Britain’s Prince Harry and singer Elton John made a surprise appearance at London’s High Court on Monday as they and five others began a lawsuit against the publisher of the Daily Mail paper over years of alleged phone-tapping and privacy breaches.
Harry, the younger son of King Charles, has brought a lawsuit against Associated Newspapers (ANL), along with John -one of the biggest selling artists of all time – his husband David Furnish, and actors Elizabeth Hurley and Sadie Frost.
The prince, who flew in from his California home, sat just feet away from a large group of reporters, watching intently and occasionally taking notes. His spokesperson said he had wanted to be there to show his support, and that he might attend for much of the four-day preliminary hearing.
Elton John and Furnish arrived during a break for lunch, while Frost was also in court on Monday. None of the claimants are expected to speak during the hearing.
They allege they were victims of “numerous unlawful acts” carried out by ANL titles the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, their lawyers said in extracts of submissions made to the court.
These included hacking mobile phone messages, bugging calls, getting private information such as medical records by deception or “blagging” – using private investigators to unlawfully obtain information, and “even commissioning the breaking and entry into private property”, according to the extracts.
The alleged activity ran from 1993 to 2011, [in some cases?] “even continuing beyond until 2018”, the lawyers said.
In Harry’s written case, quoted by ANL’s lawyers in court filings, he says that the publication of articles about him caused “suspicion and paranoia … Friends were lost or cut off as a result and everyone became a ‘suspect'”.
The filings also cited a letter sent by the prince’s lawyers before he filed his lawsuit which said “the repeated, wrongful disclosures … had a serious and profound effect upon (him) at the time of their publication”.
Harry had “painful memories … regarding the extent to which ANL publicised private and sensitive information relating to his private and family life”, it said.
Another claimant is Doreen Lawrence, mother of Black teenager Stephen Lawrence who was murdered in a 1993 racist attack and whose killers the Mail had championed bringing to justice.
In a statement, ANL said itcategorically denied the very serious allegations and would vigorously defend them if necessary. It is seeking to have the case thrown out.
In court submissions, it said the claims were based on inference rather than evidence, and that the claimants had provided little or no evidence of unlawful information gathering by its journalists – which it strongly denies.
The publisher’s lawyers are arguing that the claims fall outside a time limit for legal action, and that some breach an order made during a year-long public inquiryinto press standards which began in 2011.
That inquiry, headed by senior judge Brian Leveson, followed outrage over reporters hacking voicemail messages. The scandal led to the closure of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid in 2011 and later the jailing of its former editor.
HARRY VERSUS THE PRESS
Prince Harry is already involved in a libel case against the Mail on Sunday over an article about his security arrangements – a case the paper is contesting. Last year he won damages from the same paper after another defamation claim.
His wife Meghan also won a privacy case against the publisher in 2021 for printing a letter she had written to her estranged father.
Meanwhile, Harry is expected to appear in court in May to give evidence in a libel trial against the Daily Mirror newspaper over accusations of phone-hacking, which that paper is also contesting.
Media intrusion was one of the reasons Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, cited for stepping back from royal duties and moving to California to forge new lives and careers.
They attacked the press in their recent six-part Netflix documentary series and in Harry’s memoir “Spare”, while also accusing other royals of collaborating with newspapers over some false stories.
The fallout from those claims, about which Buckingham Palace has not commented, goes on. Harry is not expected to see his elder brother William while he is in London as the heir-to-the-throne is away for school holidays.