News International may settle with Dowler family


News Corp.’s U.K. newspaper unit has offered to pay about $4.7 million tied to charges that its News of the World tabloid hacked the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler in 2002. The payment will be the largest payout by the company tied to phone-hacking allegations so far. The ongoing settlement talks with News of the World publisher are ongoing over payout that would include a sizeable donation to charity

The offer will attempt to settle the phone-hacking case that led to closure of the News of the World and the resignation of the company’s CEO Rebekah Brooks.

The UK Guardian says that News International’s settlement would include a $1.57 million donation to charity. So far, the publisher has not yet reached agreement with the Dowler family, whose lawyers were thought to be seeking a settlement figure of closer to $5.5 million.

The seven-figure sums under negotiation are far larger than other phone-hacking settlements reached, reflecting the fact that the phone-hacking case affected a family who were victims of crime. Thirteen-year-old Dowler went missing in March 2002 and was later found murdered.

It emerged in July that Milly Dowler’s mobile phone had been hacked after her death. Voicemails were accessed on behalf of the News of the World, and messages left for her were deleted to make room for more recordings. This gave the family false hope that she was still alive, because messages were disappearing.

Sienna Miller accepted $156,727 from News International after the publisher accepted unconditional liability for her phone-hacking and other privacy and harassment claims in May. A month later Andy Gray accepted $31,345 in damages plus undisclosed costs.

News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch met with the Dowler family in July, shortly after the original story about hacking into her phone broke, making what the family’s lawyer, Mark Lewis, said was a “full and humble” apology. Rupert “held his head in his hands” and repeatedly told the family he was “very, very sorry.”