London: A popular Indian-origin television actress is among a string of UK celebrities who won pay-outs worth 1.2 million pounds from the Mirror Group of newspapers which was charged with hacking phones of public figures.
Shobna Gulati won 117,500 pounds in damages after a three-week hearing at London's High Court over the extent of phone hacking at the newspaper titles owned by the group.
Gulati, popular in Britain for her role as Sunita Alahan in the long-running TV soap 'Coronation Street', former England football star Paul Gascoigne and six others were awarded damages totalling 1.2 million pounds after Justice Mann said the victims had all suffered a 'serious infringement of privacy' and the scale of hacking had been 'very substantial'.
"People whose voicemails were hacked for so often and so long, had very significant parts of their private lives exposed, and then reported on, are entitled to significant compensation," he said in his ruling.
Anjlee Saigol, the solicitor who represented Gulati, said they were 'extremely happy' with the decision. "The judge noted how relationships were lost, problems within marriages exacerbated and personal difficulties made worse," she said.
The Mirror Group, which owns the 'Mirror', the 'Sunday Mirror' and the 'People', said it was considering whether to seek permission to appeal.
The newspaper group had been sued by Gulati, Gascoigne, actress Sadie Frost, BBC executive Alan Yentob, flight attendant Lauren Alcorn, TV producer Robert Ashworth and TV soap 'EastEnders' actors Lucy Taggart and Shane Richie.
The group had admitted at the start of the three-week trial that more than 100 articles about the eight claimants were the result of phone hacking. The civil case is the first of its kind to result in a high court trial.
A criminal investigation into voicemail interception at the three titles is running in parallel to the civil hearing. The Mirror Group said in a statement "Our subsidiary MGN Limited has already accepted that it should pay appropriate compensation to individuals who were the target of phone hacking. However, our initial view of the lengthy judgement is that the basis used for calculating damages is incorrect and we are therefore considering whether to seek permission to appeal".
The newspaper group was accused at a high court trial in March of industrial-scale phone hacking. In February, the Mirror had published a 'sincere and unreserved' apology for the voicemail interception, saying it "was unlawful and should never have happened".