Murdoch's Sun pays MP damages for accessing stolen phone

LONDON Mon Mar 18, 2013 3:34pm GMT

Chairman and CEO of News Corporation Rupert Murdoch arrives at the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 24, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Chairman and CEO of News Corporation Rupert Murdoch arrives at the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 24, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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LONDON (Reuters) - A Labour MP has accepted "very substantial" damages from The Sun newspaper after the tabloid admitted its employees accessed private information from her stolen mobile phone three years ago, London's High Court heard on Monday.

Siobhain McDonagh later said she was paid 50,000 pounds damages by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. following revelations Sun reporters had been accessing text messages on her mobile phone taken from her car in southwest London in October 2010

"I'm not terribly high profile, I love doing my constituency stuff, but I would never have thought that my phone was of interest to a national daily newspaper," the MP for Mitcham and Morden in southwest London told BBC radio.

Phone-hacking by journalists on Murdoch's now defunct News of the World first came to light in 2005, with the paper's royal correspondent jailed in 2007.

News International, Murdoch's British newspaper business, said for years that the scandal was limited to a rogue reporter but subsequently admitted it was far more widespread.

Dozens of staff from both the News of the World and the Sun have now been arrested in connection with the phone-hacking scandal or related inquiries, while allegations have since spread to the Mirror newspaper with four current or former editors arrested last week.

Hugh Tomlinson, who is representing hacking victims, told the High Court on Monday there had been "substantial developments", referring to the arrest last month of six people as part of a second suspected phone-hacking conspiracy at the News of the World.

This could involve "potentially hundreds of victims", he said although he added it was not clear how many new claims there would be.

McDonagh's case came to light when police told her in June 2012 that they had "obtained evidence that The Sun newspaper had accessed her text messages from about October 2010 and therefore appeared to have accessed and/or acquired her mobile phone," her lawyer David Sherborne told the court.

Dinah Rose, the lawyer for News International, offered an unreserved apology and said it accepted that there had been "a serious misuse of her private information".

Another hacking victim, former world champion boxer Chris Eubank, told the court News International had destroyed his life and his marriage, and accused the company of making a "mockery of the judicial system".

Dressed in his trademark smart attire and representing himself, Eubank said he had been offered and rejected a payoff of 21,000 pounds for hacking his phone, but was later chastised by the judge for failing to make legal points relevant to his case.

He also generated widespread laughter by referring to a famous incident at a parliamentary committee where Murdoch's wife Wendi Deng lashed out at a protester who threw a foam pie at her husband.

"Mrs Murdoch has a pretty good left hook and so I'm going to ask her to be gentle with me," Eubank said.

(Additional reporting by Clare Hutchison; editing by Steve Addison)

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