David Walliams, Martin Clunes and several other British stars have formally settled phone-hacking damages claims against newspaper publisher MGN.
The Britain’s Got Talent judge and Men Behaving Badly star have received “substantial compensation” after taking legal action against Mirror Group Newspapers, which publishes The Mirror, Sunday Mirror and The People.
At a hearing at the High Court in London on Thursday, the cases were formally settled alongside claims by actors Roxanne Pallett, Antony Cotton, Mark and Samantha Womack, Caroline Quentin and her husband Sam Farmer.
Walliams claimed he was hacked by MGN between 2003 and 2010, and that his friends and colleagues were also targeted. Some 45 articles were published as a result of intercepted voicemails or other unlawful techniques, Mr Justice Mann was told.
In 2018, MGN admitted liability for misuse of private information by intercepting voicemails in 2004 and other unlawful information techniques between 2004 and 2006, also admitting that two of the 45 articles were produced by unlawful information gathering.
Walliams was “extremely upset” about this, particularly as he had a working relationship with the publishing group on projects including Pride of Britain and Comic Relief, the court was told.
Roddy Chisholm Batten, representing the Little Britain star, said: “Mr Walliams is also upset and angered by the lengths to which MGN went in order to invade his private life.
“He suffered distress and embarrassment as a result of the misuse of his private information. By intercepting his voicemails, MGN would have been privy to messages of a highly personal nature.
“Many articles identified by Mr Walliams were highly intrusive and were published at a time of intense media intrusion into his life.”
He told the court the articles had had a “significant impact” on both Walliams’ personal and professional life and that “many relationships were damaged or destroyed as a result”.
In October 2020, both sides agreed to settle Walliams’s claim, with MGN admitting liability, paying substantial compensation and paying his reasonable legal costs. The newspaper publisher accepted the methods should not have been employed and also apologised privately to the actor.
The court heard that Clunes also reached an agreement last year. In July 2020, MGN denied he had been the victim of voicemail interception or unlawful information, but in November both sides reached an agreement to resolve his claim.
Hannah Gornall, representing the Doc Martin star, said: “The claimant claimed that his voicemail messages were hacked into by MGN’s journalists. As a result, these journalists would have been privy to personal messages left on his phone, or left by him for others such as family and friends.”
MGN also gave a public apology to Clunes.
Richard Munden, for the publisher, said: “MGN accepts that the methods which were used to obtain private information through the unlawful obtaining of personal information should never have been employed.
“MGN is here today, through me, to offer its apologies to the claimant for any distress caused to him by obtaining private information and using that information.”
Actress Samantha Womack, best known for playing Ronnie Mitchell in EastEnders, also received a public apology after she settled her damages action against MGN.
The star previously received “substantial damages” from News Group Newspapers (NGN), publisher of The Sun and the now-defunct News Of The World, after settling a separate claim.
Antony Cotton, who plays Sean Tully in Coronation Street, settled his claim against MGN on Thursday. He also settled a claim with an undisclosed sum against NGN in 2019.
Law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, representing Caroline Quentin, as well as Cotton, Mark and Samantha Womack and Clunes, welcomed the apologies from MGN.