'Substantial damages' awarded as Hamiltons and John Leslie settle phone hacking cases

Claim brought by the estate of late Jade Goody also now settled

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The Independent Online

Neil Hamilton, the former Tory MP, and his wife Christine, the estate of the reality TV star Jade Goody, the former Blue Peter presenter, John Leslie, and a former senior political aide to Tony Blair in Downing Street,  were among eight  individuals to settle phone hacking claims against News International, the High Court heard today.

New Group Newspapers, the subsidiary division of Rupert Murdoch's UK print empire which ran the now-defunct Sunday tabloid, offered apologies, substantial damages and agreed to pay costs to all the claimants.

The short statement read out on behalf of Matthew Doyle, who was Mr Blair's deputy director of communications during key period of the Blair administration, did not stray into any detail of when, how or why the News of the World had effectively targeted 10 Downing Street.

The formal statement on behlaf of Mr Doyle, read out by his counsel Jeremy Reed, limited itself to saying his claim for "misuse of private information and breach of confidence" had been settled, and that legal costs would be included. 

Mr Reed also read out a statement on behalf of the Hamiltons, which stated that NOTW had intercepted their voicemail messages "late 2001".

Mr Leslie, who presented the BBC's Blue Peter from 1989 to 2004 and  ITV's This Morning from 2001 to 2002, had his phone hacked while working on the ITV programme.

Mr Reed again told the court "The claimant was targeted by NoW because of a number of well publicised allegations concerning his private life."

He added "The claimant was deeply angry and upset to discover that owing to deliberate destruction of documents by the News of the World, he will never find out the true extent to which his privacy was invaded."

Dinah Rose QC, counsel for News International, offered "sincere apologies" on behalf of the publisher for all the claims that had been settled.

No statement was made on behalf of Goody, whose estate sued NGN on her behalf.

Jeff Brazier, who had two children with the reality TV star, settled the case  this year.

 Goody died in 2009. Mr  Brazier was contacted by the police in late 2011 and told of details concerning his private life appeared in a file prepared for the News of the World.

 The claim of James Perring, a close friend of  the television presenter Davina McCall, was also settled.

The hearing was the 15th case management conference relating to phone-hacking legal action brought by scores of prominent figures.

Nearly 150 people have settled claims over phone hacking with News Group Newspapers so far.

Of the 167 civil actions brought against News International, 149 have now settled. The court was told that new cases were still being added, and that currently there were 21 cases on the official register of claims.

Eight further claims, the court heard, were in the process of being added to list of actions against News International.

Mr Justice Vos, the judge who has been in charge of the civil claims since they started, was recently promoted to the Appeal Court. The judge who will replace him is expected to be announced before the summer recess of the High Court.

The civil trail date, roughly pencilled in for  Easter next year, when a small core of  selected cases is expected to be heard, was not expected to be changed due to the switch of judges, the court was told.