Murdoch will laugh all the way from the bank

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The Independent Online

While Sienna Miller and her legal team can justifiably claim a triumph over the News of the World in the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday, the resolution of her phone hacking claim will have also been a cause for some celebration at the newspaper's Wapping offices.

Although the six-figure pay-out and various undertakings given by the newspaper (including a likely statement of "vindication" for Ms Miller) do not form a precedent for the other hacking cases, they could yet form a template for News International's efforts to draw a veil over this inglorious episode, at least in the civil courts.

By accepting the maximum £100,000 payout demanded by the actress's lawyers, the newspaper has avoided a public trial at which full details of its targeting of Ms Miller and allegations of a "grand scheme" in which celebrities were systematically eavesdropped would have been aired.

Instead, News International can now hand over the documentation it holds on the actress in private and, despite its protestations that £100,000 is significantly above the damages that a court might have ordered, take some solace from the fact that previous hacking cases involving publicist Max Clifford and footballers' union boss Gordon Taylor were reportedly settled for £1m and £700,000 respectively.

The full details of what Glenn Mulcaire and the NOTW's journalists got up to are still likely to come out when the four "lead" cases in the phone hacking scandal, due to be announced next week, eventually come to trial next year.

But the events of the last 48 hours raise questions about whether those proceedings will also reach a full trial.

Lawyers for other phone hacking victims have carefully applied for "unlimited" damages against the NOTW. But it is now open for Wapping's lawyers to argue that a cheque for £100,000 (or considerably less) and an undertaking to disclose behind closed doors what information it holds on each claimant represents a reasonable settlement.

It remains to be seen if the judges disagree and will allow at least some of those whose voicemails were eavesdropped to have their day in court.