LONDON (Reuters) - Eight mostly celebrity victims of phone-hacking won a total of 1.2 million pounds in damages from Britain’s Trinity Mirror newspaper group on Thursday in a court ruling likely to raise the cost of dealing with any future claims.
The owner of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror tabloids said it had raised its provision to deal with the fallout from phone-hacking by 16 million pounds in addition to the 12 million pounds it had already set aside.
The victims awarded damages were actress Sadie Frost, retired footballer Paul Gascoigne, BBC executive Alan Yentob, three TV soap opera actors, a TV producer and a flight attendant who had dated former England footballer Rio Ferdinand.
The awards were larger than those obtained by other claimants in earlier out-of-court settlements and could lead to a sharp rise in the cost of dealing with future cases. Trinity Mirror said it was considering an appeal against the ruling.
“As the legal process has taken longer and the costs of settling claims is likely to be higher than previously anticipated, we are increasing our provision to deal with matters arising from phone-hacking,” it said in a statement.
“The Board is confident that the exposures arising from these historic events are manageable.”
Trinity Mirror shares TNT.L were down 4 percent at 1.30 p.m.
The eight claimants sought damages after reporters seeking scoops listened to their voicemail messages, leading in some cases to salacious stories and to the victims suspecting those close to them of leaking information to reporters.
Frost was awarded 260,250 pounds, Gascoigne 188,250 pounds and Yentob 85,000 pounds.
Frost said after the ruling that during the period when stories were appearing about her and she did not yet know her phone was being hacked, she had been unable to trust those close to her including her own mother.
“When you lose trust in your friends and family it is a very lonely place to be,” she said.
Frost’s award was believed to be the single biggest privacy damages payout since the phone-hacking scandal broke, according to the Guardian newspaper.
Lawyer Christopher Hutchings, who represented Ferdinand’s ex-girlfriend Lauren Alcorn in the case, told the BBC there were numerous other claims in the pipeline and he expected Trinity Mirror’s costs would escalate.
“We’re certainly personally aware of scores of clients that we have waiting in the wings,” Hutchings said.
The ruling was the first time that a civil lawsuit related to phone-hacking has been decided by a judge. Previous damages claims against both Trinity Mirror and Rupert Murdoch’s News UK group (NWSA.O) were settled out of court.
It may make it harder for newspaper groups to settle other cases out of court if claimants think they will get a bigger award from a judge.
The phone-hacking scandal erupted in 2011 when it was revealed that some staff at Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid had routinely listened to private voicemail messages to generate scoops, prompting Murdoch to shut down the 168-year-old paper.
Police have been conducting a vast investigation into phone-hacking and other suspected illegal practices by tabloid newspapers. At first the focus was mostly on Murdoch’s titles, but it later widened to the Trinity Mirror newspapers.
The group has said it is cooperating with the Metropolitan Police Service investigations.
Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Stephen Addison