Harry at the High Court: What we learnt from his evidence

The Duke of Sussex answered questions over several hours at the trial in June and produced a written statement of about 50 pages.

PA Reporters
Friday 15 December 2023 02:45 GMT
The Duke of Sussex being cross examined by Andrew Green KC (Elizabeth Cook/PA)
The Duke of Sussex being cross examined by Andrew Green KC (Elizabeth Cook/PA) (PA Archive)

The Duke of Sussex’s historical appearance in a High Court witness box revealed a host of claims about his life, the behaviour of the press and the impact of media scrutiny on him.

Harry sat through nearly five hours of questioning in June as he gave evidence in the trial over his allegations of unlawful information-gathering by Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN).

MGN is contesting his claim and has either denied or not admitted that articles about Harry being examined at the trial involved phone-hacking or unlawful activity.

Harry’s cross-examination by MGN’s barrister, and the duke’s written witness statement, covered a wide range of issues.

As the judgment in his case is set to be published on Friday, here are some of key points from Harry’s evidence:

– Harry felt ‘physically sick’ over payments to detectives over Diana

In his witness statement, Harry said he was “shocked and appalled” by the number of payments made by MGN titles to private investigators.

“There are even eight private investigator payments made in relation to my mother, which I have only learnt of since bringing my claim,” he said, adding: “This makes me feel physically sick.”

– Journalists’ alleged actions ‘affected every area’ of duke’s life

Harry claimed in his statement that he believes his and his associates’ voicemail messages were hacked by MGN, and that it also used “other unlawful means” to obtain private information.

“This not only creates a huge amount of distress but presented very real security concerns for not only me but also everyone around me,” he said.

“I would say their actions affected every area of my life.”

– Harry had ‘huge amount of paranoia’ after alleged press intrusion

The duke said he lost friendships “entirely unnecessarily” due to the “paranoia” caused by alleged unlawful information-gathering.

Harry wrote: “As I am uncovering the extent of the unlawful activities carried out by MGN’s journalist and senior executives towards me, I feel somewhat relieved to know that my paranoia towards my friends and family had, in fact, been misplaced, although feel sad for how much it impacted my adolescence.”

The duke later said in his statement that he can now see “how much of my life was wasted on this paranoia”.

– Accusations of press having ‘blood on their hands’

Harry accused the press of having “blood” staining their “typing fingers”, with some responsible for causing pain, upset and death.

He also branded journalists the “mothership of online trolling”.

“Trolls react and mobilise to stories they create. People have died as a result and people will continue to kill themselves by suicide when they can’t see any other way out,” the duke said.

“How much more blood will stain their typing fingers before someone can put a stop to this madness(?)”

– British press and the Government are at ‘rock bottom’

Harry said in his statement that “to save journalism as a profession, journalists need to expose those people in the media that have stolen or hijacked the privileges and powers of the press, and have used illegal or unlawful means for their own gain and agendas”.

The duke said he did not want “anybody else going through the same thing that I’ve been going through on a personal level”, adding: “But also, on a national level as, at the moment, our country is judged globally by the state of our press and our Government, both of which I believe are at rock bottom.”

“Democracy fails when your press fails to scrutinise and hold the Government accountable, and instead choose to get into bed with them so they can ensure the status quo,” he said.

In a separate comment about the power of the press, Harry claimed the police and Government were “scared to hold them accountable”, with ministers having “no appetite” for press regulation.

James Hewitt rumours aimed at ‘ousting’ Harry from royal family

The duke suggested newspaper stories about rumours that his father was Diana, Princess of Wales’s former lover James Hewitt were aimed at ousting him from the royal family.

Harry referred to an article in The People from 2002 which reported a bid to steal a sample of the his DNA to check his parentage.

He said that at the time he was not aware that his mother had not met Major Hewitt until after Harry was born.

The duke said stories like this “felt very damaging and very real to me” at the time, adding: “Were the newspapers keen to put doubt into the minds of the public so I might be ousted from the royal family?”

– Accusations against Piers Morgan

Harry alleged that Mr Morgan, the former editor of the Daily Mirror, had been intimidating him and his wife since he launched legal proceedings against the publisher of the Mirror newspaper.

The duke claimed he and his wife “have been subjected to a barrage of horrific personal attacks and intimidation from Piers Morgan”.

– Duke singled out as ‘pussy’ by his peers

Harry claimed in his witness statement that he was singled out as a “pussy” by his peers after press reports of his injuries during his time at school and military training at Sandhurst.

He said it was “shocking” that a November 2001 Sunday Mirror article, which covered an injury he had received playing polo, “reveals such specific, detailed and private medical information including the advice that my doctors had given me”, which he was not “freely revealing to anyone”.

“I wasn’t reading these stories, but others at school were and I was treated differently as a result,” he wrote.

“I was often singled out for being a ‘sick note’ or a ‘pussy’ because articles like this made routine injuries seem like such a big deal.”

– Claims that tabloids wanted Harry to be single and tried to ruin every relationship

The duke said in his witness statement: “I always felt as if the tabloids wanted me to be single, as I was much more interesting to them and sold more newspapers.

“Whenever I got into a relationship, they were very keen to report the details but would then, very quickly, seek to try and break it up by putting as much strain on it and creating as much distrust as humanly possible. This twisted objective is still pursued to this day even though I’m now married.

“At no point did I have a girlfriend or a relationship with anyone without the tabloids getting involved and ultimately trying to ruin it using whatever unlawful means at their disposal.”

– Discrepancies over meeting with Paul Burrell

The duke was challenged in court over discrepancies between his autobiography Spare and his witness statement over whether he wanted to meet ex-royal butler Paul Burrell, whom he admitted branding a “two-faced shit”.

The duke claims his remarks about Mr Burrell were obtained illegally by MGN from a voicemail he left for his brother, and that he was “firmly against” meeting the former confidant of his mother.

Andrew Green KC, for MGN, said Harry wrote in his memoir that he wanted to fly back to confront Mr Burrell, rather than being against a meeting.

Harry said in court: “I honestly can’t remember whether I wanted a meeting or not.”

– Harry was ‘extremely worried’ about being expelled from Eton after drug-taking reports

The duke’s statement addressed a January 2002 Mirror article about him using drugs and what he told his father.

Harry said: “This article, along with the News Of The World coverage, had a huge impact on my life. Eton had a zero drugs policy in place and I was extremely worried I was going to be expelled.”

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