Prince Harry became the first high-ranking British royal to take to the witness stand in more than 130 years this week in a court case over alleged phone-hacking by U.K. media group MGN.
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Prince Harry became the first high-ranking British royal to take to the witness stand in more than 130 years this week, seeking justice for he and wife Meghan Markle after what he described as years of hounding by the U.K. press.
Harry — King Charles’ III’s youngest son, who stepped down from royal duties in 2020 — spent a day-and-a-half giving evidence to London’s High Court over claims that he had been unlawfully targeted, including via phone hacking, by Mirror Group Newspapers’ (MGN) titles.
MGN has denied using illegal methods to obtain information about the prince.
The 38-year-old, who was represented in court by lawyer David Sherborne, claimed the intrusion had sustained for a period of 15 years, from when he was a child through to his mid-twenties, destroying his adolescence and ruining relationships, including with ex-girlfriend Chelsy Davy.
Though the allegations pre-date his relationship with Meghan, Harry told the court he was motivated to bring the case after a chance encounter with Sherborne, when they discussed ways to “stop the abuse, intrusion and hate that was coming towards me and my wife.”
Phone hacking on an ‘industrial scale’
Prince Harry is one among over 100 claimants, including actors and actresses, who are suing MGN over allegations of unlawful information-gathering over a two-decade period from 1991 to 2011.
The group claims that senior editors and executives at MGN were aware of and encouraged the wrongdoing, including phone hacking — the illegal interception of voicemails.
MGN, publisher of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, has previously admitted that its titles were responsible for phone hacking. But MGN’s lawyer Andrew Green said there was no evidence to show Harry was a victim.
Green described the allegations as “total speculation,” saying that some information published by the papers had come from senior Buckingham Palace aides, while other stories were based on details already made public.
Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) lawyer Andrew Green said there was no evidence to show Prince Harry was a victim of phone-hacking.
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However, Harry said that intimate details about his break-up with Davy and an argument they had over a visit he made to a strip club were not public and had instead been obtained by phone hacking and a tracking device on her car.
The prince also broke royal protocol in saying that he believed the U.K. government and media had hit “rock bottom,” and suggesting that his mother, Princess Diana, had been a victim of phone hacking prior to her death in a car accident in 1997.
“I believe phone hacking was on an industrial scale across at least three of the papers at the time and that is beyond doubt,” Harry told the court.
“To have a decision against me and any other people that come behind me with their claims, given that Mirror Group have accepted hacking … I would feel some injustice,” he added.
Harry’s testimony, which concluded Wednesday, forms part of the seven-week trial that is due to conclude in June, with a verdict expected later in the year.
The lawsuit is one of a series of cases of wrongdoing the prince has brought against U.K. news groups, including Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers and Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mail.
The British tabloid media has a years-long history of using phone hacking and illegal means to obtain stories. In 2011, Murdoch-owned News International was found guilty of the practice within the now-defunct News of the World and other British newspapers.
Other papers have also since been implicated in similar practices.
Harry’s brother, Prince William, was in April found to have settled phone hacking claims against Murdoch’s U.K. newspaper arm in 2020 for a “very large sum” following a secret deal struck with Buckingham Palace.