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News Corp. Sued Over Hacking by Freud Communications Executive

Hannah Pawlby, a public relations executive who works for Rupert Murdoch’s son-in-law, sued News Corp.’s U.K. unit over phone hacking.

Pawlby sued News Corp.’s News International unit and the private investigator at the center of the phone-hacking scandal at the company’s now-defunct News of the World tabloid, according to a court filing yesterday in London. A spokeswoman at Freud Communications, the PR firm owned by Matthew Freud, confirmed that Pawlby had filed the lawsuit.

News Corp. has been sued by scores of politicians and celebrities whose mobile-phone messages were accessed by journalists at the News of the World. Rebekah Brooks, the former head of the company’s British publishing unit, was charged May 15 with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by trying to cover up the scandal.

Pawlby was a special adviser to former U.K. home secretary Charles Clarke until 2006, when he was fired by then-Prime Minister Tony Blair. She joined the company owned by Freud, who is married to Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth, later that year, PRWeek reported at the time. She is now an associate director at Freud Communications.

News International spokeswoman Mary Kearney declined to immediately comment on the lawsuit. Pawlby didn’t return a call or e-mail for comment and the spokeswoman for Freud, who asked not to be identified in line with office policy, declined to comment further.

$258 Million

News Corp., based in New York, has spent about $258 million dealing with the scandal, including $151.4 million in legal fees and $15.6 million in settlements. About 200 new cases are being prepared, lawyers have said and recent cases were filed by Blair’s wife Cherie and soccer player David Beckham’s father.

Glenn Mulcaire, the News of the World private investigator, has been sued along with News Corp. in most of the phone-hacking cases. He was jailed in 2007 for accessing voice-mail messages of the royal family.

Police are contacting possible phone-hacking victims who were listed in Mulcaire’s notebooks when he was first arrested in 2006.

The case is: Hannah Pawlby v. News Group Newspapers Ltd, High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, HC12A02042.

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