Accept £100,000 or get nothing, Murdoch lawyers tell Sienna

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The Independent Online

Actress sienna Miller has been offered £100,000 by the News of The World to settle her phone hacking damages claim and the newspaper will seek to have her case thrown out of court if she fails to accept, lawyers for the Sunday tabloid said yesterday.

The six-figure offer is the first evidence of a News International strategy to halt further revelations against it in civil cases by offering substantial settlements. It has emerged that the actress claims her email account as well as phone messages was hacked using information obtained by the private detective Glenn Mulcaire.

In a pre-trial hearing at the High Court, it was alleged that email hacking took place in December 2008 – nearly two years after Mulcaire was jailed for phone hacking and after a pledge from the NOTW that any illegal newsgathering activity had ceased.

In a statement last week, News International admitted liability and offered an unreserved apology to Ms Miller and seven others whose voicemails were eavesdropped by Mulcaire and NOTW journalists.

The settlement, known as a Part 36 offer, has the potential effect of preventing further disclosures in the case of Ms Miller or the other civil claims, where offers have now been made by the newspaper. Under civil court rules, a claimant (in this case Ms Miller) is liable for the legal costs of both sides if they reject a settlement offer and then pursue their case only to be awarded damages less than the original offer. Michael Silverleaf QC, representing the NOTW, told the court that the £100,000 offer needed to be compared to the maximum of £25,000 he believed Ms Miller would win by continuing her case and therefore any attempt to pursue the proceedings would be an "abuse of process". He said: "Civil litigation does not exist for people to vent their feelings. It exists to provide remedy."

Along with other public figures pursuing claims against the NOTW, Ms Miller has indicated that she wishes the full facts of the newspaper's activities against her to be made public rather than achieve a financial settlement. In an interview last month, she said: "It was ultimately just about standing up for yourself, what you believe is right and wrong. And I believe that [phone hacking] is really wrong, hence not settling out of court. But it's scary, and very expensive so far."

Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Ms Miller, told the court that the actress had not yet decided whether to accept or reject the NOTW offer and was in the meantime awaiting further evidence from the newspaper that could cast light on further claims, including an allegation that a password used for both her mobile phone and emails obtained by Mulcaire had been used in 2008.

Mr Tomlinson said: "We infer that this password was used to hack her emails."

Mr Justice Geoffrey Vos ordered the NOTW to return to court next month for a hearing to rule on its claim that a failure by Ms Miller to accept its £100,000 settlement should result in her case being thrown out.