Rupert Murdoch's media empire has agreed to pay substantial damages to several dozen high-profile victims of phone and e-mail hacking. Lawyers for the victims yesterday said they had seen documents showing that senior managers were not only aware of the hacking but that they also lied about it and destroyed evidence in a cover operation.
The High Court hearing yesterday, which set the terms for the settlements was a humiliating occasion for Murdoch's News Group Newspapers, which published the now-defunct tabloid at the heart of the hacking scandal, The News of the World.
The courtroom was so chockfull with lawyers, victims and members of the news media that some people had to sit on the floor. News Group's lawyer, Michael Silverleaf, repeatedly expressed the company's ''sincere apologies'' for ''the damage, as also the distress'' caused to victim after victim.
The list of 37 victims who will settle with the company include politicians, celebrities, actors and sports figures, as also people in their inner circles - employees, spouses, lovers, and though it is not clear how much News Group would have to pay after finally settling the cases, the total bill for the 18 victims whose settlement details were disclosed yesterday could amount to over $1 million.
Police say there may be as many as 800 victims.
According to Steven Barnett, a professor of communications at the University of Westminster the latest disclosures represented ''a devastating indictment not only of the corrupt journalistic practices at The News of the World but of the calculated cover-up which apparently followed.''