Hugh Grant settles court claim against Sun publisher for ‘enormous sum’

Hugh Grant has said he has settled a high court claim against the publisher of the Sun for “an enormous sum”.

The actor had accused the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun of phone hacking, unlawful information-gathering, landline tapping, bugging his phone and burgling his flat and office. His case was due to go to trial at London’s high court in January 2025, alongside those of other high-profile individuals including Prince Harry and the Labour peer Doreen Lawrence.

His decision to settle the claim is a significant blow to the wider case against the Sun, which Grant, Harry and others had accused of illegally blagging medical records. They also said key figures had lied and destroyed evidence related to the case. The actor had brought legal action against News Group Newspapers (NGN) only in relation to the Sun; he previously settled a claim with the publisher in 2012 relating to the News of the World.

Last month, Harry’s lawyers alleged that Murdoch had “turned a blind eye” to an extensive cover-up of wrongdoing at his newspapers, arguing that the 93-year-old billionaire oversaw a “culture of impunity” at News Group Newspapers (NGN). In a three-day hearing in advance of the trial scheduled for January 2025, Harry, Grant and others asked the judge for permission to change details of their case against NGN, including allegations that there was a cover-up by senior executives.

The high court in London heard on Wednesday that there were 42 outstanding claims against the publisher, with some due to be heard at a trial in January 2025.

Writing on X on Wednesday, Grant said he had been forced to settle or face a legal bill of £10m. Strict rules about costs in civil litigation mean that if Grant had not settled and had won the case his legal costs could have far outstripped any damages awarded to him. In civil cases, if the damages awarded to a successful claimant are less than the settlement amount offered by a defendant, the claimant may have to pay the legal costs for all sides. Losing the case could make a claimant liable for damages and costs.

Grant said the Sun had offered him “an enormous sum of money” to keep the matter out of court.

“I don’t want to accept this money or settle. I would love to see all the allegations that they deny tested in court,” he said. “But the rules around civil litigation mean that if I proceed to trial and the court awards me damages that are even a penny less than the settlement offer, I would have to pay the legal costs of both sides.

“My lawyers tell me that that is exactly what would most likely happen here. Rupert Murdoch’s lawyers are very expensive. So even if every allegation is proven in court, I would still be liable for something approaching £10m in costs. I’m afraid I am shying at that fence.”

Grant said that the money he received from NGN, the publisher of the Sun and the now-defunct News of the World, would be “repurposed” via press reform campaign groups such as Hacked Off to help fund the “general campaign to expose the worst excesses of our oligarch-owned press”.

Grant has been a thorn in the side of the Murdoch-owned empire for more than a decade, since the Guardian exposed the phone-hacking scandal that led to the closure of the News of the World in 2011.

The star of Notting Hill and Love Actually played a prominent role during the Leveson inquiry into press standards and has been the public face of the Hacked Off campaign since it launched at the height of the scandal.

“Murdoch’s settlement money has a stink and I refuse to let this be hush money,” Grant said on Wednesday. “I have spent the best part of 12 years fighting for a free press that does not distort the truth, abuse ordinary members of the public or hold elected MPs to ransom in pursuit of newspaper barons’ personal profit and political power.”

The Sun has paid a high price as a result of the fallout from the phone-hacking scandal. It lost £66m last year, in part because of the high cost of paying damages to victims of illegal information-gathering.

The Sun’s parent company paid £51.6m in costs linked to the scandal in 2023, down from £128.3m the previous year. It has settled more than 1,500 phone-hacking claims but consistently denies that unlawful information-gathering took place at the Sun.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for NGN said it had apologised unreservedly to phone-hacking victims in 2011 and had paid financial damages “to those with proper claims” against the News of the World, adding that the Sun did not accept liability for continuing claims against it.

They said: “A judge recently ruled that parts of Mr Grant’s claim were out of time and we have reached agreement to settle the remainder of the case. This has been done without admission of liability. It is in both parties’ financial interests not to progress to a costly trial.”


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