Actor Jude Law, MP Chris Bryant and former deputy prime minister John Prescott were among those represented in court todayCredit: PA/Yui Mok/Danny Lawson
News International agreed to pay damages to 37 victims of phone hacking today in the high court, including actor Jude Law, MP Chris Bryant, and former deputy prime minister John Prescott.
Of those 37 claimants, the details of 15 settlements were read out in court, along with three undisclosed payments. News Group Newspapers, a subsidiary of News International which published the News of the World, will pay £645,000 in damages to those 15 claimants, plus costs.
Among those whose settlements were made public, Prescott received £40,000, Bryant, £30,000, and actor Sadie Frost £50,000. All claimants will also be paid costs, taking the total price of the litigation for NGN to far in excess of the amount in damages.
The majority of damages payments were between £30,000 and £50,000. Exceptions included actor Jude Law, who was awarded £130,000 – the highest disclosed payout, a News International spokesperson confirmed – and anonymous claimant HJK, who received £60,000 after being targeted while having a relationship with a celebrity. Law said in a statement read in court that he had been "truly appalled" by evidence that his life had been under "constant surveillance" by the News of the World.
NGN, which also publishes the Sun, was the first named defendant in each of the cases, with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed alongside former News of the World royal correspondent Clive Goodman in 2007 for his part in the hacking scandal, the second defendant.
Tamsin Allen, a lawyer at Bindmans LLP, which is representing many of the claimants, said in a statement that they "now have some clarity about what happened to them in the years between 2000 and 2005 and satisfaction that justice has finally been done".
"Many of them have wondered for years how tabloid newspapers were able to obtain secret personal information about them, even suspecting their closest friends and relatives. Lives have been severely affected by this cavalier approach to private information and the law.
"News Group’s misguided decision to defend claims aggressively made matters worse. News Group have finally started to see sense and agreed to apologise and to pay compensation and costs in the majority of the remaining claims.
"The Leveson Inquiry will, in time, reveal to the public the full extent of the perversion of good journalistic standards at the News of the World during the phone-hacking years.”
Mark Thomson of Atkins Thomson, which is also representing claimants, said that, "After years of denials and cover-up, NGN has finally admitted the depth and scale of the unlawful activities of many of their journalists at the News of World and the culture of illegal conduct at their paper".
"After more than a year of litigation, they have now not only made admissions and apologies to many individual victims of the phone hacking conspiracy but also made general admissions about what went on."
Atkins also pointed out that a number of claimants are pursuing legal cases against the publisher and "as a result, NGN will continue to disclose further information and evidence".
Statements submitted to court by many of the defendants contained acknowledgements from NGN lawyer Michael Silverleaf QC that information about the claimants had been obtained illegally and apologies.
Today's cases follow previous substantial payouts by NGN, which opened a compensation fund in November last year to cater for damages to hacking victims. In December the publisher confirmed it had settled seven claims, paying damages to Abi Titmuss, Ulrika Jonsson, Michelle Milburn, Paul Dadge, Calum Best, Mark Oaten, and James Hewitt.
Prior to that, publicist Max Clifford received a payout of around £1m, and former Professional Footballer's Association chief Gordon Taylor – subject of the transcript contained in the so-called "for Neville" email – around £700,000.
The highest payout made by News International to date, and the highest damages ever paid by a media organisation, was to the parents of Milly Dowler, who received £2m after the News of the World was shown to have accessed the voicemails of their daughter while she was missing.
Other public figures who received settlements include former Sky Sports pundit Andy Gray, interior designer and stepmother of Sienna Miller Kelly Hoppen, and former Labour cabinet members David Blunkett and Tessa Jowell.