The former fiancé of Atomic Kitten singer Kerry Katona has accepted significant damages and an apology from the publisher of the Mirror titles and Sunday People following allegations of phone-hacking.
David Cunningham launched a libel case against Mirror Group Newspapers in 2018 claiming his voicemail messages, from Katona (pictured) as well as other family and friends, had been intercepted by its journalists in 2005 and 2006 when he was in a relationship with the singer.
His case focused on 36 articles published during this period, which he claimed contained his and Katona’s private information that could only have been gained through phone-hacking and other unlawful information gathering.
In 2019, when it served its defence, MGN admitted liability for the misuse of Cunningham’s private information on five occasions by instructing private investigators to unlawfully find out things about him and those close to him.
Cunningham and MGN have now agreed to settle the case, with the publisher paying out significant damages and legal costs and reading an apology in the High Court.
Alexander Vakil of RPC, on behalf of MGN, told the High Court on Monday that MGN “offers its sincere apologies to Mr Cunningham for the damage and distress caused to him by the misuse of his private information over 15 years ago”.
“The defendant acknowledges that Mr Cunningham’s private information should not have been obtained and used in the manner that it was,” he added.
Cunningham, a maintenance engineer, said in a statement on Monday: “I was robbed of a normal relationship with Kerry, I believe because of MGN’s greed to make money. MGN treated me like a puppet as it was always pulling the strings. I felt as though I was on a game show, with MGN controlling what was going on.
“Even now, I am embarrassed that MGN knew the intimate details of my and Kerry’s lives. MGN had no right to publish the articles about me and Kerry. I have been put through hell and, by dragging out my claim, MGN has made me re-live a very painful period of my life for no good reason.”
His lawyer, Ellen Gallagher of Hamlins, added: “MGN had no right to misuse Mr Cunningham’s private information. MGN’s actions were abhorrent and there was plainly no reason for its newspapers to target Mr Cunningham other than because of his relationship with Kerry Katona.
“Unfortunately, the newspapers’ unlawful targeting of private individuals to obtain their private information and that of their associates, as in Mr Cunningham’s case, was commonplace.
“It is appalling MGN forced Mr Cunningham to the brink of trial before it saw sense and agreed terms of settlement and shocking that it has taken almost exactly four years for the case to be concluded. I am delighted for Dave that, eventually, MGN has been held to account for its unlawful acts.”
Among the individuals still pursuing cases against MGN are Prince Harry, actor Ray Winstone, former Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs, and media personality Chantelle Houghton. A separate group of litigants includes actor Ricky Tomlinson, Fiona Wightman, the ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse, Ingrid Dupre, the former wife of presenter Chris Tarrant, former Coronation Street and Hollyoaks actress Nikki Sanderson, and model Paul Sculfor.
Britain’s Got Talent judge David Walliams, Doc Martin star Martin Clunes and actors Roxanne Pallett, Antony Cotton, Mark and Samantha Womack and Caroline Quentin all settled cases with MGN last year.
Picture: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images