LONDON: British actor Hugh Grant has settled a legal case against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) after the company admitted that reporters at its three tabloid titles had hacked into his voicemails over a 10-year period to get scoops, he said.
Grant, who is known internationally for roles in films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, won a six-figure sum in damages from MGN which he will donate to Hacked Off, a group that campaigns against press intrusion.
Grant was one of the highest profile victims of phone-hacking by reporters, a practice that became widespread at some of Britain’s fiercely competitive tabloids but was exposed during a major scandal in 2011.
Most of the focus at the time was on the News of the World, a Sunday tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch which the media mogul shut down at the height of the scandal.
Later, it emerged that phone-hacking had also occurred at the Sun, another Murdoch title, and at the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, all owned by MGN which is part of Trinity Mirror.
“This newspaper group has misled the public and its shareholders for many years, and it has let down its readers and its hard-working journalists,” Grant said in a statement after his lawyers announced in court that the case had been settled.
“Those journalists have paid the price for the wrongdoing of executives who have left with large pay-offs and share options,” he said, naming several former editors of the three Trinity Mirror titles.
During a short hearing to inform the London High Court that the case had been settled, a lawyer for MGN said the company acknowledged phone-hacking was morally wrong and deeply regretted the acts of its former employees.
“MGN accepts that the unlawful interception of voicemail messages and procurement of private information about the Claimant and others should never have happened,” the lawyer said.
A Trinity Mirror spokesman said the company had no further comment beyond what was said in court.
Grant’s complaint related not just to phone-hacking but also to surveillance and blagging, a method whereby reporters would pose as other people to coax private information out of sources who did not realize they were speaking to the press.
Grant’s lawyer told the court that one of his main reasons for pursuing the legal claim against MGN was to expose the truth about what she called “Trinity Mirror’s concealment of its wrongdoing”.
As part of the settlement, MGN admitted that “senior employees, including executives, editors, and journalists, condoned, encouraged or actively turned a blind eye to the widespread culture of unlawful information gathering activities at all three of its newspapers for many years”.