News Corp. (NWSA)’s U.K. publishing unit settled 22 more lawsuits over phone hacking by journalists at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid as the company seeks to avoid a group civil trial next year.
The confidential accords were described in a London court today by Hugh Tomlinson, a lawyer for more than 150 victims. The sides must now select seven or eight lead cases for trial, including “famous and non-famous” people, to help determine a range of damages, Judge Geoffrey Vos said at the hearing.
“There remains a need to have people from different walks of life” represented in the lead cases, Vos said. While all the victims had their privacy violated, celebrities who voluntarily lived in the public eye may be treated differently than individuals who led strictly private lives, he said.
British actor Hugh Grant, who hasn’t settled, is among the victims who sued over claims their mobile-phone voice mail was intercepted by journalists seeking private information. The Metropolitan Police Service has given many of the victims evidence to back their cases, including notes by Glenn Mulcaire, the tabloid’s private investigator arrested in 2006.
The settlements announced today were made with victims including Jeff Brazier, a U.K. soccer player who became a reality-television star; Jamie Theakston, a TV and radio presenter in Britain; and Colin Stagg, who was wrongly accused of murder in 1992 and later became the subject of tabloid news coverage, even after he was cleared.
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch closed the newspaper last year in response to the scandal. More than 70 civil lawsuits were settled by February, resulting in the cancellation of a trial scheduled for that month.
More than 80 people have been arrested in relation to wrongdoing at News Corp.’s U.K. operation, including Rebekah Brooks, its former chief executive officer. Brooks is among eight former News Corp. journalists charged in July with conspiring to hack the phones of more than 600 people between 2000 and 2006. A criminal trial is scheduled for September.
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