Charlotte Church 'sickened' by NoW phone hacking

Charlotte Church on her family's 'sickening' ordeal

Charlotte Church says she was "sickened and disgusted" by what she discovered during her legal action against News International over phone hacking.

Ms Church and her parents have agreed damages and costs of £600,000 with News Group Newspapers - publishers of the defunct News of the World.

The High Court heard the singer's phone was hacked when she was 16 years old.

The court agreed that 33 articles in the paper had been due to her family's voicemails being hacked.

The settlement includes £300,000 in legal costs and a public apology.

Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Ms Church said it was an "important day" for her and her family.

"I brought this legal claim with my parents, as many others have done, because we wanted to find out the truth about what this newspaper group had done in the pursuit of stories about our family.

"What I have discovered as the litigation has gone on has sickened and disgusted me.

"Nothing was deemed off limits by those who pursued me and my family, just to make money for a multinational news corporation."

'Deeply traumatised'

The court heard Ms Church's phone was hacked in 2002 and journalists also placed her under surveillance and gained access to her medical records.

The court heard her mother, Maria, had a complex medical history which the newspaper found out about and published private details of her hospital treatment.

The family's solicitor, Mike Brookes, told the court: "At her lowest moment, the NoW issued her with an ultimatum and coerced her into giving them an in-depth interview about her self-harming and attempted suicide.

"She felt she had no choice but to give the interview and was deeply traumatised by the publication of the story in the News of the World."

He said: "The NoW targeted Charlotte and her voicemail messages repeatedly, and in doing so unlawfully obtained her private medical information and details of her personal relationships with her family and friends.

"Even her first teenage boyfriend. They then ran stories about Charlotte using this information."

BBC legal affairs correspondent Clive Coleman said the award, the 55th of the first wave of 60 settlements, was one of the highest. Former cabinet minister Tessa Jowell was awarded £200,000, while actor Jude Law received £130,000.

He said it gave an insight into some of the things that had taken place and the deeply personal nature of the intrusion which Ms Church was clearly very, very angry about outside court.

"We got a sense of how important the process of litigation here is, the process of discovery, with Ms Church saying it has only been in the last few days that she really learned the full extent of what had been happening," our correspondent added.

'Not truly sorry'

Ms Church said she believed that despite an apology the paper was "not truly sorry, only sorry they got caught".

She added that "money could never mend the damage that was done," and she would use her portion of the settlement to protect her children from further invasions of privacy.

Michael Silverleaf QC, for NGN, said: "NGN acknowledges that they should never have had to endure what they have suffered and that NGN are liable for the damage that they have caused," he said.

The 26-year-old singer said she was now planning to focus on helping the criminal investigation and Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into media ethics.

In November, she told the Leveson Inquiry that her mother had attempted suicide "at least in part" because she had known the newspaper was going to publish details of her father's affair.

She told the hearing paparazzi had taken pictures up her skirt, there were photographers outside her house on most days and her manager had found evidence of a camera hidden in a shrub outside her home.

Earlier this month, the court was told that a second wave of 56 new claims was in the pipeline - including those of singer James Blunt, footballer Peter Crouch and his wife Abigail Clancy and politician Nigel Farage.

Acknowledging that the situation was changing "from minute to minute", Hugh Tomlinson QC said 14 new cases had been issued and 180 individuals had approached solicitors and were considering claims.

Metropolitan Police figures showed that there were 829 potential victims, of whom 231 were said to be uncontactable.

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