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Phone hacking claimants drop exemplary damages case


Claimants in the phone-hacking litigation are not pursuing their case for punitive exemplary damages against News Group Newspapers (NGN).

Hugh Tomlinson QC told the High Court today that the provisional listing of September 2013 for the criminal trial of charges linked to the investigation had brought the civil proceedings, likely to be tried next June, into "sharp focus".

He said that the claim for exemplary damages - which NGN was asking Mr Justice Vos to strike out - would inevitably involve consideration of the state of mind of some of those facing criminal charges and there was great concern over any prejudice to the criminal proceedings.

Although it remained the claimants' view that it was a classic case for exemplary damages, it had been decided not to pursue it - on the basis that they would be fully and properly compensated by awards of ordinary and aggravated damages.

Dinah Rose QC, for NGN, said it had repeatedly made clear that it was prepared to pay full and fair compensation in every appropriate case.

"But this element of the claims was not appropriate or reasonable and not about compensation. It was an attempt to persuade the court to punish NGN by awarding financial windfalls to the claimants.

"We have said all along that this is unsustainable in law, unjustified and bound to fail.

"We are glad that the claimants have very sensibly seen the light and agreed to the proposal that they should abandon their claim."

The 10th case management conference in the proceedings, which will eventually culminate in the judge assessing compensation relating to 155 claims, will now consider the issues of proportionality and further disclosure.

The court will also sit on October 10 to consider an attempt to strike out the claim brought by Mary-Ellen Field, former adviser to model Elle Macpherson, on the basis that no phone interception took place, while another case management conference is listed for October 26.

The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow.