Hugh Grant arrives at the premiere of "Wonka" on Dec....

Hugh Grant arrives at the premiere of "Wonka" on Dec. 10, 2023, at Regency Village Theatre in Westwood, Calif. Hugh Grant says he received “an enormous sum of money” to settle a lawsuit accusing the publisher of The Sun tabloid of unlawfully tapping his phone, bugging his car and breaking into his home to snoop on him. Credit: AP/Richard Shotwell

LONDON — Hugh Grant accepted “an enormous sum of money" to settle a lawsuit accusing The Sun tabloid of unlawfully tapping his phone, bugging his car and breaking into his home to snoop on him, the actor said Wednesday after the agreement was announced in court.

Grant said he reluctantly settled because of a court policy that could have stuck him with a huge legal bill even if he prevailed at trial — a reality that could also force fellow claimant Prince Harry to settle, their lawyer said. A civil court rule intended to avoid jamming up the courts would have required Grant to pay legal fees to both sides if he won at trial but was awarded anything lower than the settlement offer.

“As is common with entirely innocent people, they are offering me an enormous sum of money to keep this matter out of court,” Grant said on the social media platform X. “Even if every allegation is proven in court, I would still be liable for something approaching 10 million pounds ($12.4 million) in costs. I’m afraid I am shying at that fence.”

The amount of the settlement was not disclosed. NGN said in a statement that it admitted no liability and said the settlement was in the financial interest of both parties to avoid a costly trial.

Grant and other claimants have alleged that NGN, a subsidiary of the media empire built by Rupert Murdoch, violated their privacy through widespread unlawful activity that included hiring private investigators to intercept voicemails, tap phones, bug cars and use deception to access confidential information between 1994 and 2016.

Grant is among several celebrities, including actress Sienna Miller, soccer star Paul Gascoigne and Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm, who have settled claims against the publisher.

Attorney Gideon Benaim, who was not involved in the case, said the publisher probably used the “incredibly powerful” rules of the court by making an offer Grant was unlikely to surpass at trial. If a judge awarded Grant less than the settlement offer, he would have faced significant legal costs under the rules.

“Hugh Grant would have been left in little doubt by his lawyers that the offer was pitched so that there was a real risk that he would not ‘beat’ it at trial,” Benaim said. “Therefore, even though he may have preferred to have fought the case, the financial risks were simply too great and he had, in effect, no choice but to settle.”

The settlement leaves The Duke of Sussex and 41 others scheduled to go to trial in the High Court in January, though their lawyer said settlements were being “forced upon” them.

“The Duke of Sussex is subject to the same issues that Sienna Miller and Hugh Grant have been subject to, which is that the offers are made that make it impossible for them to go ahead," David Sherborne told a judge Wednesday at a hearing in the case.

The settlement came less than a year after Justice Timothy Fancourt rejected NGN’s attempt to throw out Grant’s lawsuit alleging unlawful information gathering.

“If true ... these allegations would establish very serious, deliberate wrongdoing at NGN, conducted on an institutional basis on a huge scale,” Fancourt wrote in May. “They would also establish a concerted effort to conceal the wrongdoing by hiding and destroying relevant documentary evidence, repeated public denials, lies to regulators and authorities, and unwarranted threats to those who dared to make allegations or notify intended claims against The Sun.”

Grant said in a witness statement that he could never figure out who broke into his fourth-floor apartment in 2011. The door had been pried off its hinges and the interior looked like there had been a fight but nothing was missing. Two days later, The Sun had a story detailing the interior and “signs of a domestic row.”

He said he was astonished when a private eye hired by The Sun disclosed that people working for the newspaper had burglarized his apartment and placed a tracking device on his car.

Grant, who previously settled a case against Murdoch's News of the World for hacking his phone, said he would not go away quietly.

“Murdoch’s settlement money has a stink and I refuse to let this be hush money," he said. "I have spent the best part of 12 years fighting for a free press that does not distort the truth, abuse ordinary members of the public or hold elected (members of Parliament) to ransom in pursuit of newspaper barons’ personal profit and political power."

Grant said he would direct the money to groups like Hacked Off, which was formed after phone hacking revelations in 2011 brought down News of the World and led to a government inquiry into unlawful press practices. Grant is a board member of the group that advocates for a free and accountable press.

While the now-defunct News of the World has apologized for hacking the phones of celebrities, politicians and families of dead soldiers and a murdered schoolgirl, The Sun has settled cases without admitting liability.

For Prince Harry, the case against The Sun is one of three similar lawsuits he has brought in his crusade to tame the British tabloids. He says the papers have hounded him most of his life and he blames them for the death of his mother, Princess Diana, who died in a car crash while being pursued by paparazzi.

Last year, he won his first case to go to trial when Fancourt found phone hacking was “widespread and habitual” at Mirror Group Newspapers. In addition to a court judgment, he recently settled remaining allegations that included his legal fees. The total sum wasn’t announced, but he was due to receive an interim payment of 400,000 pounds ($498,000).

He has another case pending against the owner of the Daily Mail.

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