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.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Space Oddity? Dr David Bowie is treating former astronaut Buzz Aldrin

Ground control to major coincidence.

The 86-year-old former astronaut and second man on the moon Buzz Aldrin has been evacuated from the South Pole to hospital in New Zealand. Your mole thought this was yet another piece of dismal 2016 news, before the silver lining popped up on Twitter. Aldrin’s manager Christina Korp sent a thrilling message about her client’s treatment:

Yes, the real-life “Starman” is going to be treated by a doctor who shares his name with the late pop icon who wrote “Space Oddity”, “Life on Mars?”, “Ziggy Stardust” and “Starman”, among many other odes to space.

In fact, Bowie’s “Space Oddity” hit about ground control losing contact with the fictional astronaut Major Tom was released in 1969, a few days before Aldrin and Neil Armstrong became the first humans to walk on the moon. This mole’s whiskers are quivering at the poignancy.

I'm a mole, innit.