Prince Harry: claims of voicemail hacking and a life haunted by suspicion play out in tense court battle

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The Duke of Sussex faced eight hours of questioning by the Mirror's lawyer, as the two sides fight out allegations of illegal information gathering in court

Prince Harry's explosive two-day cross-examination has come to an end, after allegations of voicemail tampering and wild speculation flow from both sides in the trial for his phone-hacking case against the Daily Mirror publisher.

Prince Harry surprised the judge when he initially did not appear in court as the trial kicked off on Monday (5 June), as he sues Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for damages. The Duke of Sussex claims journalists at its titles, which also include the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, were linked to illegal methods like phone hacking.

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He is also involved in five other legal disputes in the High Court, largely focusing on media publishers and alleged unlawful information gathering.

However, his fiery cross-examination began in earnest of Tuesday (6 June), where he faced MGN's lawyer Andrew Green KC. During the two-day questioning, Harry stated that he believed that phone hacking was carried out on an “industrial scale at at least three of the papers at the time". He also said that the practice had to have been used for stories about his private life, including his former girlfriend Chelsy Davy, and mother Princess Diana.

MGN has raised questions about his lack of evidential call data, and defended the practices of some some of the journalists involved - claiming many of their sources were legitimate.

But what exactly is the case about, and what are Harry's allegations against MGN? Here's everything you need to know:

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Prince Harry's cross-examination in his phone hacking trial has wrapped up, as Mirror journalists take the stand to defend their practices (Picture: NationalWorld/PA/Getty)Prince Harry's cross-examination in his phone hacking trial has wrapped up, as Mirror journalists take the stand to defend their practices (Picture: NationalWorld/PA/Getty)
Prince Harry's cross-examination in his phone hacking trial has wrapped up, as Mirror journalists take the stand to defend their practices (Picture: NationalWorld/PA/Getty) | NationalWorld/PA/Getty

What do Prince Harry and the other claimants allege the Daily Mirror has done?

The case centres on 147 articles published between 1996 and 2011 across MGN's publications, of which 33 sample articles are being considered in the trial. Prince Harry alleges the information about himself in those articles was gathered illegally - via methods like phone hacking, so-called “blagging” - or gaining information by deception - and using private investigators for unlawful activities.

In his case opening, Prince Harry's lawyer David Sherborne told the court the duke’s claim against MGN is a “very significant one” because it covered a long stretch - through “the tragic death of his mother”, his time during military training at Sandhurst and into adulthood - and involved the “broadest range of unlawful activity”.

His lawyer said the 147 articles in question were a “fraction” of all the articles written about the duke’s private life, adding that MGN disclosed “almost 2,500” articles published about him throughout that period.

Mr Sherborne said there were “at least 30" different PIs [private investigators] used by MGN’s three titles – the Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People. He added: “There is a reason why this was carried out on such a widespread scale … and that is because the ends justified the means for the defendant.”

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“Every facet of his life even… the ups and downs of his first serious relationships with Ms [Chelsy] Davy is still splashed across the paper as an exclusive,” Mr Sherborne said. Other articles involved communications of his mother, Princess Diana, and private arguments with his brother William.

Harry's case claims that the Duke of Sussex’s phone “would have been hacked on multiple occasions”, with his lawyer telling the court that his details appeared in the palm pilot of a journalist who they believe was one of the “most prolific” phone hackers - and quotes used that Harry believed came directly from voicemail messages he had left.

Some of the articles to be examined at trial included “tell-tale signs” of information being obtained by unlawful methods, his barrister said.

The Duke of Sussex endured an eight-hour cross-examination beginning on Tuesday (6 June). In the second day of his evidence, he stated that he believed that phone hacking was carried out on an “industrial scale at at least three of the papers at the time," and that it was “no secret that I have had, and continue to have, a very difficult relationship with the tabloid press in the UK”.

