Monday 19 March 2018

Charlotte Church wins £600k hacking payout from News of the World

Charlotte Church
Charlotte Church

Jan Colley

The News of the World repeatedly "targeted" singer Charlotte Church and her voicemail messages, the High Court heard today.

Her lawyer told a judge in London that in doing so it "unlawfully obtained her private medical information and details of her personal relationships with her family and friends".

The details emerged as Charlotte and her parents James and Maria settled their phone-hacking claim against News Group Newspapers (NGN) for £600,000, including £300,000 legal costs.

Their solicitor, Mike Brookes, told Mr Justice Vos: "Through these proceedings a flavour of what Charlotte has been subjected to has finally been revealed, and now admitted by NGN."

The singer was present in the packed courtroom to hear Mr Brookes read out a statement on the family's behalf.

Mr Brookes said: "The News of the World targeted Charlotte and her voicemail messages repeatedly, and in doing so unlawfully obtained her private medical information and details of her personal relationships with her family and friends.

"Even her first teenage boyfriend. They then ran stories about Charlotte using this information.

"It began in 2002 when Charlotte was just 16-years-old and continued for many years."

He added: "Charlotte was also regularly harassed and even placed under surveillance by the News of the World and those paid by them.

"They followed the every move of a teenage girl.

"We will never of course now know the full extent of what they did, because as we are aware, much of the data is now destroyed."

The court was told by Mr Brookes that Charlotte's parents were not in the public eye, but they had not escaped the "unwanted attentions of the News of the World".

He said: "As these proceedings have revealed, their own privacy has been violated on a number of occasions.

"The motivation for this intrusion into the lives of two essentially private and ordinary individuals was to make money."

Mr Brookes added: "The couple's voicemail messages were also targeted.

"James's voicemail was hacked. They were also harassed by the News of the World and were put under surveillance.

"People working for the News of the World were paid to watch their every move. Maria in particular is a vulnerable person, with a complex medical history.

"The News of the World found out about this and published private details of her hospital treatment.

"At her lowest moment, the News of the World issued her with an ultimatum and coerced her into giving them an in-depth interview about her self-harming and attempted suicide."

He said: "She felt she had no choice but to give the interview and was deeply traumatised by the publication of the story in the News of the World."

Mr Brookes told the judge: "My Lord this is the real story. The one that the News of the World never ran.

"It is only due to the courage and determination of Maria, James and Charlotte that I am able to stand before you today to confirm these events, and tell you that finally the News of the World have accepted responsibility for the way they have treated my clients."

The solicitor went on: "They are apologising. That much goes without saying. They have also agreed, amongst other things, to pay the Church family £600,000 in damages and legal costs.

"The Churches would of course have much preferred to have been left alone by the News of the World and never have had this happen to them.

"They hope, however, perhaps naively, that this can at least now draw a line under these sorts of practices and allow the family to move on."

Michael Silverleaf QC, for NGN, said: "I am here today to offer my client's sincere apologies to the Church family for the way they have been treated.

"NGN acknowledges that they should never have had to endure what they have suffered and that NGN are liable for the damage that they have caused."

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