Church's phone-hack payout helps spare Murdoch's blushes

Feb 23, 2012

Singer agrees to out-of-court settlement as NI escapes embarrassing court case

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COULD Rupert Murdoch's luck be on the turn? Days before the launch of his new tabloid The Sun on Sunday, the singer Charlotte Church - one of a group of celebrities that has pursued the News of the World publisher through the courts over phone hacking - has agreed to settle out of court.

A two-week trial had been due to start on Monday, which would have raised the spectre of the now-defunct NotW's misdemeanours the day after its replacement was launched. But today a High Court hearing to discuss reporting restrictions was told that the case had been settled.

Church joins the likes of Steve Coogan, Paul Gascoigne, Jude Law and Sienna Miller in accepting a pay off from News International, which is said to be desperate to avoid a public trial.

The Daily Telegraph says that Church and her parents, whose phones were also hacked, are likely to receive total compensation, including legal fees, of up to £500,000. Details of the settlement are expected to be announced on Monday.

"More than 50 other cases have been settled over the past two months," reports the paper. And it says five more could be settled next week. "They are the only outstanding cases lodged with the High Court before a cut-off date in October last year for the first batch of claims against News Group Newspapers to be dealt with by the court."

Church's was the only case from that batch that had been due to go to trial.

But that is far from the end of the matter. "News International faces at least 50 fresh civil actions from figures including Cherie Blair, the wife of the former Labour prime minister," says The Guardian. "Others who have already filed claims include footballer Peter Crouch, singer James Blunt and UKIP leader Nigel Farage."

More than 800 possible victims of phone hacking have been notified by the Met Police after it launched Operation Weeting, a new investigation into phone hacking, last year.

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