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He talked about the long-lasting impacts being "cast into a specific role" by the tabloids had on his life, from fearing he would be expelled from alma mater Eton due to reports he was using drugs, to being considered a "pussy" at Sandhurst for reports of him missing drills due to injury.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, arrives to the Mirror Group Phone hacking trial at the Rolls Building at High Court on June 7 (Getty Images)Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, arrives to the Mirror Group Phone hacking trial at the Rolls Building at High Court on June 7 (Getty Images)
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, arrives to the Mirror Group Phone hacking trial at the Rolls Building at High Court on June 7 (Getty Images) | Getty Images

Harry said he grew distrustful of close acquaintances, and felt increasingly suspicious, but that he now believes that both his and his associates' voicemail messages were hacked by MGN, and that it also used “other unlawful means” to obtain private information.

“I remember on multiple occasions hearing a voicemail for the first time that wasn’t ‘new’, but I don’t remember thinking that it was particularly unusual – I would simply put it down to perhaps a technical glitch, as mobile phones were still relatively new back then, or even just having too many drinks the night before, and having forgotten that I’d listened to it.”

He also took aim at former Mirror editor Piers Morgan - alleging he had been intimidating him and his wife since he launched legal proceedings against the paper's publisher - and claimed both British journalism and government were at "rock bottom".

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What is MGN's case in its defence?

MGN is contesting the claims and has either denied or not admitted to each of them. The publisher also argues some of the claimants have brought their legal action too late.

At the start of his opening statement, Andrew Green KC, for MGN, said: “The defendant’s position is that there is simply no evidence capable of supporting the finding that the Duke of Sussex was hacked, let alone on a habitual basis.”

The barrister said payment records used in the duke’s claim “simply do not demonstrate unlawful conduct or knowledge thereof”. He also said that there was a lack of call data in Harry’s case, telling the court: “There is no call data whatsoever for the Duke of Sussex and scant call data for his associates.”

Mr Green told the court that the Duke of Sussex was not told by police that he was the victim of phone hacking from MGN, despite many other high-profile people being contacted during their investigations.

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The barrister said Scotland Yard had investigated the hacking of royal households. “Despite that, no one at MGN was interviewed, let alone arrested and charged,” he added.

During his cross-examination of Harry, Mr Green suggested that sources for many of the articles in question were legitimate, and noted that claimants in the 2015 phone hacking trial against the newspaper publisher had “extensive call data” showing calls to their mobile phones.

Harry had earlier admitted he did not, and had little to go on besides payment records to PIs.

On Wednesday, the Daily Mirror's former royal family correspondent Jane Kerr took to the witness box, where she defended her journalistic practices. Her byline features on a number of the articles that are being examined in the trial of Harry’s claim against MGN over alleged unlawful information gathering.

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In her witness statement, she said: “I have never engaged in voicemail interception at MGN or elsewhere and I have never engaged the services of private investigators or other third parties to engage in unlawful information gathering activities.”

Ms Kerr continued: “I worked hard and honestly as a journalist, always believing I was doing the right thing, and I felt proud and privileged to be the Mirror’s royal reporter... To be accused of such a thing is extremely upsetting.”

While she had been told of payment records from PIs and third parties like AJK Research and Commercial and Legal Services (UK) Limited which referred to her name, she said that when she was on the news desk “in charge of getting reporters out” and there was a “big story breaking”, she might have asked them to “look up the names and addresses on the electoral roll”.

“My name might appear on the invoices because of this,” Ms Kerr said. She also said she was familiar with the name of the director of AJK Research, saying he used “to do genealogy/family tree research and he used birth, deaths and marriage registers to do this”.

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In her witness statement, she also detailed how she knew private investigator Jonathan Stafford - who Harry's legal team allege to be a “known blagger” of information.

“He was somebody used by the news desk to get telephone numbers. If you were following a story and weren’t able to door knock or needed a number so that you could approach someone for interview, you might call Jonathan to request that he searches for contact details.

“I don’t know how he got telephone numbers and never asked how. I certainly wouldn’t have told him how to do it. I had no reason to believe that the practices Stafford engaged in were unlawful nor did I instruct him to undertake such practices.”

In some instances, Ms Kerr said she could not recall the story or the source of information - but some of the articles in question were written more than 20 years ago.

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Mr Green earlier said MGN admitted a single incident, where a private investigator was instructed by a journalist at The People to unlawfully gather information about Harry’s activities at the Chinawhite nightclub one night in February 2004, for which it “unreservedly apologises” to the Duke.