Phone-hacking scandal: Duchess of York settles case

Duchess of York The duchess has continued to be the focus of press attention since her marriage to Prince Andrew ended

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The Duchess of York has settled her phone-hacking legal claim against the publishers of the News of the World.

Sarah Ferguson received a public apology and undisclosed damages from News Group Newspapers in the latest hearings in the High Court action.

She was among hundreds of victims of the illegal practice which led to the closure of the newspaper in 2011.

The 16 other newly-settled cases included those of singer James Blunt and former minister Geoffrey Robinson.

Statements of behalf of the claimants were read out before Mr Justice Vos.

Legal teams

David Sherborne, counsel for the Duchess of York, told Mr Justice Vos: "During the period from 2000 until 2006 the claimant experienced unusual activity on her mobile phone.

"The claimant also noticed that journalists and/or photographers appeared to know her location in advance, meaning that when she arrived at functions or planned events, it was often the case that journalists or photographers were already present."

He told the court that voicemail messages on the duchess's mobile phone "were intercepted for the News of the World over a considerable period of time".

Anthony Hudson, for News Group Newspapers (NGN), told the judge: "NGN is here today through me to offer its sincere apologies to the claimant for the damage and the distress caused to her by the accessing of her voicemail messages and obtaining confidential information."

Actor Hugh Grant, who revealed details of his settlement in December, was also included in the hearings.

Others who settled included actor Christopher Eccleston, entertainer Uri Geller, who was present in court, and Colin Stagg, the man who first attracted media attention when he was wrongly accused of murdering Rachel Nickell.

The rest of the claimants were: Jeff Brazier, the father of Jade Goody's children; investigative journalists Hannah Cleaver and Edward Hynes; singer Kerry Katona; Jeffrey Archer's friend Edwina Pitman; Charlotte Church's Roman Catholic priest Fr Richard Reardon; TV presenter June Sarpong; private individual Merul Shagur Mehta; Labour's London regional director Hilary Perin; and Chris Terrill, who was once engaged to Heather Mills.

Statements from the legal teams of those making claims were read out in open court, airing their grievances, and apologies were made on behalf of News Group Newspapers.

Mr Blunt, a former Army officer who was making calls to servicemen in Afghanistan, said he was shocked and distressed when he found out from police that his phone had been hacked. He was paid a "substantial" sum in damages.

A statement from Mr Brazier explained how unlawful activities by the News of the World, unknown at the time, caused distrust between him and Ms Goody, which led to arguments during their relationship.

It said the claimant was very distressed that he could never apologise to Ms Goody, who died in 2009.

Unsettled cases

A total of 144 people have settled claims over phone hacking with News Group Newspapers so far.

In January last year, actor Jude Law was among 37 people who settled their cases, with his £130,000 compensation the biggest of the 15 awards revealed at the time.

Other amounts included £40,000 to former Labour deputy leader John Prescott, £50,000 to Jude Law's ex-wife Sadie Frost and £30,000 to Labour MP Chris Bryant.

A year ago, Charlotte Church and her parents James and Maria settled their action for £600,000, including £300,000 legal costs, days before it was due for trial.

Actress Sienna Miller was the first to publicly settle her claim, for £100,000, in June 2011.

There are 23 people who still have to settle, which will either be by agreement or could go to trial. Decisions on those cases will be made next month.

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