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Chris Harper, partner in our dispute resolution team in Exeter, looks at a recent phone hacking case.


In the recent case of Representative Claimants v MGN Ltd, the Court of Appeal has unanimously upheld an award, made by a High Court Judge, of substantial damages to eight claimants for misuse of private information, obtained by the defendant through phone hacking and the use of private investigators. The Court ruled that the level of damages was not manifestly excessive or wrong in principle, and stated that the defendant: “…could not expect this Court to come to its rescue and find some way of finding the awards to be excessive when its staff have been responsible for disgraceful conduct with such distressing consequences and when… it is quite unable itself to point to actual awards that it contends are wrong.”

The damages awarded, ranging from £72,500 to £260,250, are far more substantial than in any reported privacy case to date.

The decision provides helpful guidelines for assessing damages in this area of law. It confirms that the misuse of private information may attract substantial damages simply because there has been an intrusion into a person’s privacy. There is no need to prove distress or injury to feelings. This does not render damages in privacy cases vindicatory. They are still compensatory, since they seek to compensate for the loss or diminution of a right to control formerly private information and for the distress caused by its exploitation. Accordingly, in this case, substantial damages could be awarded where private information had been obtained through hacking, even if it had not been published.

The decision raises interesting issues of principle in this developing area of the law. It would not be surprising if this case reached the Supreme Court at some point in 2016.


Chris Harper is an experienced solicitor and a partner in our dispute resolution team in Exeter. If you would like to contact the team, please call 01392 210700 or email