Actor Hugh Grant settles privacy lawsuit against Murdoch's Sun tabloid


  • World
  • Wednesday, 17 Apr 2024

FILE PHOTO: Cast member Hugh Grant attends a premiere for the film Wonka in Los Angeles, California, U.S. December 10, 2023. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

LONDON (Reuters) -British actor Hugh Grant has settled a lawsuit against the publisher of Rupert Murdoch's tabloid newspaper, The Sun, over claims journalists used private investigators to tap his phone and burgle his house, he said on Wednesday.

Grant, alongside King Charles' son Prince Harry, was suing News Group Newspapers (NGN) for alleged widespread unlawful information gathering, including landline tapping, burglary and "blagging" confidential information about him.

Famous for films such as "Love Actually", "Paddington 2" and "Notting Hill", Grant has become a prominent campaigner on press reform since the phone-hacking scandal emerged more than a decade ago, and had joined forces with Harry in recent years.

His case was one of several lawsuits which were eligible to go to trial at London's High Court in January, but the actor said he had agreed to settle with NGN.

"News Group are claiming they are entirely innocent of the things I had accused the Sun of doing," he posted on X. "As is common with entirely innocent people, they are offering me an enormous sum of money to keep this matter out of court."

NGN said the settlement had been agreed "without admission of liability". "It is in both parties financial interests not to progress to a costly trial," an NGN spokesperson said.

Grant previously brought a lawsuit against NGN in relation to the now-defunct News of the World tabloid which was settled in 2012, a year after NGN issued an apology to victims and the newspaper was shut down by media magnate Murdoch following a public backlash over hacking.

NGN has always rejected allegations of any wrongdoing by staff at The Sun, having settled more than 1,300 cases – plus another 300 or so through its own compensation scheme – without making any admission of liability in relation to that paper.

However, the settlement of Grant's lawsuit, which focused exclusively on alleged wrongdoing at The Sun, raises questions about the sustainability of that long-held position.

NO LIABILITY

"The Sun does not accept liability or make any admissions to the allegations," the NGN spokesperson said.

Grant said he did not want to settle and wanted to hear his accusations tested in court, but said if he was awarded less in damages after a trial than NGN offered him now he would be liable to pay the legal fees of both sides.

"Rupert Murdoch's lawyers are very expensive," wrote the actor, who said he would spend the money on lobby groups such as Hacked Off, which campaigns against press intrusion.

"So even if every allegation is proven in court, I would still be liable for something approaching 10 million pounds in costs. I'm afraid I am shying at that fence."

The settlement could reduce the chances of NGN facing a trial at all over claims of unlawful information-gathering – though Harry's lawsuit continues and the prince has spoken repeatedly of his "mission" to purge the British press.

Harry and other claimants last month sought to drag Murdoch into the case, alleging he was personally involved in a cover-up of wrongdoing, with a ruling on their application still pending.

NGN says the claimants are using the lawsuits as a means to attack the tabloid press and that allegations against current and former staff are "a scurrilous and cynical attack on their integrity".

On Wednesday, NGN's lawyer Anthony Hudson asked the court to direct that the full trial currently listed to begin in January should instead be held to decide whether the claimants should have brought their lawsuits against the publisher earlier.

(Reporting by Sam Tobin and Michael Holden; Editing by Kate Holton, Alex Richardson and Toby Chopra)

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