Murdoch's firm settles 9 phone hacking lawsuits

Friday, February 3, 2012, Vol. 36, No. 5

LONDON (AP) — Nine more phone hacking lawsuits against Rupert Murdoch's News International have been settled, including a case brought by comedian Steve Coogan, the victims' lawyer told Britain's High Court on Wednesday.

That brings to more than 60 the number of claims that Murdoch's UK newspaper company has dealt with in the scandal that has already brought down a 168-year-old tabloid and threatened Murdoch's global media empire.

But Murdoch's company still faces a host of other lawsuits linked to journalists obtaining scoops using illegal means. Hugh Tomlinson, the lawyer for the victims, said six more new lawsuits had been filed and 50 other cases are being prepared.

The cases settled recently include Coogan, who received a settlement of 40,000 pounds ($63,500) and soccer star Paul Gascoigne, who received 68,000 pounds ($108,000).

Simon Hughes, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat party, received 45,000 pounds ($71,500) and said in a statement that everyone who allowed a large company to behave illegally must be brought to account.

Lawmaker George Galloway received 25,000 pounds ($39,700) and News International lawyer Michael Silverleaf admitted the company had intercepted five of Galloway's voicemails around the time of the 2003 Iraq war.

Sally King, a friend of former Home Secretary David Blunkett, received 60,000 pounds ($95,300) while her husband Andrew received 50,000 pounds ($79,400). Her father and brother also received substantial damages.

Silverleaf said in court that News International had accepted responsibility and regretted the damage it had caused.

The only outstanding case from the first set of phone hacking claims was brought by singer Charlotte Church, who has testified that Murdoch's reporters grossly violated her privacy and that of her family, causing great distress.

The scandal over phone hacking at the News of the World tabloid boiled over after it emerged last summer that journalists at the paper had routinely hacked into the phones of celebrities, politicians, sports figures and even crime victims.

The now-defunct tabloid has already settled with several prominent figures, including actress Sienna Miller and the family of murdered British schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose phone was broken into by the paper soon after her disappearance in 2002.