5th December 2023

Public apologies and substantial damages for high profile victims of unlawful information gathering (UIG) by NGN

By Christopher Hutchings

At a hearing today at the High Court, News Group Newspapers Limited (NGN), publisher of The Sun and (now defunct) News of the World, gave public apologies to a group of claimants, including a number of well-known public figures, for the distress caused for the invasion of their privacy as a result of unlawful information gathering. The Court also heard that substantial damages were paid to each.

A group of Hamlins’ clients received public apologies, including:

NGN’s public apologies were conveyed to Mr Justice Fancourt, Managing Judge in the litigation.

These public apologies were a significant aspect of these Claimants’ cases and this is an important remedy in claims against the press.

Keith Allen issued proceedings against NGN for misuse of his private information in 2021. Mr Allen is an actor, comedian, author and musician and is also the father of the singer songwriter Lily Cooper and the actor Alfie Allen. The court was informed by Ellen Gallagher that Mr Allen “asserted that his voicemail messages were intercepted by [NGN’s] journalists and that, as a result, those journalists were privy to private and confidential voicemail messages left on his mobile telephone by others”. Mr Allen was “suspicious as to the source of the private information published in [NGN’s] newspapers” and the publication of articles caused him “considerable distress”. Following the hearing, Mr Allen said: “I am so grateful to have received a public apology from NGN. As it is the season of goodwill, might I take this opportunity to wish NGN a Merry Christmas.”

Melanie Chisholm is an internationally renowned singer-songwriter and member of the globally successful band, the Spice Girls. Her claim focused on a significant number of articles published between 1996 to 2009 which evidenced the extent of NGN’s intrusion into every aspect of her life. This included publishing details about Ms Chisholm’s professional relationships, romantic relationships, details about her family members, her mental health, her pregnancy as well as her sexuality. Katie Major of Hamlins LLP informed the Court that: “As a result of the Defendant’s articles, our client became paranoid and suspicious as to who was the source of the private information published in its newspapers. Ms Chisholm alleged that the level of intrusion was significant. This caused her considerable distress and had a detrimental impact on her reputation, her relationships with friends and family, and her mental health has profoundly suffered as a result.” Ms Chisholm said: “To see these publications being held accountable goes some way to help compensate the damage to not only myself but the friends, family and colleagues around me who were also affected.”

Davinia Douglass is an entirely private individual and survivor of the 7/7 terrorist attacks after a bomb exploded in the carriage in which she was travelling causing her extensive injuries. Ellen Gallagher informed the court that Ms Douglass identified a number of articles published by NGN’s newspapers which contained private information Ms Douglass believed was derived from unlawful information gathering, including deception and blagging. The court heard that “this press intrusion had a significant impact on her quality of life in the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings, and she suffered considerable distress and upset as a result”. Ms Douglass said: “On a personal note, it has been a very emotional and difficult process that brought back many memories of what was a very dark and challenging period of my life. I am relieved that my claim has finally been settled by NGN”.

Jason Griffiths, professionally known as Jason King or JK, is a radio DJ and television presenter. Mr Griffiths asserted that his private and confidential voicemail messages were intercepted by NGN’s journalists, and today received a public apology from NGN for the invasion of his privacy and the distress caused to him. Mr Griffiths said after the hearing: “NGN’s actions caused me to suspect other people as the source of stories that appeared in its newspapers. This was very upsetting for me. It is a relief that NGN has now apologised”.

Catalina Guirado is a former model, actress and television personality, who was a regular on the television show TFI Friday between 1996 and 1997 and a contestant on ITV’s “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!” in 2003. The court heard that Ms. Guirado became “paranoid and suspicious” as to who was the source of her private information published in NGN’s articles. This caused her considerable distress and her reputation suffered as a result. In a statement following the hearing, Ms Guirado said: “I’m delighted NGN has now accepted responsibility it was wrong to publish my private information and I can now move on with my life”.

Rafferty Law is now an actor, model and musician. However, at the time of the events relevant to his claim (2003 to 2011), he was a child and of interest to the media as the son of actors, Jude Law and Sadie Frost. Callum Galbraith informed the Court today that Mr Law was pleased to accept a public apology from NGN in relation to his claim for misuse of private information relating to unlawful information gathering.

Shane Lynch is a renowned singer songwriter, businessman, professional racing driver and was a member of Boyzone with Ronan Keating, Mikey Graham, Keith Duffy and the late Stephen Gately. Mr Lynch issued proceedings against NGN for misuse of private information in 2021, asserting that NGN’s journalists had intercepted his voicemail messages. The court heard that Mr Lynch identified a number of articles containing his private information and that he was “suspicious as to the source”.  Ellen Gallagher informed the court that the publication of NGN’s articles had a “detrimental impact on [Mr Lynch’s] relationships and caused him considerable distress”. Speaking after the hearing, Mr Lynch said: “I am very pleased that NGN finally settled my claim so that I can put this painful episode behind me”.

The diversity of the group of claimants represented in Court today demonstrates the scale and scope of the litigation, which includes private as well as public figures, alongside close associates.

Media Disputes Partner, Christopher Hutchings, said: “We are happy to have obtained public apologies on behalf of our clients today. The impact of the publication of intrusive, private information can be long-lasting, and Hamlins continues its commitment to uncovering media wrongdoing for its clients. A public apology acknowledging the considerable distress and lasting damage caused can be a powerful form of vindication for claimants. We are pleased NGN has been held to account for its unlawful actions.”

Hamlins has been at the forefront of the unlawful information gathering litigation against both News Group Newspapers Limited (The Sun and the News of the World) and MGN Limited (The Mirror, Sunday Mirror and The People newspapers) for over a decade. We are now taking a leading role in the litigation against Associated Newspapers Limited (Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday and The Mail Online) representing Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex; and Sadie Frost.

We continue to act in an individual capacity for many claimants as well as acting as Lead Solicitor in the litigation against News Group Newspapers, and to fight in the civil courts to expose the full extent of unlawful information gathering activity and seek appropriate redress for the misuse of claimants’ private information.

Hamlins’ outstanding Media Disputes’ solicitors who acted on behalf of our clients comprise: Christopher Hutchings (Partner), Callum Galbraith (Partner), Ellen Gallagher (Partner), Daniel Shaw (Associate), and Katie Major (Associate).

Christopher Hutchings, Callum Galbraith and Ellen Gallagher (Hamlins LLP) instructed David Sherborne of 5RB.

Enquiries to Christopher Hutchings (christopher.hutchings@hamlins.com) and Callum Galbraith (callum.galbraith@hamlins.com) or Media.comms@hamlins.com.

Public apologies and substantial damages for high profile victims of unlawful information gathering (UIG) by NGN

Have a question? Contact Christopher

Have a question? Contact Christopher


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