Samantha Womack settles phone hacking claim

Actress Samantha Womack has settled a damages action over phone hacking, the High Court has heard.

The TV, film and stage star, best known for playing Ronnie Mitchell in the BBC soap EastEnders, received “substantial damages” from News Group Newspapers (NGN), publisher of The Sun and the now-defunct News Of The World.

Ms Womack’s lawyer told Mr Justice Mann at a remote hearing on Tuesday that the actress, who is also a singer, had settled her claim against NGN for an undisclosed sum.

She claimed she was an “obvious person” for NGN to target “because of her work as well as her friendships with a number of other high-profile individuals”.

During the hearing, Hannah Kent, representing Ms Womack, said the actress had issued proceedings against NGN in November 2018.

Ms Kent said: “Ms Womack claimed that her voicemail messages were hacked into by the defendant’s (NGN) journalists and that as a result, these journalists would have been privy to personal messages left on her mobile phone, or left by her for others such as family and friends.

“The claimant also claimed that the defendant had obtained her personal information by deception and other unlawful means through certain of its journalists within the News of the World and The Sun and its other agents.

“Ms Womack alleged that she was targeted by the defendant for the sole purpose of finding out private information about her for publication.”

The News Of The World folded in 2011 after details emerged of extensive phone hacking at the newspaper.

NGN made no admission of liability in relation to allegations against The Sun.

Ben Silverstone, representing NGN, said: “NGN is here today, through me, to offer its apologies to Ms Womack for the distress caused to her by the invasion of her privacy by individuals working for or on behalf of the News of the World.

“The defendant acknowledges that such activity should never have taken place and that it had no right to intrude into Ms Womack’s private life in this way.”

Duncan Lamont, of Charles Russell Speechlys law firm, said in a statement after the hearing: “We are pleased that we could assist our client in resolving her dispute with NGN and that the publisher has made a public apology to our client.”

A number of high-profile celebrities, including Heather Mills, David Tennant and Vic Reeves, have previously settled claims against the publisher.

David Sherborne QC, representing claimants in the latest round of the legal action, told the court last month that there were 123 live claims against NGN which have been filed ahead of a trial which is due to begin in October.

The High Court is due to decide which claims will proceed to trial at a further hearing in September.