David Walliams and Martin Clunes among celebrities to settle phone hacking claims against newspaper group

David Walliams
David Walliams (PA Archive)
13:19pm, Thu 25 Feb 2021
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David Walliams and Martin Clunes are among a number of high profile celebrities to have formally settled damages claims over phone hacking against a newspaper publisher at the High Court.

The Britain’s Got Talent judge and Doc Martin star have received ‘substantial compensation’ and a public apology after bringing legal action against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), publisher of The Mirror, Sunday Mirror and The People.

Their cases were formally settled at a hearing on Thursday alongside claims by actors Roxanne Pallett, Antony Cotton, Mark and Samantha Womack, Caroline Quentin and her husband Sam Farmer.

Mr Justice Mann heard Walliams had alleged he was targeted by MGN between 2003 and 2010, and that his friends and colleagues were also targeted to obtain private information, with 45 articles published as a result of intercepted voicemails or other unlawful techniques.

Martin Clunes hacking settlement (PA Archive)

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.

The court heard the Little Britain star was “extremely upset” to learn about this due to his working relationship with the publishing group on projects including Pride of Britain and Comic Relief.

Roddy Chisholm Batten, representing Walliams, told the court: “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.

“This had a very significant impact on both his personal life and his professional life. Many relationships were damaged or destroyed as a result of MGN’s conduct and this is a source of huge regret to Mr Walliams.”

Caroline Quentin hacking settlement (PA Wire)

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.

Hannah Gornall, representing Clunes – whose real name is Alexander Clunes – 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.

“In November 2020 the parties reached an agreement to resolve the claimant’s claim.

“As part of that agreement the defendant agreed to provide an undertaking not to intercept the claimant’s voicemail messages, pay compensation to the claimant and join in this statement to apologise to the claimant for the misuse of his private information.”

Samantha Womack (PA Archive)

MGN also settled its claim and gave a public apology to Clunes.

The Men Behaving Badly star had claimed his voicemail messages had been hacked by the publishing group’s journalists, enabling them to access his personal messages.

In July 2020, MGN denied he had been the victim of voicemail interception or unlawful information, but in November 2020 both sides reached an agreement to resolve his claim.

MGN agreed to not intercept the actor’s voicemail messages, to pay compensation and to apologise to him for the misuse of his private information.

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.”

Antony Cotton (PA Archive)

Actress Samantha Womack also received a public apology after she settled her damages action against MGN.

The TV, film and stage star, best known for playing Ronnie Mitchell in BBC soap EastEnders, 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 and appeared in the drama Queer As Folk, also settled his claim against MGN on Thursday.

The actor, whose real name is Antony Dunn, settled a claim with an undisclosed sum against NGN in 2019.

After the hearing on Thursday, Pallett said the settlement brought her “great satisfaction and closure”.

In a statement to the PA news agency, she added: “After years of insecurity, paranoia and distress from having my privacy illegally and unfairly violated to create dishonest and deceptive stories, I now feel vindicated having won this legal case.”

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