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News Group accepts 'vicarious liability' for hacking of army officer's email

Fri 06 October 2017 16:48 | A A A

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(ShareCast News) - Australian billionaire Rupert Murdoch's News Group agreed to pay damages to former army intelligence officer Ian Hurst after his computer and emails were hacked by a private investigations firm which then forwarded the information to the publisher.

News Group admitted that Jonathon Rees, the head of the PI company in question, had hacked Hurst's computer and emails which contained correspondence between the former Intelligence Corps employee and members of the Irish republican movement, people in the security services, Northern Ireland police force employees and armed forces personnel undercover in the IRA.

News Group's lawyers said the company had extended its "sincerest and unreserved apologies" to both Hurst and his family and accepted "vicarious liability" for the hacking.

News Group agreed to pay a "substantial" figure to Hurst for damages as well as covering his legal costs.

Hurst's lawyer said he was "increasingly shocked and appalled as he began to discover the extent of the unlawful activity" against his client and "genuinely feared for the safety of many of the people with whom he'd been in contact."

Phillip Smith, who hacked Hurst at the behest of Rees, used spyware called e-Blaster to break into Hurst's computer, allowing him to monitor information and correspondence.

Anthony Hudson QC, for News Group, said, "News Group Newspapers accepts that such activity happened, accepts that it should never have happened, and has undertaken to the court that it will never happen again."

As of 1700 BST, News Group's parent company News Corporation had dropped 1.45% to $13.23 each.

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