News Group Newspapers has today apologised to former heavyweight champion of the world Frank Bruno and agreed to pay him “substantial damages” in one of a number of phone hacking cases settled at the High Court today.
Bruno’s claim against the group, publisher of the Sun titles and the now defunct News of the World, was for misuse of private information and breach of confidence arising from phone hacking.
The former boxer’s case was one of sixteen against News Group Newspapers aired in the High Court today, 11 of which are confirmed to have been settled with apologies and a payout.
Press Gazette understands 15 of the 16 claims related to both the News of the World and the Sun, while the final claim relates only to the Sun.
However the Sun has admitted no liability in relation to any of the allegations of phone hacking against it.
Hannah Basha of lawyers Payne Hicks Beach, who represented Bruno, said after the hearing: “This is one of the most shocking examples of phone hacking we have seen.
“I am pleased that we were able to support Frank in such a tough case and achieve an unequivocal apology together with a payment in damages that reflects the enormous intrusion he suffered.”
In a statement, Bruno (pictured top) said: “I always believed that there was something strange going on with my phone, but no-one believed me.
“For years I said I was being hacked but people just said ‘Poor old Frank he’s really lost it this time.’
“I am glad that News Group Newspapers has finally apologised to me for the intrusions into my private life and the distress which it caused me and those close to me over a number of years.
“No amount of money will ever pay for the stress this caused, the sleepless nights, and the countless rows I had with people who I thought had leaked stories to the press.
“The people who did this are the lowest of the low. Gutter press is a good description. I hope they have now learnt some lessons.
“My mum used to say that we need to forgive those who have wronged us and, despite what I have been through, I will try and put this horrible episode behind me.
“I am thankful to those around me who supported me in my fight.”
Law firm Charles Russell Speechlys represented nine stars whose privacy claims for unlawful voicemail interception were also settled today.
The firm acted for TV star Les Dennis, Coronation Street actors Kym Marsh, Jimmi Harkishin, Alan Halsall, Lucy-Jo Hudson, Kate Ford and Samia Ghadie, Emmerdale actor Ben Freeman, and talent manager Chris Herbert, who represented pop groups the Spice Girls, Hear’Say, B*Witched and Five.
They all claimed their voicemail messages were hacked by NGN journalists who, as a result, would have been privy to personal voicemails from friends and family on their phones, and messages they left for others.
Each of the stars settled their cases and received damages and an apology in open court today for misuse of their private information.
The settlements also include an undertaking by NGN not to intercept the celebrities’ voicemail messages.
Claire Greaney, an associate at Charles Russell Speechlys who represented the nine claimants in court, said: “Everyone has the right to privacy and confidentiality. Violating that right was simply unacceptable.
“While our clients have a public profile, their private life is just that – private – and should be respected as such.”
Duncan Lamont, consultant at Charles Russell Speechlys, added: “We are pleased that we could assist our clients in resolving their disputes with NGN and that the publisher has made a public apology to each of our clients for the distress caused to them by hacking into their voicemail messages, obtaining private information about them, and using that information.”
The six other stars who were represented at the High Court today were: comedian Bob Mortimer, model Nancy Moir, singer Samuel Preston, Cherie Blair’s former fitness trainer Carole Caplin, former Southampton FC chairman Rupert Lowe, and Simon Clegg, former chief executive of the British Olympics Association.
Clegg told sports website Inside the Games he had received a financial settlement and public and private apologies from News Group Newspapers.
He said: “I am pleased and relieved that this matter has finally come to a close,” he said.
“It’s been a long and sometimes difficult road, though necessary given my personal privacy had been illegally compromised.”
A News UK spokesperson has declined to comment beyond what was said in court.
Picture: Action Images / Lee Smith