UK singer gets $951,000 in Murdoch hacking case

By Raphael Satter

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Feb. 27 2012 7:24 a.m. MST

Singer Charlotte Church, center, arrives with her legal team at the High Court in London to hear the reading of a statement setting out the terms of the settlement for phone hacking damages claim against News International, Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. Charlotte Church, who testified before a media inquiry of being hounded by Rupert Murdoch's journalists when she was a teen singing sensation, received 600,000 pounds ($951,000) on Monday in a phone hacking settlement from News International and said she had been sickened by what she had learnt about intrusion into her private life. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

Sang Tan, AP

LONDON — Charlotte Church, who testified about being hounded by Rupert Murdoch's journalists when she was a teen singing sensation, received 600,000 pounds ($951,000) Monday in a settlement from News International.

Despite her legal victory, Church lambasted the media mogul's empire, saying the entire experience — years of tabloid intrusions and more years of legal battles — had horrified her.

"What I have discovered as the litigation has gone on has sickened and disgusted me. Nothing was deemed off limits by those who pursued me and my family, just to make money for a multinational news corporation," she said outside court.

Church was present at London's High Court for the reading of a statement resolving her claim that 33 articles in the now-defunct News of the World tabloid were the product of journalists illegally hacking into her family's voice mails.

The settlement to Church includes 300,000 pounds ($476,000) in legal costs and a public apology but Church said she did not believe News International's apology was sincere.

"I have also discovered that despite the apology which the newspaper has just given in court, these people were prepared to go to any lengths to prevent me exposing their behavior," she said. "They are not truly sorry. They are just sorry they got caught."

Lawyers for Church, 26, and her parents, James and Maria, confirmed that terms had been agreed with News of the World publisher News Group Newspapers.

News International, a division of Murdoch's News Corp., has tried hard to keep phone hacking cases from going to trial. It has launched its own compensation program, overseen by a respected former judge, and has paid out millions in out-of-court settlements for about 60 cases including one brought by actor Jude Law, comedian Steve Coogan, former soccer star Paul Gascoigne and actress Sienna Miller.

The lawsuits stem from revelations of phone-hacking and other illegal tactics at the News of the World, where journalists routinely intercepted voice mails of those in the public eye in a relentless search for scoops.

Murdoch closed the 168-year-old tabloid in July amid a wave of public revulsion over its 2002 interception of voice mails belonging to a missing 13-year-old girl, Milly Dowler, who was later found murdered. Murdoch and his company paid millions to the Dowler family.

The scandal has spawned three parallel police investigations and a U.K. judge-led inquiry into media ethics, where Church spoke of the intense, often overwhelming, media intrusion into her family's private life.

Meanwhile, a senior British police official said Monday that Britain's biggest selling tabloid, The Sun, has a culture of making illegal payments to public officials in return for stories.

The Metropolitan Police's Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers told Britain's media ethics inquiry that the newspaper, part of Murdoch's global empire, openly referred to paying its sources and that such payments were authorized at a senior level.

Akers said journalists paid not only police officers but police, military, health and government officials. One official received a total of 80,000 pounds ($126,912) over several years, Akers said, adding that police also are investigating if public officials were placed on retainers by newspapers.

She said "a network of corrupted officials" was providing the Sun with stories that were mostly "salacious gossip."

"There appears to have been a culture at the Sun of illegal payments, and systems have been created to facilitate such payments whilst hiding the identity of the officials receiving the money," said Akers.

News International said it did not immediately have any response to Akers' comments.

The Metropolitan police are currently handling three parallel investigations spawned by the tabloid phone hacking scandal.

Police and News Corp. lawyers are combing through millions of emails for evidence of wrongdoing at The Sun as well as the News of the World, and several senior members of The Sun's staff have already been called in for questioning over allegations of police bribery. More arrests are possible.

Akers, who is in charge of the police investigation into phone hacking and police bribery, was giving evidence at the Leveson inquiry set up by Prime Minister David Cameron in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.

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