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Eastenders actor wins privacy case against police and News of the World

Eastenders actor Steve McFadden, best known for his role as Phil Mitchell in the long-running BBC soap opera, has settled his legal action against the Metropolitan police and the News of the World after receiving a public apology and substantial damages.

The police, and the publishers of the now defunct Sunday tabloid, told the High Court of Justice that they accepted responsibility for serious intrusion into the actor’s private life.

In March 2010, officers raided McFadden’s home after a false tip-off that firearms were stored there. No weapons were found but news about the search was sold for £750 by a police officer to a News of the World journalist.

Later that year the actor was photographed after being arrested leading to another story in the newspaper. McFadden also had his mobile phone voicemail intercepted by News of the World reporter Dan Evans.

The actor’s lawyers claimed in court that these incidents constituted “misuse of private information, breach of confidence and harassment.” Both the police and the publishers of the News of the World apologised in court and, as well as damages, agreed to cover McFadden's legal costs.

In a statement issued through his lawyers, the actor said: “For years, false and private information about me has appeared in the press. Although I am pleased to finally understand how some of this information came to be published, I am particularly concerned that a police officer sold my privacy to a tabloid newspaper for profit. I consider the payment of damages and public apology will go some way to ensuring respect for my and others’ privacy in future. I am glad to have been vindicated and to be able to put this matter behind me.”

The actor’s solicitor, Tamsin Allen of Bindmans LLP, said: “This is a case where there was no possible public interest in the sale of this information. An officer failed in his duty to the public by seeking a private profit from a newspaper that was prepared to corrupt a public servant. This was the reality of journalism at the News of the World.”

In July, the police officer involved, Sam Azuelos, was sent to prison for 17 months after pleading guilty of misconduct in a public office. The journalist, Dan Evans, received a suspended sentence after giving evidence for the prosecution at the phone-hacking trial earlier this year.