Newspaper hacks star celebs phones to get dirt?
We are not talking about Beyonce Knowles and Lada Gaga telephone video celebrity scandal. A scandal that has been brewing for years with Rupert Murdoch‘s News of the World tabloid is coming to a head. A judge has ruled that four test cases, among them pet friendly actress Sienna Miller, star of Factory Girl (2006) and The Edge of Love (2008), may move ahead with a lawsuit against News of the World for a phone-hacking scheme that violated the rights of a number of celebrities, sports stars, and royal family.
The word broke out in 2005 and 2006 that the tabloid had been involved in various means of intercepting voicemail communication and other private communications through phone-hacking. The News of the World had previously claimed no knowledge of the phone-hacking scheme, saying it was the work of just a couple of rogue employees, but investigation lately has demonstrated that the practice was far more widespread than initially thought.
The attorney for News Group, which owns News of the World, has argued that the case should not be allowed to continue because the paper has offered to settle for more than what complainants are likely to get awarded in court should they win. Regarding Sienna Miller, the attorney, Michael Silverleaf told the judge, “She cannot realistically recover more than we are offering.”
Sienna Miller has 21 days to decide if she will take the settlement, but it could mean allowing the newspaper to escape investigation into what could be many more cases. The paper has identified only eight complainants with whom it is offering to settle.
Miller’s lawyer, Hugh Tomlinson, said money was not the primary motivation for many of the claimants.
“Damages are an aspect, but when private infromation is involved, the kind of relief people are looking for goes beyond simply monetary compensation,” he said.
Already Andy Coulson has had to step down as head of communications for Prime Minister David Cameron as a result of the scandal. Coulson was editor for News of the World while the phone-hacking scheme was ongoing, according to Yahoo! News. And two senior men with News of the World have been held on charges, according to Reuters.
Earlier this week, two reporters were arrested as part of the long-running investigation into the scandal. The men, including former senior News of the World editor Ian Edmondson, were held on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and unlawful interception of voicemail messages.
Edmondson was fired after an internal inquiry into his conduct. The other man was identified as Neville Thurlbeck, the paper’s chief reporter.
Whether Sienna Miller will pursue a lawsuit is uncertain, but her attorney seems to be recommending she go ahead with it. If so, it could uncover a great many other phone-hacking victims who seek damages, and likely will become far more costly for News of the World in defense than if it merely settled with a handful of complainants.