Sienna Miller not satisfied with phone hack apology

Sienna Miller
A lawyer for Sienna Miller said the actress has not dropped her lawsuit against the News of the World, which she accuses of "outrageous violations of privacy."Chris Pizzello / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Prominent Britons who accuse a tabloid newspaper of hacking into their phone messages said Saturday they were not satisfied with the paper's apology and offer of compensation.

The News of the World has acknowledged eavesdropping on the voicemails of public figures and says it will pay compensation for an unspecified number of "justifiable claims."

But the admission has done little to end a scandal that has rattled Britain's political establishment and Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

A lawyer for Sienna Miller — one of several celebrities suing the paper — said the actress has not dropped her lawsuit against the News of the World, which she accuses of "outrageous violations of privacy." Lawyer Mark Thomson said Miller was awaiting more information from the newspaper before deciding what to do.

Miller accuses the tabloid of repeatedly accessing her voicemails over the course of a year and using the information for stories about her, her family and her former partner, Jude Law.

For years the News of the World maintained that hacking was confined to two rogue employees who were jailed in 2007 for eavesdropping on voicemail messages of royal staff, including some left by Prince William and Prince Harry.

But on Friday parent company News International admitted liability in some cases and said that "past behavior at the News of the World in relation to voicemail interception is a matter of genuine regret."

The apology failed to silence critics of the paper — and of its powerful owner, Murdoch.

Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who claims his phone was hacked, said the British government should stop Murdoch from taking full control of satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC until the hacking issue is resolved.

The government has approved plans by Murdoch's News Corp. to buy the 61 percent of BSkyB it does not already own, on condition that it spin off its Sky News channel as an independent company.

"I say this to the government — don't you dare make this announcement while the (House of) Commons and (House of) Lords are in recess unless you've done a proper judgment on this company," Prescott said.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said its final decision on the merger would be based "on media plurality issues alone" and would not be influenced by the hacking scandal.

Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said the newspaper had acknowledged serious wrongdoing, and he urged police to investigate "how far across the organization knowledge of these actions went."

Nearly 3,000 phone numbers found
The News of the World is currently facing about 20 lawsuits from alleged hacking victims, but critics of the paper say that hundreds or even thousands of people were targeted by its scandal-hungry reporters.

Police say they found nearly 3,000 cellphone numbers over the course of an initial inquiry into the phone hacking.

Police have been accused of not investigating the allegations thoroughly and have recently reopened their inquiry. Earlier this week, they arrested and questioned the newspaper's chief reporter and its former head of news.

Andy Coulson, a former News of The World editor hired as Prime Minister David Cameron's communications chief, was forced to step down from his Downing Street job over the scandal earlier this year and also has been interviewed by police, although he has not been arrested.

Murdoch's News International Ltd. owns four British national newspapers — the tabloids The Sun and News of the World as well as The Times and The Sunday Times. News International is a subsidiary of Murdoch's News Corp., whose U.S. media outlets include Fox Television, the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal.