Prince Harry unexpectedly arrived in London on Monday to appear at Britain’s High Court for legal proceedings against the publisher of the Daily Mail tabloid.
The Duke of Sussex joins six other high-profile co-claimants taking action against Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL), which also publishes the Mail on Sunday and Mail Online, alleging unlawful gathering of their private information.
The group includes Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish, actors Sadie Frost and Elizabeth Hurley, former British Member of Parliament Simon Highest, and Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Stephen Lawrence—a British teenager who was murdered in a racist attack in 1993.
A four-day preliminary hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice is now underway, where judges will decide if the case proceeds further. ANL is expected to try to have the case thrown out.
The High Court heard Monday that Harry said he has lost friends due to “paranoia” over “unlawful” stories published in ANL newspapers. It is believed to be the royal’s first time in London since Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in September, and is a sign of his commitment to the legal case.
As the hearing unfolds, here’s what to know about the allegations made by the group.
What claims have the group made?
In a statement released by their representative law firm Hamlins in October 2022, the group said they initiated legal proceedings when they became aware of “compelling and highly distressing evidence that they have been the victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy.”
The statement further alleged ANL hired private investigators to place listening devices on the claimant’s homes and cars. It also claimed that people were hired to “surreptitiously” listen into and record their private phone calls, and that police officials were paid for sensitive information.
Additional claims said that employees of ANL accessed banking information through “illicit means,” and impersonated others to secure confidential medical information.
At the time the allegations were made, ANL called the claims “preposterous smears.” The publisher added that they are “unsubstantiated” and “defamatory” claims without substantial evidence.
ANL’s lawyer Adrian Beltrami said in written submissions that the legal action is too late and “stale.” The alleged offenses took place from 1993 to 2011, with some instances continuing further until 2018.
What other ongoing legal cases is Prince Harry involved in?
Speaking to ITV’s Tom Bradby to promote his memoir Spare in January, Harry said reforming the British press is now his life’s work. He said the lawsuits are a campaign for “accountability.”
In his book, Harry said that his father King Charles—then the Prince of Wales—described taking on the U.K. press as a “suicide mission” in the hours after Prince Philip’s funeral. “Maybe. But it’s worth it,” Harry wrote.
Monday’s lawsuit is one of three the Duke of Sussex has launched against British newspapers. An additional lawsuit filed in 2019 against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) by several public figures including Harry will go to trial in May. MGN publishes the Daily Mirror and the Daily Record, among other tabloids.
The lawsuit against MGN similarly alleges unlawful information gathering via phone hacking. Other claimants include former Girls Aloud band member Cheryl, the estate of the late singer George Michael, and ex-footballer and presenter Ian Wright.
The Duke of Sussex also has an ongoing case with ANL over an article published in February 2022, regarding a lawsuit he launched against the British Home Office over security arrangements for when he and Meghan Markle are in the U.K.
The February 2022 article, published in the Mail on Sunday, was headlined, “Exclusive: How Prince Harry tried to keep his legal fight with the government over police bodyguards a secret… then – just minutes after the story broke – his PR machine tried to put a positive spin on the dispute.”
Last year, a judge ruled that parts of the report were misleading and defamatory but during a hearing in March, ANL contested the verdict. The publisher said it was an “honest opinion” that did not cause serious harm to Harry’s reputation, and the bid to win the case without a trial was “totally without merit.”
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