A statement in open court was read today at the High Court in the phone hacking claim brought by Dr Evan Harris, a former Hacked Off Director, Liberal Democrat MP and international freedom of expression campaigner, against News Group Newspapers. It has been agreed that Dr Harris will be paid substantial damages (the quantum of which is confidential, though not at Dr Harris’ request) and his legal costs.
Dr Harris said that the settlement was “tantamount to an admission of liability” of hacking at The Sun dating from his days as an MP. On the basis of disclosed documents, Dr Harris also believes that The Sun illegally targeted Hugh Grant days before he gave evidence at the Leveson Inquiry. The statement refers to documents which, it is said, show a “large scale plot to destroy emails” which might have incriminated the newspaper. It is claimed that the Sun “concealed” evidence of criminality and that it was “covered up”.
News Group Newspapers continue to deny hacking occurred at The Sun newspaper.
Commenting, Hacked Off Chief Executive Nathan Sparkes said,
Since claims of hacking at The Sun newspaper were first brought, Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers have paid out staggering sums to prevent them from going to trial, and thus exposing the practices of the newspaper to public scrutiny.
The expense, and the damage caused to public trust, which newspapers including The Sun have suffered in relation to the hacking scandal could have been significantly reduced, had the Government proceeded with the second part of the Leveson Inquiry and implemented the recommendations of Part One – including a costs-shifting provision which would have enabled newspapers to resolve hacking claims cheaply.
Unfortunately the Government caved in to newspaper lobbying and dropped the proposed reforms and Leveson Part Two. In the absence of a full investigation the newspapers have been able to continue to deny wrongdoing forcing claimants like Dr Harris to pursue lengthy and expensive legal action to get justice.
Without the Second Part of the Leveson Inquiry, the public will never know the full truth.
The Sun and other newspapers in the UK claim to be beacons of free speech; holding power to account and shining a light in dark places. The reality is the press is desperate to suppress investigation, protect those in power and bury evidence of wrongdoing.