Prince Harry’s battle with British tabloids heads for courtroom showdown

Media wait outside the Rolls Building of the High Court on the day, when Britain’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex is set to arrive, in London, on June 5, 2023.
| Photo Credit: Reuters

Prince Harry’s battle with the British press is headed for a showdown in a London courtroom this week with the publisher of the Daily Mirror.

The Duke of Sussex is scheduled to testify in the High Court after his lawyer presents opening statements on June 5 in the first of his legal cases to go to trial and one of three alleging tabloids unlawfully snooped on him in their cutthroat competition for scoops on the royal family.

Prince Harry will be the first member of the British royal family in more than a century to testify in court and is expected to describe his anguish and anger over being hounded by the media throughout his life and its impact on those around him.

Prince Harry, 38, has blamed paparazzi for causing the car crash that killed his mother, the late Princess Diana, and said harassment and intrusion by the U.K. press, including allegedly racist articles, ultimately led him and his wife, Meghan Markle, to flee to the U.S. in 2020 and leave royal life behind.

Articles he has cited date back to this 12th birthday when the Mirror reported he was feeling “badly” about the divorce of his mother and father, now King Charles III.

The reports made Prince Harry wonder whom he could trust as he feared friends and associates were betraying him by leaking information to the newspapers, he said in court documents. His circle of friends grew smaller, and he suffered “huge bouts of depression and paranoia.”

Relationships fell apart as the women in his life — and even their family members — were “dragged into the chaos”. He says he later discovered that the source wasn’t disloyal friends but aggressive journalists and the private investigators they hired to eavesdrop on voicemails and track him to locations as remote as Argentina and an island off Mozambique.

Mirror Group Newspapers said it didn’t hack Prince Harry’s phone, and its articles were based on legitimate reporting techniques. The publisher admitted and apologised for hiring a private eye to dig up dirt on one of Prince Harry’s nights out at a bar, but the resulting 2004 article headlined “Sex on the beach with Harry” was not among the 33 in question at trial.

Mirror Group said it had settled over 600 of some 830 unlawful information-gathering claims and paid out more than 100 million pounds ($125 million).

The opening statements presented on June 5 mark the second phase of the trial in which Prince Harry and three others have accused the Mirror of phone hacking and unlawful information gathering.

In the first part, attorney David Sherborne, who represents Prince Harry and the others, including two actors from the “Coronation Street” soap opera, said the unlawful acts were “widespread and habitual” at the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, and carried out on “an industrial scale”.

The publisher has presented former executives and lawyers who denied any knowledge of wrongdoing when it was happening or engaging in a cover-up. The first lawsuits against the Mirror Group were filed in 2012, and the newspapers printed an apology in 2015 to hacking victims.

Two judges overseeing the trial, including Justice Timothy Fancourt, are deciding whether Prince Harry’s two other phone hacking cases will proceed to trial.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and Associated Newspapers Ltd., which owns the Daily Mail on June 4, have argued the cases should be thrown out because Prince Harry failed to file the lawsuits within a six-year deadline of discovering the alleged wrongdoing.

Prince Harry’s lawyer has argued that he and other claimants should be granted an exception to the time limit because the publishers lied and deceived to hide the illegal actions.

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