News UK settles privacy claim brought by PR whose phone messages were viewed by journalist

News UK has settled a legal claim brought by a woman working in PR who sued for breach for privacy after her stolen mobile phone was handed in to The Sun.

Former Sun reporter Ben Ashford was cleared by a jury earlier this month after standing trial accused of possessing criminal property under the Proceeds of Crime Act and breaching the Computer Misuse Act.

It can now be revealed that a separate civil claim brought by the woman has been settled on a confidential basis.

She claimed losses of up to £50,000 in a High Court claim form filed in March 2013 against Sun publisher News Group Newspapers (now part of News UK).

Her solicitor said that she was at the Circle Club in Manchester on the night of 10 October, 2009, when a handbag containing her purse, keys and mobile phone was stolen.

She said she was later called by Ashford who said that he had her mobile phone and was willing to return it to her.

The claim form states that she sent a friend to meet the journalist, who handed over the phone along with his business card and an invitation to get in touch.

It emerged in court earlier this month that the phone contained flirtatious text messages sent by a famous married celebrity.

It was offered to Ashford by an intermediary who did not reveal it was stolen. Ashford said in court that he believed at the time that the person who offered him the phone may have been acting with the owner's consent.

The woman's identity was subject to reporting restrictions during the trial.

In the claim form, the woman reveals that she was contacted by other journalists from Sun publisher News Group via email again on 9 February 2010 and on 10 February 2010 inviting her to comment on a story they were proposing to run. She said that she did not respond to the emails and that no story appeared.

She said that in July 2012 she was informed that transcriptions of text messages from her phone had been found on a News Group Newspapers computer.

Her solicitor said in her legal claim: “It is to be inferred from the emails of 9 and 10 February 2010 that the defendant used the claimant’s private information as the basis for a story relating to her”.

She sought damages for breach of confidence, misuse of private information and trespass to goods.

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