Victims of phone hacking to share over £1m in damages
Published 22/05/2015 | 02:30
More than £1m (€1.4m) in damages has been awarded to celebrities including former footballer Paul Gascoigne and Sadie Frost over phone hacking by Mirror Group Newspapers.
The ex-England star was awarded £188,250 in damages at the High Court and actress Frost received £260,250.
Lawyers for phone-hacking victims claimed the payouts, totalling around £1.2m, were "unparalleled".
Eight damages awards were announced at London's High Court after a three-week hearing in March to determine the extent of the wrongdoing at the group and what level of compensation was appropriate.
Mr Justice Mann also awarded £85,000 to TV executive Alan Yentob, £117,500 and £157,250 respectively to actresses Shobna Gulati and Lucy Taggart, and £155,000 to soap star Shane Richie.
TV producer Robert Ashworth, who was married to actress Tracy Shaw, received £201,250, and flight attendant Lauren Alcorn, who had a relationship with soccer star Rio Ferdinand, was awarded £72,500.
The judge said the victims had all suffered a "serious infringement of privacy" and the scale of hacking was "very substantial indeed".
The judge's ruling will provide a framework for resolving similar civil actions in the pipeline.
Daniel Taylor, of Taylor Hampton, solicitors who represented three of the eight victims, said: "Today's judgment represents a milestone in the development of privacy law in the UK and the awarding of six-figure damages is truly historic and unparalleled, on a scale much greater than has ever been awarded previously."
In previous hearings, David Sherborne, counsel for the eight claimants, described hacking as "rife'' across all three of the group's national British titles by mid-1999.
It involved the systematic gathering of private information for profit, using illegal means, and it was that context in which damages should be assessed by the judge, who faced an ''unparalleled'' task.
He asked for damages which took into account distress, loss of personal autonomy, and the affront to dignity, and also reflected any increased injury to feelings caused by the conduct of the litigation, and the need for deterrence.
But MGN's counsel, Matthew Nicklin QC, said the claim that the victims suffered "unparalleled'' harm was wrong and there was no reason why compensation for distress caused by misuse of private information should go beyond that awarded in other types of litigation.
Mr Nicklin said: "Whilst these claimants should never have been subjected to the actions of some of the defendant's employees, the hurt they have been caused bears no comparison with that of many who come before the courts.''
No one had suffered personal harm and the hurt caused to a phone-hacking victim was not quantitatively different in terms of assessment, from that suffered in other kinds of cases, such as harassment, intimidation, victimisation, bullying or discrimination, he said.
"Whilst no doubt they are genuinely shocked and upset and, in some cases, angry, for what happened to them, these feelings will pass. However serious they are, they will not have blighted their lives,'' he added.
Earlier in the year, Trinity Mirror published a "sincere and unreserved'' apology for the voicemail interception, saying it "was unlawful and should never have happened''.
In a trading update, it said the cost of resolving civil claims would be "higher than previously envisaged'' and it was increasing the provision for dealing with them by £8m to £12m.