Heather Mills has received one of the highest media settlements in legal history, and received an apology from News Group Newspapers at the high court today after settling her phone-hacking case against the News of the World.
In her statement, Ms Mills spoke of the “highest media libel settlement in British legal history”.
*However, her case was a privacy, rather than a libel, claim and it was not initially clear if Ms Mills was referring to the amount of all those who have settled privacy claims against NGN over phone hacking so far.*
Ms Mills said a “criminal, targeted smear campaign” over the course of a decade by the, now defunct, news outlet destroyed her reputation and left her unable to continue her charity work.
Mills was one of 90 individuals, including Sir Elton John and Elizabeth Hurley, who have recently settled their cases for criminal invasion of privacy against News Group Newspapers, the Murdoch-owned publisher that owns the News of the World and the Sun.
Hacked Off Board Member, Professor Steven Barnett said on Sky News:
“We’ve already seen over 500 million pounds being spent in settlement and legal fees, it could rise to over a billion. And remember, you’ll appreciate this, this is at a time when journalists are being laid off, when journalism itself is in trouble, but we are still seeing the fallout from an organisational, I’m afraid probably several organisations, where this kind of practice was widespread. And yet, no one has been held accountable.”
“We’re talking about a scale of professional wrongdoing under the guise of journalism, which really should have no right to exist in most people’s professional lives.”
Hacked Off Board Member Jacqui Hames spoke on BBC News, saying:
“I’m sure there’s more settlements to come,this is just one of many that we’ve already had. But what we really need is part two of the Leveson Inquiry which was set up to take place after all the criminal investigations had finished to actually uncover these stories”
It seems some things never change – some of the biggest newspaper corporations would rather throw money at the problem than address the evidence of a culture of criminality at our national newspapers.
Last year the company set aside £14.7m in its accounts to deal with costs relating to ongoing cases. And it is likely they will continue to settle outstanding claims this year and next. But will they ever answer the real questions the public deserve to know?
- Who gave the order for criminal invasions of privacy including phone-hacking and data theft?
- Which press executives knew about it and who covered it up?
- Were police and public officials bribed by newspapers to hide the truth?
It has been over a year since the Government disgracefully reneged on its promise to complete the Leveson Inquiry. Leveson Part Two would have demanded answers to many of these questions.
But the fight is still far from over.
It’s easy to forget that for every one well known person who had their privacy illegally invaded by newspapers, there were dozens more who were not well known – but the friends or relatives of famous individuals, or victims of crime.
It is essential we get the truth of how this was allowed to happen, for everyone affected by press illegality.
Press abuse victims have waited for many years, if not decades, to know the truth and we will not stop until they get the justice they were promised.
It is worth remembering that only one in four phone-hacking victims is or was famous. Most are ordinary people – often victims of tragedy and innocent bystanders.
And tackling victim journalism is still at the centre of our work at Hacked Off. We receive dozens of calls every month from victims of press abuse. The so-called regulator IPSO is a sham – there is no real recourse or justice for ordinary people wronged by the press. Donate here to help us keep supporting victims.
The UK press has the worst rate for trustworthiness in western Europe. Without restoring independence of regulation, newspapers have no hope of regaining public trust. And without public trust, circulations will continue to decline.
We are currently campaigning to ensure any plans for social media regulation applies to newspapers and news websites too. It is time to level the playing field – your tweets should not be more regulated than the Daily Mail.
The Online Harms Bill is our greatest opportunity since Leveson to change the rigged system of regulation.