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May 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Sienna Miller

In a widely predicted legal maneuver, lawyers for Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday tabloid News of the World have sought to quash an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit brought against it by actress Sienna Miller. Appearing in a London court on Thursday the lawyers argued that the newspaper has already admitted liability for hacking into her voicemail, has apologized, and has offered to pay her £100,000 ($163,000) in damages — far more than she could ever expect to be awarded in court. “What she wants is a public inquiry and that goes beyond the remedies the civil law provides,” Michael Silverleaf, a lawyer for the newspaper, told the court. It was the latest effort by Murdoch’s News Corp to keep a lid on the expanding scandal over allegations that News of the World reporters routinely hacked into the voicemail of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of British celebrities and politicians. As reported by the London Financial Times, Miller’s attorney, Hugh Tomlinson, told the court that the actress, whose phones were hacked when she was dating actor Jude Law — who is also suing the newspaper — wanted to proceed with her court case “not because we see millions of pounds before our eyes and become very greedy, but rather because we want to know the precise extent of their wrongdoing.” If the case does in fact proceed, Miller’s lawyers could subpoena records of the newspaper that could reveal who at News Corp was aware of the illegal hacking and which executives approved it.

[UPDATE: Late today (Friday) Miller accepted the £100,000 settlement. Nevertheless, Tomlinson said, “her primary concern is not how much money is rewarded by way of compensation but what the extent was of the hacking that took place,” he said. What she wants to have is disclosure and proper answers from the News of the World as to what took place so she can have effective non-monetary relief and can be properly compensated.”]

At a separate court hearing on Thursday, lawyers for former deputy prime minister John Prescott appeared to intimate that News Corp and Scotland Yard were acting in cahoots to suppress evidence of the hacking. Lawyers for Prescott told the court that police had repeatedly assured him that he was not a victim of hacking — only to learn recently that at least 45 voicemail messages had been transcribed by a private investigator working for News of the World and sent to an executive editor at the newspaper. Prescott and two other former officials are seeking a judicial review of Scotland Yard’s handling of the matter. Police representatives responded in court that while there had been some failures in their handling of the matter in the past, their current investigation is intended to remedy them, thereby obviating any need for a judicial review.