Charlotte Church on phone hacking: ‘I don’t plan to let this lie’ | Media | guardian.co.uk
Although she doesn’t want to “dwell on it” for obvious reasons, News International’s defence strategy hinged on the mental state of her mother and the cause of an attempted suicide seven years ago. According to Church, at a pre-trial hearing Michael Silverleaf QC, counsel for the publisher, noted there would be “significant debate” over whether the News of the World was “responsible” for the distress caused to her mother and said a fresh medical examination would be required.
Church told the Leveson inquiry last year how her mother tried to kill herself shortly before the News of the World published a story about her father having an affair and taking cocaine. Church recalls the events with clarity. Her mother and father were already reconciled after the affair; her mother was in “absolute bits” about what had happened but the News of the World “blackmailed” her into giving a first hand account of her trauma in exchange for not publishing “part two” of the story on her husband, she says.
“[They said] ‘If you give us a story, an exclusive about your self-harming, your attempted suicide, your relationship with Charlotte, then we won’t print that story and that story will never see the light of day’,” Church adds. Her mother, at her wits’ end, agreed. Church recalls angrily how the journalists asked her mother if they could take pictures of her arms and how her mother erupted and said “are you taking the piss?”.
“In the pre-trial hearing, Silverleaf made it reasonably plain the way they were going to be playing it. They were subjecting my mother to a psychological analysis, which is ridiculous. How are you going to get a psychologist for an hour to judge what happened seven years ago? It was just a totally pointless exercise,” she says.
“They were just going to drag my parents through the mud again and I couldn’t let that happen. I’ve seen what it’s done to my family the first time round and they were going to do it all over again which just says to me they haven’t learned anything.”
This meant the case “wasn’t going to be about the criminal activity”, according to Church. “They were going to put such an aggressive defence up to weaken us.” And this is why she settled.
Her manager, John Vernile, says the defence strategy didn’t address any of the key points of the claims by Church and her family, which centred on phone hacking and surveillance.