Rupert Murdoch's News of the World Apologizes for Phone Hacking

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News International is setting up a multi-million dollar fund to pay compensation and legal fees to those involved.

LONDON – In an astonishing about-turn, Rupert Murdoch’s News International has admitted responsibility for illegal phone-hacking by reporters on its Sunday tabloid The News of The World, issuing an “unreserved apology” to those involved.

The British publishing group, which has been headed by James Murdoch for three years, said it is setting up a multi-million dollar fund to pay compensation and legal fees to those involved The news comes days after the former news editor of the News of the World, Ian Edmondson, and the current chief reporter of the News of the World, Neville Thurlbeck, were arrested over phone-hacking charges, leading to mounting pressure on senior executives at the paper.

News International has spent years denying the claims but was forced to reopen its own internal investigations after faces more than 20 civil cases brought by famous names who believe their phones were hacked into and their messages illegally downloaded.

They include actress Sienna Miller, designer Kelly Hoppen, soccer commentator Andy Gray and former Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell. Actor Steve Coogan and actress Leslie Ash have also brought legal cases.

"Following an extensive internal investigation and disclosures through civil legal cases, News International has decided to approach some civil litigants with an unreserved apology and an admission of liability in cases meeting specific criteria,” the media group said in a statement Friday evening.

"We have also asked our lawyers to establish a compensation scheme with a view to dealing with justifiable claims fairly and efficiently,” it said.

“We will, however, continue to contest cases that we believe are without merit or where we are not responsible."

Lawyers for those taking action against News International said that they were astonished by the public statement, especially as neither they nor their clients had been contacted by News International.

“Obviously this came as a big surprise to us who have worked so hard and so long, having been told for such a long time … that it [phone-hacking] simply hadn’t happened,” Charlotte Harris from legal firm Mischon de Reya, told BBC Radio 4.

Harris said the complainants she represented would not be pushed into accepting a deal and would not be “dictated to.”

“It shouldn’t have been that we have had to be pushing and pushing and spend this amount of time to get his information. It is only when the News of The World’s position has become totally untenable that they suddenly apologize and decide it’s time to dictate the agenda.”

James Murdoch, who had been chairman and chief executive of News Corporation’s operations in Europe and Asia, was last week announced as deputy chief operating officer of News Corporation, relocating from London to New York.