Actress Sienna Miller was offered 100,000 pounds ($163,000) by News Corp. (NWSA)’s U.K. unit to settle a lawsuit over allegations her mobile phone was hacked into by journalists at the News of the World newspaper.
The offer is more than she could expect to receive at a trial, News International lawyer Michael Silverleaf said at a hearing in London today. Silverleaf said the court should dismiss the suit as an abuse of process whether she accepts the offer or not.
There is “no reasonable prospect” of a court giving her that much if she won her case, so she shouldn’t be allowed to proceed with it, Silverleaf said. “Civil litigation does not exist for people to vent their feelings in public.”
Miller, 29, is one of more than 20 celebrities and politicians suing News Corp. (NWS) over the more than four-year-old phone hacking scandal. The company apologized and offered to settle some of the cases last week after two journalists linked to the paper were arrested.
Miller’s lawyer, Hugh Tomlinson, said his client hasn’t decided whether to settle the case. News International gave her 21 days to make her decision and there are still 12 days left, he said.
“We haven’t accepted the offer, we haven’t rejected the offer,” Tomlinson said. He also said during the hearing that it was possible that Miller might also have had her e-mail hacked into as well as her voice-mail.
Justice Geoffrey Vos said that there must be a full hearing next month. The offer to Miller should be kept open until 12 days after he has ruled on the abuse-of-process motion, he said.
Vos also asked lawyers today to select as many as five test cases by next month so that he can rule on liability and damages for guidance in the remaining litigation.
“The most important question really is: what happened, and what are the damages?” Vos said. “Otherwise we will be going on forever. Some people may want that, but I don’t.”
Daisy Dunlop, a News International spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement that the judge’s recommendations support the company’s “intention to apologize and to deal with these cases in the most fair and efficient way possible.”
News International has written to eight people, including Miller, sports agent Sky Andrew and former government minister Tessa Jowell, offering to settle. It asked another nine, including soccer player Paul Gascoigne, actress Leslie Ash and jockey Kieren Fallon, to provide more evidence to facilitate a settlement.
The offer to settle the lawsuit hasn’t slowed the number of lawsuits over phone hacking. Another complaint was filed by lawyer Graham Shear over phone hacking and Tomlinson said Jude Law, Miller’s former boyfriend, may also file a claim.
Jason Beer, a lawyer for London’s Metropolitan Police, said at the hearing this morning that since the apology by the newspaper police have been “flooded with calls” from people worried that their messages were accessed by reporters.
He said that more than 40 policemen are cataloging 9,200 pages of notes seized from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire in an attempt to determine how many people were victims of phone hacking. Mulcaire was jailed in 2007 along with the News of the World’s former royal editor, Clive Goodman, for hacking into the mobile phones of members of the royal household.
Beer said he hoped to have a figure within four weeks. He said that there were 91 voice-mail passwords in the notes and more phone numbers.
Separately today, police are considering a review of statements by News International Chief Executive Officer Rebekah Brooks about journalists paying officers for information.
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick wrote to a House of Commons committee to say police will review whether there are grounds for a criminal probe. The review is centered on a statement Brooks made to the committee in 2003 “regarding press paying police officers for information,” according to an e-mailed statement from the committee today.
Brooks submitted a statement to lawmakers earlier this month to “clarify” the 2003 remarks.
“I was responding to a specific line of questioning on how newspapers get information,” Brooks said in comments posted on the Parliament website. “My intention was simply to comment generally on the widely held belief that payments had been made in the past to police officers.”
Dunlop declined to comment on the committee statement.
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