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Prince Harry v Mirror Group Newspapers: Everything you need to know about the Duke of Sussex’s court case | Ents & Arts News

The Duke of Sussex’s court case against the Daily Mirror publisher Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) began in May 2023.

The joint lawsuit, over accusations of historical phone hacking, started just a few days after his father was crowned King.

Read more:
Mirror Group apologises to Prince Harry
What Prince Harry won and lost at trial

Prince Harry gave evidence in person last June.

Mirror Group denied the allegations, some of which related to when Piers Morgan was the Mirror’s editor. The journalist and presenter has since become a vocal critic of the prince and his wife, the Duchess of Sussex.

It was one of multiple cases brought against the tabloid press by Harry and Meghan over the last few years, and one of several cases Prince Harry is currently involved in. Here’s everything you need to know.

Who was involved?

The Duke of Sussex v Mirror Group Newspapers took place at the High Court in London. The Honourable Mr Justice Fancourt was the judge presiding over the case.

Prince Harry was cross-examined over the allegations and criticised ex-Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, who led the paper from 1995 to 2004.

Morgan hit back at Harry saying: “I wish him luck with his privacy campaign and look forward to reading about it in his next book.”

Harry’s appearance in the witness box made him the first senior royal to give evidence in a courtroom since the 19th century.

While Prince Harry was one of the key players, as a group litigation he was not the only claimant. The other three “test” claimants were soap stars Nikki Sanderson, Michael Le Vell (Turner), and Fiona Wightman, the ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse.

David Sherborne was the lawyer representing Prince Harry.

Daily Mirror
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Daily Mirror

What is Mirror Group Newspapers?

Mirror Group Newspapers is part of the publisher Reach, which is one of Britain’s biggest newspaper groups.

Previously known as Trinity Mirror, Reach owns multiple national papers including the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Daily Star, local newspapers including the Manchester Evening News and the Liverpool Echo, and the magazine OK!

The company’s headquarters is based at Canary Wharf in London.

What was alleged – and what was found to be true?

In his ruling in December, Mr Justice Fancourt concluded that phone hacking and unlawful information gathering techniques such as “blagging” took place at the Mirror Group from 1996 to 2011.

He said it was “widespread and habitual” from 1998, and that its journalists continued to hack phones “to some extent” during the Leveson Inquiry into media standards in 2011 and 2012.

The judge concluded that Prince Harry’s phone had been hacked “to a modest extent” between 2003 and 2009, and 15 of 33 articles he complained about were the product of unlawful techniques.

He was awarded £140,600 in damages last December.

A further 115 articles were in the duke’s claim, which may have been the subject of a further trial.

But during a hearing in London on 9 February 2024, Mr Sherborne confirmed a settlement had been reached between the duke and MGN over the remaining parts of his claim. The group will pay Harry a “substantial additional sum” in damages, as well as all of the costs of his claim.

The barrister said this included an interim payment towards the costs of £400,000.

An MGN spokesperson said: “We are pleased to have reached this agreement, which gives our business further clarity to move forward from events that took place many years ago and for which we have apologised.”

Mirror Group had previously accepted that phone hacking took place at its titles, and paid hundreds of millions of pounds in settlements to victims.

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Lawyers for the claimants said Harry’s family and friends – including King Charles and late TV presenter Caroline Flack – were also illegally targeted.

While 148 articles were initially flagged to the court by Harry’s team, only around 33 articles were considered at trial.

The prince launched the case back in 2019, but it only concluded last year, with Prince Harry and Mr Turner receiving damages, and Ms Sanderson and Ms Wightman’s cases being dismissed for being out of time.

After a hearing on 9 February, MGN was ordered to pay “generic” legal costs to the people currently involved in the legal action against the publisher, while the judge ruled Ms Sanderson and Ms Wightman should pay MGN the legal costs of defending their individual claims.

What is phone hacking?

Phone hacking involves intercepting private voicemail messages on another person’s device. This could be done remotely, and all it required was knowing someone’s mobile number.

