Court: UK's Mirror Group must pay record damages for hacking

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LONDON (AP) — British judges ruled Thursday that Mirror Group Newspapers must pay record damages to eight phone-hacking victims, saying the papers' staff engaged in "disgraceful conduct."

Parent company Trinity Mirror PLC, which faces dozens more lawsuits by victims of illegal eavesdropping, announced that it was increasing the amount it had set aside to deal with civil phone-hacking claims from 28 million pounds ($42 million) to 41 million pounds ($61 million).

The company, which owns the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror tabloids, had appealed an earlier ruling that it must pay a total of 1.2 million pounds ($1.79 million) to eight victims, including actress Sadie Frost and former soccer star Paul Gascoigne.

All eight individual payouts surpassed the previous record award in a British privacy case of 60,000 pounds.

Mirror Group called the sums "out of all proportion" to the harm done.

But three appeals court judges upheld the original ruling. In the judgment, justice Mary Arden said the company's staff had been "responsible for disgraceful conduct."

She said that "the circulation of the private information was to a very large number of persons and touched on the most intimate part of the lives of some of the respondents. It understandably caused great distress."

The company said it would seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Wide-ranging investigations into phone hacking, bribery and other forms of tabloid wrongdoing were triggered by the 2011 revelation that staff at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World had eavesdropped on the voicemails of celebrities, politicians and crime victims.

Both Murdoch's News Corp. and the rival Mirror Group have admitted phone hacking and paid millions in compensation to victims.

Last week police and prosecutors announced they were ending the criminal investigation into phone hacking, which has produced nine convictions. Prosecutors ruled out corporate prosecution of Murdoch's British newspapers or charges against several individuals at Mirror Group, including former Daily Mirror editor and CNN host Piers Morgan.

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