Australian news tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s News International empire is in trouble once again over its former paper News of the World in Britain, whose staff have been found repeatedly guilty of the grossest violations of privacy laws and assorted criminal acts.
The News of the World, once Britain’s largest circulating gossip tabloid, was famous for its muckraking and lowbrow editorial style. It was colloquially known by a term coined by the satirical journal Private Eye as “News of the Screws”—and for good reason.
The appalling paper was closed down by Murdoch in 2011 after it was revealed that its editors and senior staff employed cell-phone hacking private investigators to listen in on private conversations to generate “stories” for the paper.
Murdoch had hoped that the drastic action would halt the wave of claims against the paper, but the opposite appears to have happened.
No less than 600 new claims of phone hacking have emerged, drawn from accusations which were obtained from the phone records of an “insider” who is to testify on Monday with further details.
The alleged 600 new charges are divided into three groups—new victims; those who sued over phone tapping but signed agreements with News International, enabling them to sue again; and a group who signed agreements potentially banning them from suing again. If the claims are valid, it could result in “some hundreds of new legal actions.”
On Monday a British court is set to hear at least a dozen settlements out of 167 civil cases filed last year. So far News International has settled 254 compensation claims.
Some of those who have claimed settlements include Sarah Ferguson, the ex-wife of Britain’s Prince Andrew; as well as actors Jude Law and Hugh Grant.
More than a hundred people have so far been arrested in connection with the hacking scandal at News of the World.
Among those charged are Andy Coulson, a former press aide to British Prime Minister David Cameron; and Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, the company that owned New of the World.