News Corp. may face further phone-hacking claims as hundreds more victims have been identified in a new police investigation into the illegal interception of voice-mail messages by the company’s U.K. publishing unit.
The company has settled 145 of the 167 claims made against it so far, leaving 25 cases left to litigate, Hugh Tomlinson, a lawyer representing the victims, said at a London hearing today.
Three men and three women suspected of hacking phone messages in 2005 and 2006 were arrested Feb. 13, two of whom worked at the Sun -- Britain’s best-selling daily title. That opens a new front in the voice-mail interception scandal at New York-based News Corp., which previously focused on the News of the World.
News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch closed the News of the World tabloid in July 2011 in response to public anger over revelations it intercepted the mobile-phone messages of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler a decade ago. Prosecutors overseeing criminal cases against some of the tabloid’s ex-employees have said the title victimized more than 600 people between 2000 and 2006.
News Corp. referred a request for comment to its U.K. publishing branch, News International. A News International spokeswoman declined to comment.
The trial to hear the civil claims has been adjourned from its scheduled June start date to later in the year to allow more time to investigate the new evidence, Judge Geoffrey Vos ruled at today’s hearing.
News International has resolved hundreds of claims by victims through court-approved settlements and an out-of-court process created by the company. Police have said the tabloid had thousands of “potential victims,” though the level of evidence varies.
A Labour member of parliament has won “very substantial damages,” in a settled phone hacking lawsuit with News Corp., according to documents filed at a U.K. court.
Lawyers representing News Corp. apologized to Siobhain McDonagh at a hearing in London today over the “serious misuse of her private information,” by the Sun newspaper.
While most settlement amounts have been confidential, the company paid about 600,000 pounds ($906,000) to the Welsh singer Charlotte Church, including 300,000 pounds in legal costs, and another 130,000 pounds to actor Jude Law.
The Dowler family received an in-person apology from Murdoch and 3 million pounds, including 1 million pounds for a charity.
Trinity Mirror Plc’s Sunday Mirror was dragged into the U.K. phone hacking scandal last week as police arrested four journalists linked to the newspaper.