

Ex-Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott and actor Jude Law
are among those who have agreed to the settlement.Footballer Ashley Cole and Labour MP Chris Bryant have
also reached settlements.

Most people pursuing damages from the paper`s publisher
News International had now settled, lawyers said.
Hearings in the cases were due to start 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.
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.
The settlements reached today included Labour MP Chris
Bryant and Alistair Campbell, former aide of Prime Minister
Tony Blair.

Murdoch`s group had earlier paid millions of pounds to the
family of the murdered teenager Milly Dowler, whose phone was
allegedly hacked.
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 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

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.