LONDON – Prince Harry is breaking new ground for the British royal family as he prepares to take the witness stand in a courtroom, a move that hasn’t been seen in over a century. The Duke of Sussex is embroiled in multiple legal battles with British tabloids, and the first case is scheduled to begin with opening statements on Monday.
In court documents, Harry revealed that the royal family has actively avoided litigation and testifying in order to avoid potentially embarrassing situations. However, his strong dissatisfaction and anger towards the press have driven him to challenge this tradition by taking legal action against newspaper publishers.
If Harry follows through with his scheduled testimony on Tuesday in his lawsuit against the Daily Mirror publisher, he will become the first royal family member to do so since the late 19th century. It was during that time when Prince Albert Edward, Queen Victoria’s eldest son, took the witness stand on two separate occasions.
Before becoming King Edward VII, the man in question testified in a divorce case where he was accused of having an affair with a woman, which he denied. Additionally, he appeared in court for a slander case concerning a man involved in card cheating. Notably, Edward VII is Queen Elizabeth II’s great-grandfather and Prince Harry’s grandmother.
Shifting the focus to Prince Harry, he is currently involved in various lawsuits, spanning from phone hacking to disputes over aerial photos. Here’s what you need to know about all of his legal battles.
What is the background of Prince Harry regarding phone hacking and paparazzi?
Prince Harry has initiated three cases, including the Daily Mirror case, accusing phone hacking and privacy breaches. These incidents date back to his childhood.
In court records, Harry expressed his “uneasy” relationship with the media, but the issue goes far beyond that. The prince holds paparazzi responsible for the tragic car accident that resulted in the untimely death of his mother, the late Princess Diana.
In addition, Prince Harry points out the harassment and intrusion he and his wife, Meghan, faced from the British press. He highlights the “vicious, persistent attacks” directed at Meghan, which included racist articles. These factors ultimately led the couple to step away from their royal roles and relocate to the United States in 2020.
The revelation of phone hacking by British journalists first came to light in 2006 when a private investigator and a royal reporter from the now-defunct News of the World were arrested. Both individuals were subsequently imprisoned, and the reporter issued an apology for hacking the phones of Harry, his older brother Prince William, and their father.
Whom is Prince Harry suing?
Prince Harry is confronting three prominent tabloid publishers in Britain. Alongside Mirror Group Newspapers, he is suing News Group Newspapers, owned by Murdoch and publisher of The Sun, as well as Associated Newspapers Ltd., which holds ownership of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday.
The allegations made in these lawsuits are similar in nature. It is claimed that journalists and individuals employed by these publications engaged in unauthorized activities, such as phone message interception and other illegal actions, in order to invade Harry’s privacy and pry into his personal affairs.
What is the nature of the case against the Mirror Group?
During the initial stages of the proceedings, the Mirror Group took responsibility for illicitly obtaining information through its newspapers. In court documents, they apologized and acknowledged the need to compensate Prince Harry.
However, the specific admission made by the Mirror Group concerning Harry’s case was related to hiring a private investigator to uncover undisclosed details for an article about his nightclub activities. This admission did not pertain to the nearly 150 articles from 1995 to 2011, in which Harry alleged that Mirror Group reporters resorted to phone hacking and other illegal methods to gather information. The trial is currently focusing on 33 of those specific stories.
Harry’s legal representative, David Sherborne, alleged that the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, and Sunday People engaged in widespread and habitual unlawful practices on an industrial scale. He specifically pointed to management, notably former Daily Mirror editor and TV personality Piers Morgan.
Both Morgan and Mirror Group have publicly denied involvement in phone hacking, as stated in their court submissions.
Mirror Group’s lawyer, Andrew Green, argued that a considerable portion of the articles under scrutiny were of trivial nature, and apart from a few instances of illegal information gathering, the company’s reporters had lawfully obtained information from public records and legitimate sources.
This trial serves as a pivotal case involving four claimants, including two individuals from the long-running British soap opera, “Coronation Street.” However, the verdict could have far-reaching implications for hacking claims against Mirror Group filed by the estate of the late singer George Michael, former Girls Aloud member Cheryl, and former soccer player Ian Wright.
The case is divided into two distinct segments. The first part, which lasted for almost three weeks, involved Harry’s lawyer presenting evidence regarding the alleged misconduct within the newspapers. This phase aimed to establish a general case against the publications.
The second part of the case began on Monday and involves the four claimants providing testimony about the specific acts that targeted them. This stage focuses on the individual experiences and incidents related to the claimants, offering a more detailed examination of their respective claims.