Prince Harry wins phone hacking court case

Harry was joined by 100 other celebrities in suing Mirror Group Newspapers.

December 15, 2023, 10:38 AM

A U.K. judge on Friday issued a ruling in Prince Harry's lawsuit against Mirror Group Newspapers, the publisher of The Daily Mirror, saying the Duke of Sussex's phone was probably hacked "to a modest extent" by Mirror Group Newspapers.

The Duke of Sussex has been awarded £140,600 ($179,658) after bringing a High Court phone hacking claim against Mirror Group Newspapers. The judge said there was "extensive" phone hacking by Mirror Group Newspapers from 2006 to 2011, "even to some extent" during the Leveson Inquiry into media standards.

"Today's ruling is vindicating and affirming," Harry said in a statement about the ruling. "I've been told that slaying dragons will get you burned. But in light of today's victory and the importance of what is doing, what is needed for a free and honest press, it is a worthwhile price to pay. The mission continues."

Harry, who now lives in the United States after stepping away from his royal duties three years ago, joined 100 other claimants, including the estate of the late George Michael, in suing Mirror Group Newspapers for alleged misuse of private information between 1991 and 2011, including alleged phone hacking and intercepting voicemails.

A MGN spokesperson said in a statement following the ruling, "We welcome today's judgment that gives the business the necessary clarity to move forward from events that took place many years ago. Where historical wrongdoing took place, we apologise unreservedly, have taken full responsibility and paid appropriate compensation."

During the trial, which began in May, Harry's legal team accused Mirror Group Newspapers of unlawfully gathering information on an "industrial scale."

"It was a flood of illegality," Harry's attorney, David Sherborne, said in his opening statement in the trial, according to The Associated Press. "But worse, this flood was being approved by senior executives, managing editors and members of the board."

Mirror Group Newspapers contested the claims, saying in the 33 articles being examined by the court that its reporters found the information through lawful reporting.

The publisher did apologize after acknowledging "some evidence of the instruction of third parties to engage in other types of UIG (unlawful information gathering)," according to the AP.

"MGN unreservedly apologizes for all such instances of UIG, and assures the claimants that such conduct will never be repeated," the publisher said in court papers.

In June, Harry testified in the case, becoming the first British royal to take the witness stand in more than a century.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex leaves from the Royal Courts of Justice, Britain's High Court, in central London on March 27, 2023.
Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

In a prepared witness statement released at that time, Harry, the youngest child of King Charles III and the late Princess Diana, said the articles published about himself and his family played a destructive role in his childhood and provoked feelings of paranoia in him.

Harry also said in the statement that he has "a very difficult relationship with the tabloid press in the U.K."

"As a teenager and in my early 20s, I ended up feeling as though I was playing up to a lot of the headlines and stereotypes that [the tabloid press] wanted to pin on me mainly because I thought that, if they are printing this rubbish about me and people were believing it, I may as well 'do the crime,' so to speak," Harry said in the statement. "It was a downward spiral, whereby the tabloids would constantly try and coax me, a 'damaged' young man, into doing something stupid that would make a good story and sell lots of newspapers."

Since stepping down from his role as a senior working royal, Harry has made no secret of his disdain for the British tabloid media.

The lawsuit against the Mirror Group Newspapers is one of six lawsuits that Harry is currently waging against the British tabloids.

"Harry is somebody that is very clear in what he wants to achieve. He believes he has been treated badly by this newspaper group," ABC News royal contributor Robert Jobson said in June, as the trial was underway. "He believes he's had his phone hacked by this newspaper group and therefore is determined, as he is right, to be compensated for it, and to receive an apology."

Harry told ABC News' Michael Strahan in January that the lawsuits he is involved in are his attempt to bring about real change when it comes to the media coverage of celebrities and the royal family.

"I'm in this to be able to say, 'Draw a line. Enough. We can all move on and get on with our lives,'" he said. "But if this continues, then I'm naturally, deeply concerned that what has happened to us will happen to someone else."

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