- SIENNA Miller was among 18 claimants to accept damages for the misuse of her private information
- DETAILS of her pregnancy were allegedly stolen by The Sun and used by Rebekah Brooks – who is today Rupert Murdoch’s most senior employee in Britain
- PUBLISHERS News Group Newspapers (NGN) insist The Sun has never engaged in criminality, as it:
- SETTLES another round of cases alleging hacking at The Sun before the facts can be tested in a public court
By Dan Evans, Founding Editor
THE ACTRESS Sienna Miller has spoken of her disappointment that Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers has been able to avoid a trial of allegations that it destroyed evidence and perverted the course of justice during the phone hacking scandal – for fear of being saddled with millions of pounds in legal costs.
Ms Miller on Thursday spoke emotionally outside the High Court in London having settled her claim over the misuse of her private information by The Sun with a confidential payment of damages and legal costs – but without any admission of liability or wrongdoing by Britain’s biggest tabloid.
Miller said: “It was not my choice to be standing here, I wanted to go to trial,” adding: “I wanted to share Newsgroup’s secrets just as they have shared mine.
“Unfortunately, that legal recourse is not available to me or to anyone who does not have countless millions of pounds to spend on the pursuit of justice.
“Such is our world. Until someone comes along who can confront the Murdochs’ endless means, all that I have left are these words.”
The secrets to which Miller referred included highly personal details of a 2005 pregnancy allegedly uncovered by The Sun’s use of a private investigator called Christine Hart whom, she said in a statement, was commissioned by the paper’s serving Chief Foreign Correspondent Nick Parker.
The information was later allegedly deployed by Rebekah Brooks, the then Editor of The Sun and today the Chief Executive Officer in charge of Murdoch’s British media empire, and whose claimed involvement publishers News Group Newspapers (NGN) sought to have heard in Court in secret, with journalists excluded.
But on Tuesday, Managing Judge Mr Justice Fancourt rejected NGN QC Anthony Hudson’s argument that court reporters could not be trusted to accurately explain the legal arguments in play, provoking Miller’s barrister David Sherborne to say: “It is curious that a media organisation would seek to restrict other media organisations from reporting on what is said to be its misconduct.”
Ms Miller flew in from New York to argue the right to have read a formal ‘Statement In Open Court’ (SIOC), setting out her allegations against NGN as it settled 18 cases for the misuse of private information, adding to the estimated £1bn+ bill it has footed in a seven-year litigation – sparked by the closure of the News of the World in 2011 over the hacking of a murdered schoolgirl’s phone – which still threatens to engulf The Sun.
In the final SIOC, approved by the Court, Ms Miller said she felt “vindicated” in bringing her claim, having been “disturbed to discover” through what she claimed was a slow and unsatisfactory process of disclosure, that she was victim of a “prolonged, substantial and targeted voicemail interception and unlawful information gathering activities carried out by journalists at The Sun.”
Rebekah Brooks’ denials, “including under oath”, that she was involved in or aware of unlawful activity were “especially aggravating” to Ms Miller, the statement said.
The statement said that even though the settlement included no admission of liability, the fact that The Sun‘s publishers agreed to pay “such a substantial sum” was “tantamount to an admission of liability on the part of The Sun“.
Claiming that The Sun tried to “profit” from her “misery” and published some 34 articles that unlawfully infringed her privacy, Miller said outside court: “I am deeply distressed and shocked by what I have learned about the conduct of journalists and senior management at The Sun and News International.”
Miller added: “They all thought that they were above the law. I am sure when they weigh up the cost of this case, that kind of behaviour probably seemed worth it bearing in mind the amount of money they made by trading on people’s personal information, by trading on their lives, by trading on their own private truths in order to sell their papers.”
Vowing to appear as a witness at any future trial in which NGN faces allegations of a corporate cover-up of industrial-scale journalistic wrongdoing, Miller added: “They very nearly ruined my life. I have certainly seen how they have ruined the lives of others.
“Their behaviour shattered me, damaged my reputation at times beyond repair, and caused me to accuse my family and friends of selling information that catapulted me into a state of intense paranoia and fear. Their actions, their words, their ‘tittle tattle’ compelled me into making decisions about my future and ultimately about my own body that I have to live with every single day.
“I say this with humility, and speak for those who do not have a public profile, who do not have a voice to fight back. I stand here in fellowship with the untold lives that have been destroyed by The Sun and News International.”
Ms Miller was joined in Court 10 at the Rolls Building in the heart of London’s legal quarter by Imogen Thomas, a former Miss Wales and contestant in Big Brother, who is now a mother of two and entrepreneur, who was targeted by NGN’s hackers and illegal data blaggers including while she was involved in a court case in 2011 involving the former footballer Ryan Giggs seeking an anonymous injunction.
Mr Sherborne said: “It is troubling that she was targeted during separate litigation, and would not have been involved in the proceedings but for the Defendant’s activities.”
Ms Thomas said: “The actions of NGN caused me, my family and friends considerable distress. Relationships were damaged, friendships were lost and my integrity was questioned. It was painful.”
She added: “It was callous and left me emotionally numb. I hope going forward that this doesn’t happen to any other victims and it stops here. My life has been an experiment to them let’s pray for change and protection for the future.”
Former footballer Paul Gascoigne also made a heartfelt statement, read in court by his lawyer and friend Gerald Shamash, who said Mr Gascoigne had been “horrified” to learn payments were made by The Sun to a private investigator who is alleged to have got hold of his private medical information.
Mr Gascoigne believed the payments were “made in relation to obtaining private, very personally sensitive matters”, said Mr Shamash. He said the former Newcastle United, Lazio, Glasgow Rangers and England footballer was “shocked” to see information from the court’s disclosure process allegedly showing The Sun had “paid to obtain information on his mental health”.
He said NGN agreed to pay substantial damages to settle the claim without a trial but have not admitted any liability in relation to the allegations of unlawful information gathering.
Other claimants to receive damages and apologies include the actor sisters Julia and Nadia Sawalha, Game of Thrones star Sean Bean, musician Dane Bowers, Coronation Street actor Charlie Lawson, Texas singer Sharleen Spiteri, cricket legend Shane Warne, talent agent Jane Epstein, TV executive Michael Hollingsworth, Natalie Cecil – former wife of racehorse trainer Sir Henry Cecil – former MP and Press reform campaigner Dr Evan Harris, and the actor and singer Richard Fleeshman.
In the interests of transparency, Byline Investigates has edited the description of Christine Hart’s profession to “private investigator”.