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Prince Harry hacking trial: The 15 Mirror Group articles ruled to have been obtained unlawfully

Many of the stories involving phone hacking and other unlawful methods focus on Harry’s relationship with Chelsy Davy

Andy Gregory
Friday 15 December 2023 15:57 GMT
Prince Harry’s lawyer condemns phone hacking ‘cover-ups’ by Mirror publisher

Prince Harry has claimed his first major scalp in his campaign against Britain’s tabloid press, as the High Court ruled that he was a victim of phone hacking by Mirror Group Newspapers.

The Duke of Sussex won damages of £140,600 against the publisher, at whose three titles the judge ruled there had been “extensive” phone hacking between 2006 and 2011 – including during the Leveson Inquiry – and that the misuse of private investigators was an “integral part of the system”.

Mr Justice Fancourt concluded that Harry’s phone was only hacked to a modest extent and this was carefully controlled by certain people at each newspaper – but that this did happen from the end of 2003 to April 2009 – while his girlfriends and close friends were “regularly targeted”.

Prince Harry attended the trial in June to give evidence (AP)

The judge found that 15 out of 33 articles focused on during the trial were the product of hacking from phones belonging to the Duke of Sussex, his girlfriends and his friends, or the product of unlawful information gathering.

Here is an overview of what was said in evidence and in the judge’s ruling about each of the 15 articles:

“Harry took drugs” and “Cool it Harry”, Sunday Mirror – January 13 2002

These two articles contained allegations that Harry had smoked cannabis.

Harry said that, while it was a follow-up story to articles in the News of the World, there were invoices concerning his friend Guy Pelly and people connected to the story at the time. MGN denied any unlawful information gathering and said that news agencies, a freelance journalist and a source were paid for the articles.

But the judge ruled that although the Duke’s own phone was not hacked, others were, and other unlawful information gathering enabled the authors to quote private conversations.

“This was targeted at the Duke and was a serious invasion of his privacy”, said Mr Justice Fancourt, noting also that “the major distress caused to him was caused by the Palace’s decision to admit the accuracy of the News of the World’s story”, which commentary was published by it. Harry was awarded a total of £7,000 in damages over these articles.

“ Burrell’s a two-faced s*** who’ll use visit to make money”, The People – December 28 2003

A double-page article reported a disagreement between Harry and his brother William, now Prince of Wales, about whether to meet former royal butler Paul Burrell over his “ongoing exposes about our mother”.

Harry said the article’s author was a “habitual commissioner of private investigators” and that the reported phrase “two-face s***” to describe Mr Burrell could have been taken from a voicemail, while MGN claimed the information came from a “confidential source who specialised in royal matters” and there was no evidence of phone hacking.

The judge said this was the first occasion on which it appears that a story was obtained and published about Harry by intercepting his or his close relatives voicemails, and was a “serious” invasion of privacy, “as the information obtained related to close family relationships of a 19-year old and his older brother and late mother”.

Harry was awarded a total of £12,000 in damages over the articles.

Harry is a Chelsy fan”, Daily Mirror – November 29 2004

An article showing a picture of Chelsy Davy, whom the duke had started dating.

Harry said the story’s author was a “prolific” user of private investigators who were known phone hackers, while MGN said the details came from a previous report in the Mail on Sunday, as well as two confidential sources.

The judge ruled that unlawful information gathering techniques had been used against Ms Davy, to find out “private and sensitive information” about Harry, who had been attempting to conceal his relationship with her. He was awarded £3,000 in damages.

“When Harry met Daddy… The biggest danger to wildlife in Africa”, Daily Mirror – December 13 2004

A piece reporting that Harry had been introduced to Ms Davy’s father the day before publication and that he was on holiday in Mozambique.

The duke said his travel plans were kept private for security reasons, while the publisher said the information was in the public domain.

The judge ruled that the story had come from “blagging” the duke’s flight details for his return journey from Bazaruto to London, awarding him £2,000 in damages for the breach of privacy.

A newspaper article about the Duke of Sussex published in the Daily Mirror in 2004 (Court handout/PA) (PA Media)

“Harry’s girl ‘to dump him’” and “Chelsy is not happy”, Daily Mirror – January 15 2005

In this double page article, the piece reported that Harry was “about to be dumped” by Ms Davy and that she had given the duke a “tongue-lashing down the phone”.

Harry said it was “obvious” that MGN journalists were “digging round” his associates, while MGN said the details for the piece came from the public domain and a confidential source.

Another article claiming that Ms Davy was “furious” that the duke “flirted with a mystery brunette” at a party at which he wore a “Nazi swastika armband” and that she “gave him a tongue-lashing down the phone”.

Harry claimed call data shows journalists were “digging round my associates to gain private information about me” and questioned how journalists knew about his calls with Ms Davy, but MGN said the information came from prior public reports and a confidential source.

