Heather Mills reaches settlement over phone hacking

Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers has agreed to pay Heather Mills and her sister a “substantial” settlement over claims stemming from a decade-old phone hacking scandal.

Mills, a philanthropist and former wife of Paul McCartney, said in a statement outside the High Court in London on Monday that she and her sister, Fiona Mills, were the victims of a “targeted smear campaign” that included “hacking, invasion of privacy, and the publication of countless falsehoods and lies.”

In 2011, British tabloid News of the World apologized for hacking the voicemails of celebrities, royals, murder victims and other high-profile figures. Parent company News Corp later shut down News of the World amid a parliamentary and police investigation. Most phone hacking cases involved the tabloid, but other UK newspapers have also settled cases.

In a court statement, the sisters said they had experienced strange activity with their telephones between 1998 and 2008.

“My motivation to win this decade long fight stems from a desire to obtain justice. Not only for my family, my charities and myself, but for the thousands of innocent members of the public, who — like me — have suffered similar, ignominious, criminal treatment at the hands of one of the world’s most powerful media groups,” Mills said in London.

News Group Newspapers, a division of News Corp, did not disclose the settlement amount, but described it as “substantial.” As part of the settlement, the company did not admit liability related to alleged voicemail interception or other unlawful information gathering at the Sun, another News Corp. tabloid.

“The defendants is here today, through me, to offer its sincere apologies to Mrs. Heather Mills and Ms. Fiona Mills for the distress caused to them by the invasion of their privacy by individuals working for or on behalf of the News of the World,” an attorney for the company said in a statement to the court. “The defendants accepts that such activity should never have taken place and, that it had no right to intrude into the private lives of Mrs. Heather Mills or Ms. Fiona Mills in this way.”

Brittany Gibson contributed reporting.