April 13, 2024

Prince Harry became the first British royal to appear in the witness box since the 1890s.


The judge overseeing the phone-hacking and privacy lawsuit brought by Prince Harry and some 100 others against British publisher Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) at London’s High Court will deliver his judgment on Friday.

Here are the details of the case:

What is the case about?

Harry and 100 others sued MGN, publisher of the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and the Sunday People tabloids, accusing them of widespread unlawful activities between 1991 and 2011.

Those involved in the case include actors, sports stars, celebrities and people who simply had a connection to high-profile figures.

They accuse the media group’s journalists or private investigators of phone-hacking on an “industrial scale” and obtaining private details by deception and say that senior editors and executives knew and approved of such behaviour.

MGN, owned by Reach, contested the claims and denied senior figures were aware of wrongdoing. It also argued that some of the lawsuits were brought too late.

Harry, the younger son of King Charles, was selected as one of the four test cases for the trial which began last May. He is seeking up to 320,000 ($405,000) pounds in damages over 33 articles considered at the trial, plus a further 120,000 pounds for 61 episodes of alleged unlawful information-gathering.

MGN has admitted private investigators had been instructed to unlawfully gather information about three of those involved in the test cases, including, on one occasion, Harry.

The publisher said it unreservedly apologised and that the prince was entitled to 500 pounds in compensation. It denied any other wrongdoing about him.

What is phone hacking?

Phone hacking, the illegal interception of voicemails on mobile phones, first came to public attention in 2006 when the then-royal editor of the News of the World (NoW) tabloid and a private investigator were arrested.

They pleaded guilty and were jailed in 2007.

In 2011 further revelations emerged, including that a murdered schoolgirl had been targeted, leading to Rupert Murdoch closing the paper, as well as a criminal trial.

In 2014, the NoW’s former editor, Andy Coulson, who later worked for then-Prime Minister David Cameron, was found guilty of conspiracy to hack phones and jailed. Rebekah Brooks, who heads up News Corp’s UK operation, was acquitted of all charges.

The Mirror group had consistently denied its journalists had been involved in hacking, including at a public inquiry. But in 2014, it admitted liability.

Since then, MGN has settled more than 600 claims at a cost of around 106 million pounds in damages and costs, 55 million pounds of which MGN says has gone to the claimants’ lawyers.

What did Harry say in court?

The Duke of Sussex, the fifth-in-line to the throne, became the first British royal to appear in the witness box since the 1890s when he gave evidence over two days at the start of June.

Harry said he was targeted by MGN for 15 years from 1996 with more than 140 stories which appeared in its papers being the result of phone-hacking or other unlawful behaviour, although the trial only considered 33 of these.

He blamed the intrusion for the breakdown of his relationship with a long-term girlfriend, Chelsy Davy, and said MGN had sown distrust in Harry’s relationship with his elder brother Prince William, with whom he has since fallen out.

Andrew Green, MGN’s lawyer, suggested some of the personal information in the stories had come from, or was given with the consent of, senior Buckingham Palace aides, or was simply based on details already made public in other articles.

Piers Morgan Involved?

Several witnesses, including Harry himself, implicated senior figures from MGN as being involved in phone hacking or at least aware it was going on. The most notable was Piers Morgan, now a high-profile TV presenter, who edited the paper between 1995 and 2004.

The Mirror’s former Group Political Editor David Seymour and Omid Scobie, who worked on the tabloid and has recently made headlines with a book about the royal family, were among those who pointed the finger at Morgan in their evidence.

Morgan has always denied any involvement in, or knowledge of, phone hacking and said he would not “take lectures on privacy invasion from Prince Harry”.

The judge, Timothy Fancourt, queried whether Morgan should have given evidence. MGN’s lawyer Green said calling Morgan as a witness would have become a “disproportionate and unnecessary” sideshow, and the accusations against him were irrelevant.

Who else is Prince Harry suing?

The case is one of four that Harry is pursuing at London’s High Court. He is also suing News Corp’s UK operation, News Group Newspapers (NGN), which publishes the Sun tabloid.

Along with singer Elton John and five others, he is suing Associated Newspapers (ANL), publisher of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, over alleged phone hacking and illicit privacy breaches. Harry is also suing ANL for libel.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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