Charlotte Church wins £600,000 hacking payout


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The Independent Online

Charlotte Church and her parents settled their phone-hacking claims for £600,000 today with up to 200 fresh claims on the horizon.

Miss Church, 26, sat in the packed London courtroom as her lawyer told the judge that the now-defunct newspaper targeted her and her voicemail messages repeatedly, and unlawfully obtained her private medical information and details of her personal relationships with her family and friends".

Solicitor Mike Brookes said it began in 2002 when Charlotte was just 16 and continued for many years.

"Charlotte was also regularly harassed and even placed under surveillance by the News of the World and those paid by them.

"They followed the every move of a teenage girl."

He said that James and Maria Church were not in the public eye, but their own privacy has been violated on a number of occasions.

"The motivation for this intrusion into the lives of two essentially private and ordinary individuals was to make money."

He said that Mrs Church was a vulnerable person, with a complex medical history which the newspaper found out about, publishing private details of her hospital treatment.

"At her lowest moment, the News of the World issued her with an ultimatum and coerced her into giving them an in-depth interview about her self-harming and attempted suicide.

"She felt she had no choice but to give the interview and was deeply traumatised by the publication of the story in the News of the World."

Mr Brookes told the judge: "My Lord this is the real story. The one that the News of the World never ran.

"It is only due to the courage and determination of Maria, James and Charlotte that I am able to stand before you today to confirm these events, and tell you that finally the News of the World have accepted responsibility for the way they have treated my clients."

Mr Brookes said that the newspaper had apologised and agreed to pay the family £600,000 in damages and legal costs.

Michael Silverleaf QC, for NGN, said: "I am here today to offer my client's sincere apologies to the Church family for the way they have been treated.

"NGN acknowledges that they should never have had to endure what they have suffered and that NGN are liable for the damage that they have caused."

Outside court, Charlotte Church said: "What I have discovered as the litigation has gone on has sickened and disgusted me.

"Nothing was deemed off-limits by those who pursued me and my family, just to make money for a multinational news corporation."

She added: "I wanted to bring the individuals responsible to court, and make them explain why they did this to me and my family.

"I am sure that this is exactly what has driven a number of people to bring legal claims against the same organisation."

She said she was now going to focus her energies on assisting the criminal investigation and the Leveson Inquiry, and intended to dedicate her portion of the settlement to protecting herself and her children from further invasions of privacy.

The settlement of Miss Church's case means that 55 of the original 60 claims launched before October last year have been resolved.

The remaining five are those of footballer Ryan Giggs, former royal butler Paul Burrell, police officer and Crimewatch presenter Jacqui Hames - and her husband David Cook, public relations consultant Nicola Phillips and Elle Macpherson's former adviser, Mary Ellen Field - whose case will be tried in July.

Earlier this month, the court was told that a second wave of 56 new claims was in the pipeline - including those of singer James Blunt, footballer Peter Crouch and his wife Abigail Clancy, politician Nigel Farage, footballer Kieron Dyer and ex-wife of golfer Colin Montgomerie, Eimear Cook.

NGN is also facing a claim from Cherie Blair after lawyers for the wife of former prime minister Tony Blair confirmed they had issued proceedings on her behalf.

Acknowledging today that the situation was changing "from minute to minute", Hugh Tomlinson QC said 14 new cases had been issued and 180 individuals had approached solicitors and were considering claims.

Metropolitan Police figures showed that there were 829 potential victims, of whom 231 were said to be uncontactable.

Setting a date of February 18 2013 for a four-week trial of any remaining claims, the judge said that the next case management conference, on April 20, should consider a cut-off date for filing claims, a register of claimants, the possibility of a group litigation order and the sharing of legal representation and costs.