Prince Harry arrives at High Court for phone-tapping and privacy court case

Daily Mail publisher trying to get case over alleged unlawful activity dismissed

Tara Cobham
Monday 27 March 2023 12:06 BST
Prince Harry arrives at High Court for phone-tapping and privacy case

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The Duke of Sussex has arrived at the High Court in London for a hearing in his claim against Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers over allegations of unlawful information-gathering.

The publisher is bringing a bid to end High Court claims brought by people including Harry, Sir Elton John and Baroness Doreen Lawrence over alleged unlawful activity at its titles.

The group of high-profile individuals, also including Sir Elton’s husband David Furnish and actresses Liz Hurley and Sadie Frost, announced in October they were bringing claims for misuse of private information against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL).

Prince Harry has travelled to the UK for the court hearing
Prince Harry has travelled to the UK for the court hearing (REUTERS)

Their lawyers said at that time the group have “become aware of compelling and highly distressing evidence that they have been the victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy” by ANL, which is also the publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline.

In a statement announcing the launch of the legal action, released by Hamlins law firm, it was alleged the unlawful acts included hiring private investigators to secretly place listening devices inside cars and homes and the recording of private phone conversations.

The publisher hit back at the allegations, describing them at the time as “preposterous smears” and a “pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone-hacking scandal”.

A spokesperson for ANL also said the allegations were “unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims, based on no credible evidence”.

The Duke of Sussex at the Royal Courts Of Justice, central London, ahead of a hearing claim over allegations of unlawful information gathering brought against Associated Newspapers Limited
The Duke of Sussex at the Royal Courts Of Justice, central London, ahead of a hearing claim over allegations of unlawful information gathering brought against Associated Newspapers Limited (PA)
Actress Sadie Frost arrives at the High Court in London
Actress Sadie Frost arrives at the High Court in London (REUTERS)

A four-day preliminary hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London is due to begin at 10.30am on Monday, which is set to include ANL’s bid for the claims to be dismissed without a trial.

The Duke of Sussex is not expected to meet with the King or the Prince of Wales during his surprise visit, even though it is believed he has not returned to the UK since the late Queen’s funeral.

While there have been a number of damages claims over unlawful activity at newspapers in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, most of which have settled, this is the first claim to be brought against ANL.

News Group Newspapers (NGN) has settled claims relating to the now-defunct News Of The World, while never admitting any liability over claims made in relation to The Sun.

Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) has settled claims relating to its titles, including The People and The Sunday Mirror.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex with Elton John, who is one of the claimants alongside the Prince
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex with Elton John, who is one of the claimants alongside the Prince (Getty Images)
Prince Harry arriving at the High Court in London
Prince Harry arriving at the High Court in London (REUTERS)

Both publishers are facing further claims, and have recently made attempts to bring the long-running litigation to an end.

In October, Prince Harry, among other high-profile figures, announced they would be taking ANL to court.

The allegations included the commissioning of individuals to “surreptitiously listen into and record people’s live, private telephone calls whilst they were taking place” and the impersonation of individuals to obtain medical information from private hospitals, clinics, and treatment centres by deception.

Additional claims include the accessing of bank accounts, credit histories and financial transactions through illicit means and manipulation.

“These individuals have been the subject of public interest during the course of their careers and personal lives. They are united in their desire to live in a world where the press operates freely, yet responsibly. A press that represents truth, is sourced in fact and can be trusted to operate ethically and in the interests of the British public,” a statement released at the time read.

Harry and Meghan have previously complained about the way they are reported on in the media
Harry and Meghan have previously complained about the way they are reported on in the media (Getty Images)

Prince Harry successfully sued Associated Newspapers in the past, with a judge ruling in July last year that parts of an article in The Mail On Sunday were defamatory.

And in 2021 he accepted an apology and “substantial damages” over false claims he snubbed the Royal Marines after stepping down as a senior royal.

This is believed to be the first time Harry has been back in the UK since the late Queen’s funeral in September.

His surprise return comes nearly three months after he laid bare his troubled relationship with his father the King and brother the Prince of Wales in his controversial autobiography Spare.

The Duke of Sussex is not expected to see his father the King or brother William during his visit
The Duke of Sussex is not expected to see his father the King or brother William during his visit (Getty Images)

The King was due to be away on Monday on the first official state visit of his reign, but the trip to France was cancelled due to rioting over pension reforms, meaning Charles is now in the UK at the same time as Harry for the first time in six months.

But Buckingham Palace said the King was not in Windsor or London and would be leaving for a state visit to Germany on Wednesday morning.

Harry is also unlikely to be meeting up with William.

The Prince and Princess of Wales and their children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis are not currently in Windsor because of the youngsters’ school Easter holidays.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been asked to vacate their UK home Frogmore Cottage on the Windsor estate, in a move sanctioned by the King, meaning Harry could spend some of his time packing up any remaining possessions.

The duke is also taking legal action against the Home Office over security arrangements when he is in the UK, raising questions about his own security provisions during this visit.

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