An appeal by Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) against damages awarded by the High Court to victims of phone hacking has been dismissed.
Giving judgment yesterday in the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice Arden (pictured) decided Mr Justice Mann had delivered a ‘careful and comprehensive judgment’ in the High Court in May.
‘MGN cannot expect this court to come to its rescue and find some way of finding the awards to be excessive when its staff have been responsible for disgraceful conduct with such distressing consequences.’
MGN was appealing against awards totalling £1.2m made to a representative group of eight hacking victims. Following the failure of the appeal, MGN has increased its provision for dealing with phone-hacking damages to £41m.
Lord Pannick QC, appearing for MGN, had advanced four grounds for appeal. First, he argued the judge was wrong to hold that damages could be awarded for ‘the mere intrusion into a person’s privacy independently of any distress caused’.
On the second and third grounds, Pannick said the awards were disproportionate when compared with both the tariff in particular for personal injury awards and awards by the Strasbourg court. Finally, he argued that Mann J had ‘double-counted’ in reaching awards totals.
The appeal was rejected on all four grounds. Pannick was instructed by RPC, acting for MGN. The eight hacking victims were represented by Atkins Thomson, as lead solicitors, plus Clintons, Steel & Shamash and Taylor Hampton.
Steven Heffer, partner at Collyer Bristow, which is acting for 200 phone-hacking claimants, told the Gazette: ‘Mirror Group’s settlement offers had stopped pending the outcome of this case.’ He added that the £41m provision looked ‘tight’ considering the size of known settlements and awards, and given that the amount included legal costs.
Such a figure could signal a shift in strategy by MGN to consider earlier settlement of cases.
Heffer’s clients are among the 80 other claims before the court in the second wave of this litigation and 50-plus claims at the pre-action stage.
In a statement issued yesterday he said: ‘There are many still to be settled against both Mirror Group and News UK.
‘The awards are significantly higher than most settlements made earlier by News UK and awards made in the News International compensation scheme, so it is going to increase the financial burden on the newspaper groups who have not yet compensated victims.’