The publisher of the British tabloid Daily Mirror acknowledged and apologized on Wednesday for unlawfully gathering information about Prince Harry, which it said was the start of a trial in one of his phone hacking cases. the prince has “due compensation.”
The admission of snooping for a 2004 article titled “Sex on the beach with Harry” may mark a small victory for the Duke of Sussex, but the story in question is not one of nearly 150 which Harry claimed was the result of unlawful news gathering between. 1995 and 2011.
The trial that opened in London was Harry’s biggest test yet in his legal battle against the British press. He and three other celebrities, including two soap opera actors, are suing the former publisher of the Daily Mirror for alleged misuse of private information.
Harry was not in court as his lawyer, David Sherborne, began his opening statement, saying the unlawful acts were “widespread and routine” and carried out on “an industrial scale” by reporter and editor of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People .
“It’s a deluge of illegality,” Sherborne said. “But worse, this flood was approved by senior executives, managing editors and board members.”
Invoices and phone records — some so old they’re from old Palm Pilots — show how the news, entertainment, sports, and photography departments relied on investigators to use unscrupulous tactics.
Sherborne said former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan was aware of the hacking and even took part. Morgan has publicly denied involvement in phone hacking.
The activities in question go back more than two decades, when journalists and private eyes intercepted voicemails for scoops on members of the royal family, politicians, athletes, celebrities and even victim of crime. The scheme has evolved from a low-tech hack to punch in default passwords in the early days of voicemail to tapping phones, bugging homes and accessing medical records. record.
A scandal erupted when the hacking was revealed.
Publisher Mirror Group Newspapers continues to deny it hacked phones to intercept voicemail messages, and said Harry and three others had brought their claims past the time limit.
But in court papers outlining its defense, the publisher identified “some evidence of instructions to third parties to engage in other forms of UIG (unlawful information gathering).” It said the activity “guaranteed payment” but did not say what form it might take.
“MGN has unreservedly apologized for all UIG charges, and has assured claimants that such conduct will not be repeated,” the court papers state.
The company said its request was not a tactical move to reduce damages but was done “because such behavior should not have happened.”
The case, the first of three phone-hacking charges against the duke to go to trial, threatens to do something he says his family has long feared: put a royal on the witness stand to discuss the scandal. revelations.
Harry is expected to testify in person in June, his lawyer said. This is not his first time at the High Court, after his surprise appearance last month to observe most of the four-day hearing in one of his other cases.
The prince has waged a war of words against British newspapers in legal claims and in his best-selling memoir “Spare,” vowed to make it his life’s mission to reform the media he blames for the demise. of his mother, Princess Diana. He died in a car wreck in Paris in 1997 while trying to avoid the paparazzi.
Harry stopped by London for Saturday’s coronation of his father, King Charles III, before leaving shortly after the ceremony to fly back to California for his son’s birthday.
His charges could strain family ties that have been strained since Harry and his wife, Meghan, left royal life in 2020 and moved to the United States after complaining about racist attitudes from the British press.
The Mirror Group and other publishers primarily defended themselves by saying that Harry had failed to bring his cases within the six-year time limit. The duke’s lawyer argued that an exception should apply because the publishers actively cover up skullduggery.
In a surprising revelation last month that unearthed a shameful chapter in his father’s life, Harry blamed his delay in dressing, in part, on his family.
He claimed he was barred from bringing a lawsuit against The Sun and other newspapers owned by media magnate Rupert Murdoch because of a “secret agreement” – allegedly approved by Queen Elizabeth II – that called for to reach a private settlement and apologize.
He said the deal was to save the royal family from having to answer court questions about “private and highly sensitive” information, Harry said in a witness statement against News Group Newspapers.
“The institution is extremely nervous about this and wants to avoid at all costs the kind of reputational damage it suffered in 1993,” he said, referring to a transcript of a leaked recording – published by the Sunday Mirror – of an intimate conversation. his father, who was then the Prince of Wales, with his lover, now Queen Camilla, where he compared himself to a tampon.
Harry said his brother, Prince William, quietly settled his own claims of hacking News Group for a “huge amount of money” in 2020. He also admitted being ordered by his father the palace staff ordered him to drop his litigation because it was not good for the family.
Murdoch’s company denied there was a “secret agreement” and would not comment on the alleged settlement. The palace did not respond to requests for comment.
Harry alleged that Mirror Group reporters used illegal methods to gather material from his family and friends for 147 articles, but the trial will only focus on 33 stories.
The publisher denied that it was unlawful to collect the information in almost all of the articles, although it said that in some cases it was “unclaimed” allegations.
An article promoting the apology was published in the Sunday People in February 2004. It described “royal romeo Prince Harry” romancing two “beautiful” models at China Whites nightclub “during his boozy night out .”
The publisher said it was clear an investigator had been hired to engage in illegal activity, although it said the 75 pound ($95) fee suggested little had been done.
“MGN has apologized unreservedly and accepts that the Duke of Sussex is entitled to appropriate compensation for this,” wrote lawyer Andrew Green.
The newspaper said the allegations were overstated and Harry misrepresented how reporters obtained information, saying they used legal methods for many of the articles.
Victim Compensation Fund
In 2015, the publishers of The Mirror printed a front-page apology for phone hacking and doubled the victim’s compensation fund to 12 million pounds ($15 million).
Mirror Group said more than 600 of the 830 claims had been settled. Of the remaining 104 cases, 86 were brought too late to be tried, court papers said.
Harry’s co-claimants in the trial are Nikki Sanderson and Michael Turner, best known for their roles in “Coronation Street,” and Fiona Wightman, the ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse.
The charges have been brought together as a trial case that could determine the outcome of hacking claims also made against the Mirror Group by former Girls Aloud member Cheryl, the late singer’s estate. George Michael, and former soccer player Ian Wright.
Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.
Photo: FILE – Britain’s Prince Harry leaves the Royal Courts of Justice in London, March 30, 2023. Prince Harry’s legal battle against the British press faces its biggest test yet and threatens to make a something he said his family had long feared: putting a royal on the witness stand to discuss the embarrassing revelations. The first of three cases involving the hacking of the Duke of Sussex’s phone went to trial on Wednesday. May 10. Harry and three lesser-known celebrities sue the former publisher of the Daily Mirror for alleged invasion of privacy. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)
Copyright 2023 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.