Sun publisher pays Sir Simon Hughes phone-hacking damages

The publisher of the Sun has paid a substantial sum to settle a phone-hacking claim brought by the former Liberal Democrat MP Sir Simon Hughes, who claimed he was illegally targeted by reporters wanting to out his sexuality.

Hughes claimed “he had been the victim of unlawful information gathering by various journalists and executives at the Sun” who were intent on publishing details of his past relationships with men.

The story eventually ran on the front page of the Sun in 2006 under the headline: “A second Limp-Dem confesses: I’m Gay Too.”

Rupert Murdoch’s News UK has never accepted claims that illegal news gathering took place at the Sun and has always insisted the wrongdoing was confined to the News of the World, the Sunday newspaper that was closed down 10 years ago.

Because both the Sun and News of the World are owned by the same company, News UK can pay out substantial damages without making any admission of liability in relation to the alleged activities of the Sun.

Hughes’s case is unusual because he had already won damages relating to illegal information gathering at the News of the World. His decision to bring a second case against the publisher, in which he directly alleged that it was the Sun which had broken the law, raised questions about the historic activities of the still-publishing daily tabloid.

Rather than fight the claims against the Sun in court, when they would have been set out in more detail in front of a judge, Murdoch’s company has instead agreed to pay substantial damages to settle the case. It also covered his legal fees on the condition that the Sun does not make an admission of any wrongdoing.

Speaking outside the court, Hughes said: “It went to the top in the Sun – senior editorial people, senior people at the top were clearly involved.”

Asked if he thought Rebekah Brooks, who was editor of the Sun in 2006, knew about how his private information had been obtained, Hughes said: “I have been very clear that we have not named names, but it is clear from all I have seen that it went to the top of the Sun. I think I will have to leave you to draw your own conclusions about that.”

The court heard that in 2006, when Hughes was leading the polling to be the next Liberal Democrat leader, he was told by one of the Sun’s journalists that the newspaper had “obtained evidence of his private telephone calls and invited him to agree to accept that he had had homosexual relationships”.

Hughes’s lawyer said the politician believed that the Sun would publish the story with or without his agreement and “felt he had no choice but to cooperate”.

The former MP, who describes himself as bisexual, said he now believes this “private and sensitive information was obtained through unlawful information-gathering techniques and was used with the knowledge and approval of key senior executives at the newspaper”.

The high court was also told that Coronation Street actors Rupert Hill and Jennifer Hill, who is professionally known as Jenny Platt, had also agreed to accept damages from News UK for phone hacking.

The former Men Behaving Badly actor Caroline Quentin, the TV presenter Melinda Messenger, the model Paul Sculfor and theactor Anouska de Georgiou also settled claims against the publisher.

Hundreds of cases have been settled in this manner over the past decade, costing News UK hundreds of millions of pounds in legal fees and damages, with many more phone-hacking cases still yet to be heard – including one lodged by Prince Harry.

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