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News International apologises for phone-hacking

<em>News of the World</em> owner admits liability for a number of cases and agrees to set up a compe

A dramatic development in the phone-hacking story. Robert Peston has the news that News International will admit liability in a number of the cases brought against the News of the World and will also establish a compensation fund, with a view to "dealing with justifiable claims efficiently".

The move has most likely been triggered by the arrest this week of the paper's former assistant editor, Ian Edmondson, and the paper's chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck.

In a statement, the NoW said:

Following an extensive internal investigation and disclosures through civil legal cases, News International has decided to approach some civil litigants with an unreserved apology and an admission of liability in cases meeting specific criteria.

We have also asked our lawyers to establish a compensation scheme with a view to dealing with justifiable claims fairly and efficiently.

It added: "We will, however, continue to contest cases that we believe are without merit or where we are not responsible."

The key question now is whether the paper's "rogue executive" defence (it sacked Edmondson in January) stands up to legal scrutiny.

For more on the hacking story, pick up this week's NS, guest-edited by Jemima Khan, to read what happened when Hugh Grant secretely recorded the former NoW journalist Paul McMullan.