9 Apr 2011

News International apologises over phone hacking scandal

Home Affairs Correspondent

News International will pay out millions of pounds compensation to public figures over the News of the World phone hacking allegations. The scandal is “far from over”, says Tom Watson MP.

News International apologises over phone hacking scandal

It said it had also instructed lawyers to set up a compensation scheme to deal with “justifiable claims”.

Among those thought to be in line for compensation are actor Sienna Miller, former culture secretary Tessa Jowell, her former husband David Mills, former Sky Sports commentator Andy Gray, publicist Nicola Phillips, Joan Hammell, a former aide to former deputy prime minister John Prescott, and interior designer Kelly Hoppen.

The company said the move applied to allegations of voicemail hacking at the News of the World from 2004 to 2006.

News International said the announcement followed an “extensive internal investigation” and disclosures through civil legal cases.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned company released a statement on Friday, which read: “Following an extensive internal investigation and disclosures through civil legal cases, News International has decided to approach some civil litigants with an unreserved apology and an admission of liability in cases meeting specific criteria. We have also asked our lawyers to establish a compensation scheme with a view to dealing with justifiable claims fairly and efficiently.

“This will begin the process of bringing these cases to a fair resolution with damages appropriate to the extent of the intrusion. We will, however, continue to contest cases that we believe are without merit or where we are not responsible. That said, past behaviour at the News of the World in relation to voicemail interception is a matter of genuine regret. It is now apparent that our previous inquiries failed to uncover important evidence and we acknowledge our actions then were not sufficiently robust.

Past behaviour at the News of the World in relation to voicemail interception is a matter of genuine regret. News International statement

“We continue to co-operate fully with the Metropolitan Police. It was our discovery and voluntary disclosure of this evidence in January that led to the re-opening of the police investigation. With that investigation on going, we cannot comment further until its completion. News International’s commitment to our readers and pride in our award-winning journalism remains undiminished.

“We will continue to engage with and challenge those who attempt to restrict our industry’s freedom to undertake responsible investigative reporting in the public interest.”

But Tom Watson, the Labour MP for West Bromwich East, and who has been monitoring the phone hacking claims amongst fellow parliamentarians, told Channel 4 News that the news is “not a breakthrough at all.”

“News International were forcerd into this limited move because they would have had to pay out compensation through the courts anyway,” he said.

“The truth they still do not realise is that this scandal will never be over for Murdoch until we know the identites of everyone who carried out the phone hacking.”

It is thought that News International is expected to pay no more than £100,000 to each person it accepts liability over the hacking allegations and will pay out around £20m.

On Tuesday, former News of the World news editor, Ian Edmondson, and current reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, both voluntarily presented themselves to police stations, where they were arrested over suspicion of “conspiring to intercept communications” and “unlawfully intercepting voicemail messages” while working at the paper.