News International Agrees To Settlement

News International has agreed to settle a string of claims and pay damages to people whose phones were hacked by reporters at the News of the World, including actor Jude Law.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. The British arm of Rupert Murdoch's media empire reached an out-of-court settlement today. More than three dozen people will receive payments, including celebrities, politicians and crime victims. Their phones were illegally hacked by the News of the World tabloid. Despite the settlement, as Vicki Barker reports from London, this is not the end of the scandal.

VICKI BARKER, BYLINE: Among those accepting civil damages today were Britain's former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and actor Jude Law. In a statement issued after the hearing, Law described for the first time a campaign of phone hacking and round-the-clock surveillance that lasted three years. No corner of his, his family's or his friends' private lives had been out of bounds to the hackers, he said. Law settled for $200,000. Chris Bryant, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party, accepted 45,000. Like Law, the member of parliament insisted this was never about the money.

CHRIS BRYANT: The most important thing is that finally News International are beginning to let us see the hem of the truth. We don't know the full truth yet. We won't know that until people are up in court before another judge for criminal proceedings.

BARKER: If the Murdoch company's lawyers were hoping to avoid a trial, they failed: 10 of the victims refused to settle, including singer Charlotte Church. And the information gleaned from those who did settle has proved invaluable, says lawyer Tamsin Allen.

TAMSIN ALLEN: The impact of these claims has been to uncover the nature and scale of the conspiracy to hack phones at the News of the World.

BARKER: A police investigation into the phone hacking scandal is still under way. A criminal trial may yet follow the civil one. Also under way, the official inquiry led by Lord Justice Leveson. It's been exploring the privacy and regulatory issues raised by the scandal as well as whether the police got too cozy with the tabloids. The damages announced today run to about a million dollars. But the Murdoch empire's final bill will be much higher because by admitting liability, it's now also liable for the victims' legal costs.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say the company effectively acknowledged that senior employees and directors knew about the wrongdoing. News International apologized in court, but the company said it would have no further comment on today's settlements. For NPR News, I'm Vicki Barker in London.

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