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Local News

Prince Harry privacy case: ‘Extensive’ phone hacking by Mirror Group newspapers was carried out | UK News

today15/12/2023

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“Extensive” phone hacking by the Mirror Group newspapers was carried out from 2006 to 2011, a High Court judge has ruled after a privacy case brought by Prince Harry.

Judge Mr Justice Fancourt said that “even to some extent”, the phone hacking continued during the Leveson Inquiry into media standards.

The Duke of Sussex’s case has been “proved in part”, with 15 of the 33 articles presented in court found to be the product of phone hacking or other unlawful information gathering, the judge ruled.

Follow live: Prince Harry hacking case

He went on to say the Duke’s phone was probably only hacked to a modest extent and was “carefully controlled by certain people” from the end of 2003 to April 2009.

But the judge added there was a tendency by the Duke to assume everything was a result of hacking.

The judge awarded Prince Harry a total sum of £140,600. The sum was aggregated as directors of the newspaper group knew and “turned a blind eye and positively concealed it”.

In a statement read by his lawyer, Prince Harry said: “This case is not just about hacking, it is about a systemic practice of unlawful and appalling behaviour, followed by coverups and destruction of evidence.”

The court found principle board directors, senior executives and editors “such as Piers Morgan clearly knew about or were involved in these illegal activities”, he said.

“Between them, they even went as far as lying under oath to parliament during the Leveson inquiry, to the stock exchange, and to us all ever since.”

Since the claim was brought, the prince said: “Defamatory stories and intimidating tactics have been deployed against me and at my family’s expense.”

“I am happy to have won the case, especially as this trial only looked at a quarter of my entire claim.”

The prince called on the stock market and the police to “do their duty” and investigate bringing charges against the company and those who have broken the law.

“Today’s ruling is vindicating and affirming. I have been told that slaying dragons will get you burned, but in light of today’s victory and the importance of doing what is needed for a free and honest press, it is a worthwhile price to pay.”

Meanwhile, Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell was awarded £31,650 in damages after the judge found four out of the 27 articles presented to court were the product of phone hacking or unlawful information gathering.

Mr Justice Fancourt said the claims of soap actress Nikki Sanderson and the ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse, Fiona Wightman, are barred because times for their claims have expired.

But he found that nine articles relating to Ms Sanderson and one article related to Ms Wightman were the product of unlawful information gathering.

The judge found there was “some unlawful activity” at the newspaper group in 1995, and “widespread” unlawful information gathering from 1996.

Phone hacking was “widespread and habitual” from 1998 onwards, the judge said.

Two directors at Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) – Paul Vickers and Sly Bailey – knew about phone hacking but they did not inform the rest of the board, the judge found.

“It was concealed from the board, Parliament, the public, the Leveson Inquiry,” the judge said.

A spokesperson for MGN said: “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.”

The Duke of Sussex sued Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for damages, claiming journalists at its titles – which also include the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People – were linked to controversial methods including phone hacking, so-called “blagging” and the use of private investigators for unlawful activities.

The civil trial at the High Court ended in June after seven weeks and saw the duke appear in the witness box – the first time a senior royal has given evidence in a courtroom since the 19th Century.

His lawyer David Sherborne told the court unlawful information gathering against the duke began in January 1996 when he was 11 years old.

Mr Sherborne said the 33 articles which form Harry’s case are just a fraction of the 2,500 the royal identified as being published about him between 1996 and 2009.

MGN contested the claims and either denied or not admitted to each of them. The publisher also argued that some of the claimants have brought their legal action too late.

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