LONDON — Actress Sienna Miller and three other alleged victims of a British tabloid phone-hacking scandal could push ahead with suing the News of The World newspaper, a judge said Friday.
High Court judge Geoffrey Vos said the four cases should not be delayed by an ongoing criminal investigation into the tabloid's conduct.
Police were investigating the paper to establish its role in a series of illegal interceptions into celebrities' mobile phone voicemails, and three of the paper's journalists have been detained for questioning.
Vos said the four "test cases" – the most well-advanced out of more than 20 similar lawsuits – should be heard first.
The cases would focus on whether there was interception, how much was carried out, what was done with the information and what damage was suffered, Vos said. They could provide guidance for potential damages the other alleged victims can claim, he added.
Michael Silverleaf, the lawyer for News Group, which publishes News of The World, said the company last week offered to settle the case with Miller for 100,000 pounds (around $165,000). She has 21 days to accept the settlement. Seven other claimants also received apologies from the newspaper.
Silverleaf argued that Miller's case should not be allowed to continue because she is not likely to win more than the settlement amount.
"She cannot realistically recover more than we are offering," he told the judge.
But Miller's lawyer, Hugh Tomlinson, said money was not the primary motivation for many of the claimants.
"Damages are an aspect, but when private information is involved, the kind of relief people are looking for goes beyond simply monetary compensation," he said.
The paper acknowledged last week the practice of illegal hacking was more widespread than it had maintained. For a long time, News of The World insisted that the practice was confined to two rogue employees, who were jailed in 2007 for eavesdropping on voicemail messages of royal employees.
It is not yet clear how many people's phones were targeted by the paper's reporters. Many critics say hundreds could have been involved.