Ex-MP Neil Hamilton and wife settle phone-hacking case

Neil Hamilton and his wife Christine pose for a photograph at the UKIP 2013 Spring Conference being held in the Great Hall, Exeter University on 23 March
Image caption Neil Hamilton and his wife Christine did not attend the hearing

Ex-Tory MP Neil Hamilton and his wife Christine have settled their phone-hacking claim against the publishers of the News of the World.

News Group Newspapers apologised and agreed to pay "substantial" damages and costs at the High Court in London.

The couple were among hundreds of victims of the illegal practice which prompted the paper's closure in 2011.

Claims by ex-Blue Peter host John Leslie and the estate of reality TV star Jade Goody were also settled.

None of the claimants was at the hearing.

'Unlawful means'

Lawyer Jeremy Reed told Mr Justice Voss the Hamiltons started proceedings last year "for misuse of private information and breach of confidence in respect of obtaining their call data by unlawful means".

The action related to events that took place in 2001, he said.

Mr Reed told the court News Group "now admits that Mr and Mrs Hamilton's call data was obtained for the News of the World by unlawful means".

Dinah Rose QC, for News Group, said: "NGN is here today through me to offer its sincere apologies to Mr Hamilton and Mrs Hamilton for the damage, as well as the distress, caused to each of them by the obtaining of their private and confidential information.

"NGN acknowledges that the information should never have been obtained in the manner it was, and that NGN is liable to each of them for misuse of private information and for breach of confidence."

Mr Reed told the judge that "in the light of this apology from NGN, Mr Hamilton and Mrs Hamilton consider each of their claims to have been vindicated".

Regarding Mr Leslie, Mr Reed said that during the relevant period he was working on the Granada Television programme This Morning.

Image caption John Leslie also settled his case

Mr Leslie was "targeted by the News of the World because of a number of well-publicised allegations concerning his private life".

He was "deeply angry and upset to discover that, owing to the deliberate destruction of documents by the News of the World, he will never find out the true extent to which his privacy was invaded," Mr Reed said.

He added that News Group "has now accepted responsibility for its unlawful actions and has, quite rightly, agreed to apologise to the claimant for the invasion of his privacy".

A claim by political adviser Matthew Doyle was also settled. He received an undisclosed sum in damages, legal costs and an apology.

TV producer Nigel Lythgoe also settled but no details were given in his case, nor in the case of Ms Goody, who died of cancer in 2009.

Duchess apology

The hearing was the 15th case management conference relating to phone-hacking legal action brought by scores of prominent figures and others.

The court heard that 149 of 167 actions originally on the register had now been settled, with eight further claims seeking to be added.

In February, the Duchess of York received a public apology and undisclosed damages.

Image caption The phone-hacking scandal led to the closure of the News of the World

Other recently settled cases include those of singer James Blunt, former minister Geoffrey Robinson, actor Christopher Eccleston and entertainer Uri Geller.

Actor Hugh Grant, who has been one of the leading voices in the campaign for tougher press regulation since the hacking scandal emerged, accepted a "substantial sum" in December 2012.

In January last year, actor Jude Law was among 37 people who settled their cases. His £130,000 settlement was 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 Mr Law's ex-wife Sadie Frost and £30,000 to Labour MP Chris Bryant.

The News of the World was closed in July 2011 following revelations that some of its journalists hacked into the mobile phones of celebrities, politicians and crime victims, including the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

The scandal also led to the establishment of the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics, an MPs' inquiry and the launch of three police investigations into alleged widespread phone hacking and corruption.

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