RUPERT MURDOCH'S UK tabloid rag News of the World (NOTW) has apologised for phone hacking celebrities and other high profile people and set up a reparations fund for aggrieved parties.
The case against the newspaper has been building up steadily over the last few months and has seen a number of arrests and an incident of sword falling by ex-editor and now disgraced ex-political Conservative Party wordsmith, Andy Coulson. However, this is the first time that the newspaper has held up its hands and said sorry.
Although an initial investigation found nothing worth acting on, the London Metropolitan Police recently bestirred itself, and through the work of Operation Weeting closed a net around the NOTW, which last week, and in the last high profile part of the tabloid sensation, saw Scotland Yard finger the collars of two men and search their houses.
Since then things had gone quiet until this afternoon when News International, the media monster controlled by Rupert Murdoch, said in a statement, "Following an extensive internal investigation and disclosures through civil legal cases, News International has decided to approach some civil litigants with an unreserved apology and an admission of liability in cases meeting specific criteria."
The firm added that a compensation scheme will follow, which will presumably appease those people whose phones it hacked. "This will begin the process of bringing these cases to a fair resolution with damages appropriate to the extent of the intrusion," the newspaper added.
The statement is full of woe and regret, and a surprising revelation. "Past behaviour at the News of the World in relation to voicemail interception is a matter of genuine regret. It is now apparent that our previous inquiries failed to uncover important evidence and we acknowledge our actions then were not sufficiently robust," it explained.
"We continue to co-operate fully with the Metropolitan Police. It was our discovery and voluntary disclosure of this evidence in January that led to the re-opening of the police investigation."
This might rankle John Prescott, who claims to be a phone hacking victim and boasted that the Police told him when it decided to reopened the case. Also low on Prescott's "things that please me" list might be the fact that his name does not appear on the BBCs list of people thought likely to recieve a payout.
Actress Sienna Miller is though, as are designer Kelly Hoppen, former minister Tessa Jowell, and sports agent Sky Andrews. More victims, perhaps dozens, might eventually tip up. µ