The hack would be carried out by ringing the number and letting it go through to voicemail – if the phone was answered, the hacker would hang up.

But once through to voicemail, the hacker would have to guess the individual’s PIN number, if they had one – which wasn’t as difficult as you might think as many people left the PIN set to the default of “0000” or “1234”.

The hacker could then listen to voicemails left on that person’s phone, writing down what was said or recording longer messages for transcribing later.

Lord Justice Sir Brian Leveson before the State Opening of Parliament, in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London.
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Lord Justice Sir Brian Leveson

What was the Leveson Inquiry and why is it relevant?

In 2011, Judge Sir Brian Leveson led a public inquiry after it was revealed News Of The World journalists had hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Initially intended to be carried out in two sections, the first part of the Leveson Inquiry looked at the culture, practices and ethics of the press. It involved celebrities including Hugh Grant, Sienna Miller, Steve Coogan and Charlotte Church.

Part two of the Leveson Inquiry was meant to investigate the relationship between journalists and the police, but never took place. There have since been calls to reopen the uncompleted inquiry, with activists including those from the Hacked Off campaign saying such cases as this show wrongdoing within some newspapers is still taking place.

Associated Newspapers in west London
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Harry has several cases against Associated Newspapers – publishers of the Daily Mail


What other legal action has Prince Harry taken?

Harry and Meghan have filed at least seven lawsuits against British and American media outlets since 2019, and the prince has pursued four cases against UK tabloids.

The royal is one of a group of high-profile figures who alleged unlawful information gathering at Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), the publisher of The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday and MailOnline.

The publisher denies the allegations, which include phone tapping and bugging people’s homes. The lawsuit also involves Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish, Elizabeth Hurley, Sadie Frost and the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence – Baroness Doreen Lawrence.

In a second libel case against ANL over an article about his security arrangements Harry was ordered to pay the Mail on Sunday more than £48,000 after he lost his claim.

He has a separate legal fight against the Home Office over the same protection issues.

And Prince Harry also sued News Group Newspapers (NGN), the publisher of The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun newspapers (as well as the now-defunct News of the World) for alleged phone hacking.

The High Court ruled in July that Harry could not sue NGN for alleged phone hacking and rejected his argument that there was a secret deal between the publisher and senior royals.

However, the remainder of Harry’s battle against News Group is set for 2025.

Why is Prince Harry doing this?

Prince Harry’s hatred of the British tabloid press is well-documented – he has written about it at length in his memoir Spare and spoken about it in numerous resulting TV interviews.

He has said he blames the paparazzi for the part they played in his mother’s death and vented his frustration at the “injustice” of no one being sent to jail following the inquest into the car crash that killed her.

He has also said that media intrusion was part of the reason he and Meghan stepped back from royal duties in 2020 and moved to America.

Harry and Meghan in a still taken from the trailer to their Netflix documentary
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Harry and Meghan stepped away from royal duties in 2020. Pic: Netflix

Just this year Prince Harry accused members of his family of getting into bed with the devil – the tabloid press – to sully him and his wife Meghan to improve their own reputations.

He has previously described the British tabloid press as “the mothership of online trolling”, and says he is exposing alleged media wrongdoing “to save journalism as a profession”.

The prince says it’s his “life’s work” to change the British “media landscape”, making it more accountable for its actions. With a high profile and deep pockets, it’s a mission he’s started in earnest.

In a statement read by Mr Sherborne outside court after the remaining parts of his phone hacking claim against MGN were settled, he said: “Everything we said was happening at Mirror Group was in fact happening, and indeed far worse as the court ruled in its extremely damning judgment.

“As I said back in December, our mission continues. I believe in the positive change it will bring for all of us. It is the very reason why I started this, and why I will continue to see it through to the end.”

It remains to be seen whether the tell-all interviews, a revealing memoir and now numerous court cases assist Prince Harry in his crusade against the media, or simply fuel the fire he says he is so keen to put out.

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