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TV presenter Fern Britton settles News of the World phone hacking claim

Television presenter Fern Britton has settled her High Court claim against the publisher of the defunct News of the World over allegations of phone hacking, a judge has been told.

The ex-This Morning co-host brought legal action against News Group Newspapers (NGN), alleging its journalists intercepted her voicemail messages and “obtained her personal information by deception”, her lawyer said.

Ms Britton claimed NGN had published private details about her professional and personal life, including a News of the World “exclusive” about her gastric band operation, causing her “damage and distress”, and having a “deep impact on her family relationships, career and mental health”.

Ellen Roberts, solicitor for Ms Britton, told a hearing in London on Tuesday that she had accepted NGN’s offer “to resolve her claim on terms confidential between the parties and which involve the payment of substantial damages”.

Costa Book of The Year Awards 2017 – London
Fern Britton has received an apology (Ian West/PA)

NGN makes no admission of liability in relation to her allegations of voicemail interception and other unlawful information gathering at another of its publications – The Sun newspaper, the court was told.

Ben Silverstone, representing NGN, said it offered “sincere apologies” to Ms Britton 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”.

He said the publisher “acknowledges that such activity should never have taken place and that it had no right to intrude into the private life of (Ms Britton) in this way”.

Details of the settlement were revealed at a hearing before Mr Justice Fancourt where the judge made decisions relating to the progress of other legal challenges against NGN – including a case brought by the Duke of Sussex.

In a preliminary ruling in July last year, the judge blocked parts of Harry’s claim relating to phone hacking allegations from going to trial but said other allegations – including over the use of private investigators – could continue.

A trial of the duke’s and others’ claims is expected to be held in January next year.

The next preliminary hearing in the cases, when the duke’s lawyers will seek permission to update parts of his pleaded case, is due to be held next month.

At a hearing expected in April, NGN, which denies any unlawful activity took place at The Sun, will also argue that an initial trial should be held over whether legal challenges have been brought too late.

Mr Justice Fancourt was told at a hearing in December that a number of high-profile individuals had settled hacking claims against NGN, including comic Catherine Tate, radio presenter Chris Moyles, Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm, former Boyzone member Shane Lynch and actor Mathew Horne.

A spokesperson for News UK, NGN’s parent company, previously said it had made an “unreserved apology” in 2011 to victims of phone hacking at the News of the World – which closed in July that year.

They said it was “drawing a line” under some cases and paying damages to those with “proper claims”, but that it did not accept liability or make any admissions to disputed allegations in ongoing claims against The Sun.