Times apologises to 'Nightjack' author it illegally unmasked


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The Independent Online

The subsidiary of News International that runs the Times newspaper today offered its apologies in the High Court to the police detective it had illegally unmasked as the author of the award-winning “Nightjack” blog.

The identity of the Lancashire officer was discovered when the former Times reporter, Patrick Foster, illegally hacked into the email account of Richard Horton.

The Times fought an injunction in the High Court which was brought by Mr Horton, claiming they had discovered his identity using legitimate journalistic methods. The Times ' editor, James Harding, told the Leveson Inquiry earlier this year that the account the Times gave  to the High Court was not correct and he apologised.

Damages for £42,500, based  on breach of confidence, misuse of private information, and deceit, were privately accepted earlier this month by Mr Horton.

Today counsel for The Times, Anthony Hudson, repeated to the  judge, Mr Justice Vos, that the  newspaper was apologising for the hurt it had caused, and would be paying "substantial damages" plus Mr Horton's legal costs.

The unmasking of the 'Nightjack' blogger , which was awarded the Orwell Prize, was initially claimed by the Times to be a major journalistic coup.  However following an investigation by Scotland Yard's  computer hacking unit, Operation Tuleta, Mr Foster was later arrested.

Although not among  the highest pay-outs, Mr Horton's damages level matches the average level of settled damages in the first tranche of phone hacking cases.

Yesterday the counsel for the second wave of victims, Hugh Tomlinson QC, confirmed that the spread of new actions scheduled for trial next year had now reached 167. It is now expected Mr Justice Vos will select between five and 10 cases to establish a blueprint for wider settlements.

Mr Justice Vos also announced that he would be the judge managing the first phone hacking claims that were lodged against Trinity Mirror earlier this week. Four claims were lodged in the High Court against Mirror Group titles. They include a claim by the former England football manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Other claims are expected to be lodged next week.