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Murdoch pays Charlotte Church nearly $1 million over hacking

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
updated 9:04 AM EST, Mon February 27, 2012
Singer Charlotte Church has received $952,000 from Rupert Murdoch's News Group Newspapers to settle a phone-hacking lawsuit.
Singer Charlotte Church has received $952,000 from Rupert Murdoch's News Group Newspapers to settle a phone-hacking lawsuit.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Her family should never have had to endure what they did, Murdoch's lawyer says
  • Murdoch's News International group pays the singer £600,000 ($952,000)
  • "They're just sorry they got caught," Church says of News International
  • Among others who settled were actor Jude Law and soccer star Paul Gascoigne

London (CNN) -- The publisher of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World has paid singer Charlotte Church and her family £600,000 ($952,000) to settle a phone-hacking lawsuit, her lawyer said Monday.

The payment by Murdoch's News Group Newspapers includes £300,000 in damages, plus legal costs, lawyer Mike Brookes said -- far more than other hacking victims have been paid.

Speaking outside the court after the settlement was reached, Church said the behavior of tabloid journalists had "sickened and disgusted her," and she did not believe the News International apology in court was sincere.

"They are not truly sorry; they are just sorry they got caught," Church said.

Murdoch's News of the World was closed down last summer over revelations about phone hacking and police bribery by people working for the newspaper. Targets of phone hacking included not only celebrities like Church but also victims of crime and terrorism, wounded troops and their families, and politicians.

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Police are conducting three investigations into illegal activity by British journalists and private detectives working for them. Two parliamentary committees are also probing the scandal, and a separate independent inquiry has been established by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Cameron himself was drawn into the scandal for having hired a former News of the World editor, Andy Coulson, to be his spokesman after Coulson left the paper over the hacking scandal. Coulson has since resigned as Cameron's spokesman.

He denies wrongdoing, but is among more than a dozen people arrested over phone hacking. No one has been charged.

The Church settlement is much higher than in 59 other suits settled recently by News International, the British newspaper publishing arm of Murdoch's News Corp.

Actor Jude Law was paid £130,000 ($206,000), for example, while retired soccer star Paul Gascoigne was paid £68,000 ($108,000). The newspaper publisher has also been paying the legal costs of the suits.

Church had been the lone holdout refusing to settle, but said Monday she had changed her mind to protect her parents.

News International was prepared to make the case "into an interrogation into my mother's medical history," Church said.

"I would have learning nothing more from an actual trial since it was clear no one from News International was prepared to take the stand," she said.

Brookes, her lawyer, said the settlement was higher than for others because Church's parents had also been targeted, starting when she was a teenager.

"The News of the World trespassed into the lives of an entire family. James and Maria are not remotely in the public eye. They are no more and no less than proud parents with an exceptionally talented daughter," he said.

He said in court that News of the World "targeted Charlotte and her voice mail messages repeatedly," obtained her personal medical information starting when she was 16, violated the privacy of her parents' voice mail, and "coerced" Church's mother into giving them an interview about Maria Church's attempted suicide.

A lawyer for the publisher said in court he accepted "everything Mr. Brookes has said," apologized, and said "they should never have had to endure what they have suffered."

Church's settlement does not end the lawsuits against News International. Cherie Blair, the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, announced February 22 that she was suing over allegations her voice mail was intercepted to get news of her pregnancy when her husband was in office.

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