Murdoch’s ‘Milly’ bill rises


THE “Milly moment” is to cost Rupert Murdoch even more dearly than expected, with the British arm of his media empire offering the family of the murdered schoolgirl about £3 million ($A4.6 million) over the hacking of her phone.
It is believed the sum will be divided into £2 million for the Dowler family and £1 million to be donated by Mr Murdoch to a charity of their choice.
The proposed payout, yet to be finalised, dwarfs previous settlements in the long-running phone hacking scandal, but Milly Dowler’s case was always going to carry a premium.
It is the one that sparked a tide of public revulsion over the tactics of the Sunday tabloid News of the World.
Milly, then 13, disappeared in 2002 and was still being treated as a missing person when the News of the World arranged for her phone messages to be intercepted.
The paper’s hacker even deleted some messages, giving her family false hope that she might still be alive. The public, which had been sanguine over hacking when it seemed confined to celebrities, was outraged when Milly’s case was revealed in July.
Mr Murdoch and his son James were forced to kill the commercially successful tabloid, and Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International, News Corp’s British arm, resigned.
The Dowler family’s payout might lead to higher expectations by families of other victims of violent death who were hacked.
They included soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a young man who died in the July 2005 London terrorist bombings.
A London media lawyer, Niri Shan, said the payout was much more generous than could be expected in a court. “The only downside is if it potentially sets an unrealistic expectation for others,” he said.
Others suggested the size of the payment meant News Corp might blow its £20 million budget for phone hacking claims.
Tom Watson, a Labour MP who has campaigned strongly over the issue, told The Independent: “News Corp shareholders were told that cleaning up the hacking cases would cost £20 million in the civil courts.
“This settlement shows that the final cost to shareholders will be considerably more than that. There will be questions to answer at the News Corp AGM next month.”
About 30 claims are still to be settled. The High Court has accepted six as “lead cases” to be heard as exemplars.
Previous out-of-court settlements over hacking by News include £1 million to publicity agent Max Clifford, £700,000 to footballers’ union chief Gordon Taylor and £100,000 to actor Sienna Miller.
Scotland Yard is investigating the potential hacking of 3000 more phone numbers held by the paper’s hired hacker, private detective Glenn Mulcaire. That operation has cost £1.8 million so far, The Guardian reported.
Two other police operations are looking at payments to police and computer hacking. Sixteen people have been arrested.First published in The Age.