Coogan settles hacking claim


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The Independent Online

Steve Coogan and Paul Gascoigne headed a list of phone-hacking damages claims which settled today close to trial.

The actor and footballer are among the 54 now resolved cases out of 60 that were launched against News International subsidiary News Group Newspapers before October last year.

Five of the remainder cannot be heard at this stage for technical reasons - Elle Macpherson's former adviser, Mary Ellen Field, footballer Ryan Giggs, former royal butler Paul Burrell, police officer and Crimewatch presenter Jacqui Hames - and her husband David Cook - and public relations consultant Nicola Phillips.

But the sixth - that of singer Charlotte Church, with her parents, James and Maria - will begin at London's High Court on February 27.

The two-week trial before Mr Justice Vos will not just consider Church's claim that 33 articles in the now-defunct News of the World were the product of hacking into the family's voice mails - but also set out a compensation framework for future cases.

The judge was told that 56 new claims were in the pipeline - including those of singer James Blunt, soccer star Peter Crouch - and his wife Abigail Clancy, politician Nigel Farage, footballer Kieron Dyer and Eimear Cook - ex-wife of golfer Colin Montgomerie.

Gascoigne's settlement of £68,000 and Coogan's of £40,000 were revealed as ten agreed statements were read out to a packed courtroom.

The former England soccer star, who was not in court, had suffered "mental harm and distress" and fallen out with friends and family because he feared information was being given to journalists, said his lawyers.

Coogan, who was present, said later that it had been a "very stressful and time-consuming" experience for him and those close to him.

"This has never been about money. Like other people who have sued, I was determined to do my part to show the depths to which the Press can sink in pursuit of private information."

He added: "The victims included not only people like me, who are well- known and in the public eye, but also many ordinary members of the public, sometimes vulnerable people with the most tenuous connection to the news. I am full of admiration for their bravery and persistence."

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes, who accepted £45,000, was in court and said later that the practice of hacking was "criminal behaviour on an industrial scale."

He added: "We must now make sure that nothing like this can ever happen again.

"Anyone involved in criminal activity at the News of the World must be brought to justice, and all those who allowed a large company to behave in this way must be held to account.

"There must also be answers to the serious questions about how the police managed to fail so badly in their original investigation."

Other high-profile awards were £25,000 to politician George Galloway, "substantial" undisclosed damages to former Labour communications director Alastair Campbell, £75,000 to sports agent Sky Andrew and another "substantial" award to Phil Hughes, who was an agent for late footballer George Best.

There were also awards of £110,000 plus an undisclosed sum to to Sally King and her family, and substantial undisclosed awards to Gascoigne's friend James Gardner, football agent Michael McGuire, Sheila Henry - the mother of 7/7 victim Christian Small - dancer Laura Rooney and journalist Dennis Rice, together with his wife and sister, Amanda Hobbs and Louise Artimati.

In each case, Michael Silverleaf QC, for NGN, which is facing a bill for damages and costs running into millions, expressed its "sincere apologies" for the damage and distress caused.

It is understood that other cases which have settled from the ten originally due to be tried on February 13 - although no details were given in court - were those of singer Pete Doherty, jockey Kieren Fallon, racing trainer Samantha Wallin, and Tracey Temple, who had a relationship with Lord Prescott.

Today's developments follows on the heels of last month's settlement of 37 claims, headed by actor Jude Law's compensation of £130,000.