LONDON — News Intl. has agreed to pay £600,000 ($951,000) in damages and costs to Welsh singer Charlotte Church and her parents to settle their phone-hacking case against the defunct News of the World newspaper.
This is one of the largest settlements yet made public, which reflects the fact that Church was a teenager when her voicemail was repeatedly hacked, and the long period of time over which the offences took place.
Church’s case is particularly sensitive for News Corp., the U.S. parent of News Intl., because reports have emerged that Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who hacked her phone for the News of the World, also had the U.S. cell phone numbers of her Los Angeles agent and her New York publicist in his notes.
It is not yet known whether their phones were hacked. But if such evidence emerges, it could lay News Corp. open to a wider FBI probe of its activities on U.S. soil.
Speaking outside London’s High Court on Monday, Church said, “What I have discovered as the litigation has gone on has sickened and disgusted me. Nothing was deemed off limits by those who pursued me and my family, just to make money for a multinational corporation.”
Church’s case claimed that 33 articles in the News of the World were the result of journalists or investigators illegally hacking into her family’s voicemails between 2002 and 2006. The newspaper used information gained to pressure Church’s mother into co-operating with an article about her suicide attempt.
News Intl. made a public apology as part of the settlement, half of which covers the Church family’s legal costs. But Church said, “Despite the apology which the newspaper has just given, these people were prepared to go to any lengths to prevent me exposing their behavior. They are not truly sorry. They are just sorry they got caught.”
There was a further blow to News Corp. on Monday when the police officer leading the probe into phone hacking and bribery told the Leveson enquiry into media ethics that her team had uncovered the widespread practise at News Intl.’s Sun newspaper of illegal payments to police officers and other public officials.
“Systems have been created to facilitate such payments whilst hiding the identity of the officials receiving the money,” said Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers.
If Akers’ accusation that the Sun ran a “network of corrupted officials” is proven, it will further increase the possibility that News Corp. could be investigated by the U.S. Dept. of Justice for breaches of the Foreign Corrupt Practises Act.