News, Culture & Society

Prince Harry arrives at High Court for hearing against Associated Newspapers over ‘hacking claims’ 

Prince Harry and Sadie Frost arrive at High Court for hearing against Associated Newspapers over ‘hacking claims’

Prince Harry and other public figures who are suing Mail newspapers attended the High Court today for a case in which they claim they were targeted by hacking.

Publisher Associated Newspapers categorically denies the claims which were lodged by a group including the duke, Sir Elton John and Baroness Doreen Lawrence.

Harry, in a black suit and blue tie, smiled as he arrived at the Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand after flying to London overnight from the United States. The actress Sadie Frost also came to court.

Prince Harry’s arrival at court was recorded by television cameras and photographers, with Sky News making the point that the duke was not giving evidence, yet decided to arrive by the main entrance, in contrast to Miss Frost, who used a side entrance. 

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, arrives at the High Court in London today

Sadie Frost was also at the Royal Courts of Justice for the start of the four-day pre-trial hearing

Sadie Frost was also at the Royal Courts of Justice for the start of the four-day pre-trial hearing

The judge is being told that Associated, which publishes the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, engaged in phone tapping, bugging cars and other illegal activities.

The publisher said it will vigorously defend itself if the case comes to trial. Today’s hearing, expected to last four days, is a pre-trial hearing at which the publisher is asking Mr Justice Nicklin to dismiss the claims.

The Duke of Sussex and Miss Frost sat behind their lawyers listening attentively as the hearing got under way in Court 76. They were not expected to speak.

The seven claimants launched their action last year. Their lawyer David Sherborne alleged in written submissions to the court that the newspaper group engaged in ‘illegally intercepting voicemail messages, listening into live landline calls, obtaining private information…and using private investigators to commit these unlawful information gathering acts on their behalf’.

Associated Newspapers has said it ‘utterly and unambiguously’ denies the ‘unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims, based on no credible evidence’, which it described at the time as ‘preposterous smears’ and an ‘orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone-hacking scandal’.

The Mail championed bringing Baroness Lawrence’s son Stephen’s killers to justice. In its statement last October, the publisher said it had ‘the greatest respect and admiration’ for Baroness Lawrence and was saddened she had been persuaded to join the action by ‘whoever is cynically and unscrupulously orchestrating these claims’.

The newspaper’s lawyers are making three applications in the pre-trial hearing.

One is to urge the judge to strike out the case on the basis that all the claims relate to events said to have taken place up to 30 years ago. Under the law, privacy claims must be brought within six years.

The second application relates to documents – accounting ledgers – which were confidentially supplied by the Mail to the Leveson Inquiry 12 years ago. Those documents are now being used in this case – in breach of a restriction order and confidentiality undertakings given to the Inquiry, the newspaper group says. 

The third application seeks to grant anonymity to journalists named in the claims until the judge has decided whether the case should go ahead. 

The newspaper says this is not an attempt to restrict open justice, but to prevent the reputations of distinguished journalists being destroyed in the event the case does not go to full trial.  If the case went to trial, the journalists would be named but at that stage they would have a chance to defend themselves.