The judge ruled that both articles were written following unlawful information gathering in relation to Ms Davy’s telephone records, and phone hacking too, but not of Harry’s phone – awarding him damages of £1,500 for the distress caused.

“Chelsy’s gap EIIR”, The People – April 24 2005

This article said Ms Davy was taking a “gap year” from her university studies “to be with her young royal lover”.

Harry said the level of detail in the story is “disturbing” and that copies of the couple’s phone records were obtained, but MGN said the information came from a news agency, that there was no evidence of phone hacking and that details in the article were “trivial”.

But the judge ruled that despite the private information in the article being “towards the bottom end of the scale of sensitivity”, it was “obtained by serious invasions of private voicemails and phone records”, and awarded the duke £6,000 in damages.

Prince Harry and Chelsy Davy broke up in 2009 (Getty Images)

“Chel shocked”, The People – April 9 2006

An article claiming that Ms Davy “blew her top” when she found out about Harry’s “boozy evening at a lap-dancing club”.

The duke alleged it “seems likely” that MGN’s journalists “had access to one of our phone records” to make the story, but the publisher said there was no evidence of phone hacking and that information came from freelance journalists – one of whom used a confidential source – and a news agency.

The judge however ruled that the story was a serious invasion of privacy which probably involved unlawful information gathering and phone hacking. He awarded the duke £6,000 in damages.

“Davy stated”, The People – September 16 2007

A story about Harry’s relationship with Ms Davy being “in crisis” after a “string of bitter bust-ups”.

The duke said information attributed to a palace source was obtained unlawfully and that the couple’s voicemails were hacked, while MGN claimed there was no evidence of phone hacking.

But the judge said the article was fuelled by unlawful information gathering and phone hacking, and would have impacted Harry’s relationship with Ms Davy, awarding him £8,000 in damages.

A newspaper article about the Duke of Sussex published in the Sunday Mirror in 2007 (Court handout/PA)

“Er, OK if I drop you off here?” Sunday Mirror. December 2 2007

This article claimed that a photo of Ms Davy leaving Kensington Palace was “proof” the duke had “patched things up” with her.

Harry questioned “what are the chances” that a photographer was there to capture the moment, adding that MGN made a “mind boggling” amount of inquiries and payments.

The publisher said there was no evidence of phone hacking and that the duke had “no reasonable expectation of privacy” in dropping Ms Davy off outside the palace gates.

But the judge said phone hacking and unlawful techniques were probably used to track the movements of Ms Davy and arrangements that she had made with the duke, awarding him £4,000.

“Soldier Harry’s Taliban”, The People– September 28 2008

An article claiming Harry had been “banned from going back to war” in Afghanistan, despite his “desperation” to return.

The duke alleged details were obtained by “unlawful means” and that people with the information would not want to “jeopardise my career by speaking about it”, but the publisher said there is no evidence of phone hacking and the “public interest” in the story outweighed “any minimal privacy interest”.

The judge said the article involving unlawful information gathering, and that there was also probably voicemail interception involved, awarding him £4,000 for the invasion of privacy.

Prince Harry drew controversy when revealing he had killed 25 Taliban fighters this year (PA)

“He just loves boozing & army she is fed up & is heading home”, Sunday Mirror – January 25 2009

This report said that Ms Davy had “dumped” Harry because he “loves the Army more than her”.

The duke alleged journalists “did not obtain this exclusive story from lawful means”, while MGN said information primarily came from two news agencies paid £950 in total and prior reports. The publisher said it does not know what a £100 contribution request from a private investigator’s company related to.

Handing Harry £7,000 in damages, the judge ruled that unlawful methods and phone hacking were used to obtain information of a “highly personal nature”.

“Harry’s date with Gladiators star”, The People – April 19 2009

This was a story about the duke leaving a party with the late TV presenter Caroline Flack.

The duke said he was “shocked” and “livid” that photographers knew they where they would be and that he believed information from his, a friend’s or Ms Flack’s voicemails, while MGN said it came from a photo agency and that there was no evidence of phone hacking.

The judge disagreed, however, ruling that the private arrangements were discovered using voicemail interception, and handed the duke £15,000 in damages.

Prince Harry previously said that press intrusion had ‘tainted’ his relationship with Caroline Flack ‘irredeemably’ (Getty Images)

“Chelsy’s new fella”, The People – April 26 2009

The article reported on the duke being “devastated” when told by Ms Davy that she had “found someone else” and that he had been “bombarding” her with calls “to win her back”.

Harry claimed reports of the calls were “very suspicious” and it was something he would not have told anyone, while MGN said there was no evidence of phone hacking which “had stopped, or been largely cut back” at the time.

Mr Justice Fancourt ruled that the details had been obtained either by unlawful methods, phone hacking or both, handing Harry £4,250 in compensation.

Additional reporting by PA

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