Prince Harry case: Duke of Sussex claims phone hacking was on an 'industrial scale' at Mirror titles

Prince Harry gave evidence in his legal battle with the publisher of the Mirror over allegations of phone hacking

The Duke of Sussex arriving at the Rolls Buildings in central London to give evidence in the phone hacking trial against Mirror Group Newspapers (Image: PA)The Duke of Sussex arriving at the Rolls Buildings in central London to give evidence in the phone hacking trial against Mirror Group Newspapers (Image: PA)
The Duke of Sussex arriving at the Rolls Buildings in central London to give evidence in the phone hacking trial against Mirror Group Newspapers (Image: PA)

The Duke of Sussex has finished giving evidence at the High Court in London, in his case against the Daily Mirror’s publisher over alleged unlawful information gathering.

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 … that is beyond any doubt”. He also said that the practice had to have been used for stories about his private life, including his former girlfriend Chelsy Davy.

But Andrew Green, KC, representing the Mirror publisher, said that there was no evidence to support Harry's claims.

What's the case about?

Prince Harry claims journalists at its titles, which also include the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, were linked to illegal methods like phone hacking. He is also involved in five other legal disputes in the High Court, largely focusing on media publishers and alleged unlawful information gathering.

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. 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.

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.

As it happened...

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Prince Harry arrives at court

The Duke of Sussex has arrived at the High Court to give evidence in his claim against Mirror Group Newspapers.

Harry arrived outside the Rolls Building in central London at 9.36am in a black Range Rover, wearing a black suit.

He walked into the building without answering reporters’ questions before passing security checks inside.

Harry the first royal in 130 years to appear in court

Although Prince Harry gets compared to his great-granduncle Prince Edward VIII due to their similarities in finding love with an American lady and moving away from 'The Firm', it just so happens that the latter’s grandfather Edward VII was the last royal to give evidence in court in the 1890s.

Edward VII appeared in court twice as a witness before he was crowned King; firstly to provide evidence in a 1870 divorce settlement when he was accused of having an affair with a British lawmaker’s wife, prior to a slander trial in 1891 over a card game.

What did we learn on day one?

While Harry did not appear expected, there were several revelations from the first day of the case on Monday:

  • Justice Fancourt, the judge hearing the case, said he was “a little surprised” to hear the duke would not be attending court on Monday. The judge said he gave a direction earlier in the trial that witnesses should be available the day before their evidence was due to be heard in case the legal teams’ opening speeches ran short.
  • In his case opening, Prince Harry's lawyer David Sherborne said 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.
  • Examples of articles published by MGN titles over Harry's lifetime included a “front-page exclusive” when was “still a schoolboy” about the duke being diagnosed with glandular fever.
  • Another example the barrister gave was a “private argument between him and his brother Prince William” which featured in a double-page spread in The People title. Mr Sherborne also cited a Daily Mirror story entitled “Harry’s girl to dump him” about his relationship with former girlfriend Chelsy Davy.
  • Mr Sherborne said Harry's mother Diana, the late Princess of Wales, was a “huge target” for MGN’s newspapers, adding that certain unlawful activities in relation to her would have also affected Harry. He read out two letters exchanged between Diana and former television personality and entertainer Michael Barrymore - which referred to secret meetings between the pair.
  • In one of the letters Diana referred to being “devastated” to learn the “Daily Mirror” had called her office about him and their meetings. In the letter, Diana said she had not told anyone about the meetings.

Prince Harry sworn in as a witness

Holding a Bible in his right hand while standing up, Prince Harry repeated after a court clerk the oath: “I swear by almighty God that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

Andrew Green KC, representing MGN, then began his cross-examination of the duke.

He apologised to the duke in person on behalf of MGN, repeating the publisher’s “unreserved apology” to him at the outset of the trial for one instance of unlawful activity.

He said: “MGN unreservedly apologises to you for that, it should never have happened and it will never happen again.”

Mr Green told Harry that, if the judge finds that MGN was responsible for any further acts of unlawful information gathering, “you will be entitled to, and will receive, a more extensive apology”.

Harry describes tabloid 'behaviour' as 'utterly vile'

In his witness statement, Prince Harry said it was “no secret that I have had, and continue to have, a very difficult relationship with the tabloid press in the UK”.

He continued: “In my experience as a member of the royal family, each of us gets cast into a specific role by the tabloid press. You start off as a blank canvas while they work out what kind of person you are and what kind of problems and temptations you might have. They then start to edge you towards playing the role or roles that suit them best and which sells as many newspapers as possible, especially if you are the ‘spare’ to the ‘heir’.

“You’re then either the ‘playboy prince’, the ‘failure’, the ‘dropout’ or, in my case, the ‘thicko’, the ‘cheat’, the ‘underage drinker’, the ‘irresponsible drug taker’, the list goes on.

“As a teenager and in my early 20s, I ended up feeling as though I was playing up to a lot of the headlines and stereotypes that they wanted to pin on me mainly because I thought that, if they are printing this rubbish about me and people were believing it, I may as well ‘do the crime’, so to speak.

“It was a downward spiral, whereby the tabloids would constantly try and coax me, a ‘damaged’ young man, into doing something stupid that would make a good story and sell lots of newspapers.

“Looking back on it now, such behaviour on their part is utterly vile.”

Harry's 'hostility' to the press

Under cross examination from Andrew Green KC, Harry said: “I’ve experienced hostility from the press since I was born.”

Harry was questioned about his attitude towards the media, and asked if had a “long-standing” hostility towards it.

“Yes, that’s correct,” the duke said.

Mr Green asked if this hostility had pre-dated the discovery that unlawful methods had been used by some of the press.

The duke replied: “Yes… because the unlawful methods were hidden from me as well as everybody else.”

He added that it “certainly shocked me”.

Queen sent aide to Australia to support Harry during gap year over press intrusion

In his witness statement, Harry described the impact the press had on his life: “Every time I was getting off a plane or jumping in a car, I was looking in the rear-view mirror so to speak. I came to expect to be followed and papped by someone hiding in a bush somewhere. Everything felt as though I was under 24-hour surveillance."

He also described how, when he was on a trip to Australia in his gap year in 2003, his grandmother the late Queen secretly sent one of her aides to stay nearby without him knowing in case he needed support because of press coverage.

“I only learnt recently that the Queen had asked one of her assistant private secretaries to fly out to Noosa and take a house down the road from where I was staying, without me knowing,” Harry said.

“She was concerned about the extent of the coverage of my trip and wanted someone I knew to be nearby, in case I needed support.”

Harry: MGN actions 'affected every area of my life'

The Duke of Sussex said the alleged unlawful actions of MGN journalists “affected every area of my life”.

He said: “My voicemails would include incredibly private and sensitive information about my relationships, my operational security and that of my family, my work both in the army and as a senior member of the royal family, and also any plans that I had made for my time off including holidays and downtime with friends. They would also include incredibly private and sensitive information about those with whom I associated.”

Harry added: “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.”

Harry said 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.

He continued: "The fact that the defendant’s journalists and those instructed on their behalf were listening in to private and sensitive voicemails at the level of detail discussed in this statement rather suggests that they could have heard anything and everything.

“This not only creates a huge amount of distress but presented very real security concerns for not only me but also everyone around me. I would say their actions affected every area of my life.”

Tabloids have 'blood on their hands' - Harry says

MGN's lawyer, Andrew Green KC, asked Harry about part of his witness statement where he stated: “How much more blood will stain their typing fingers before someone can put a stop to this madness.”

Mr Green asked if the duke was referring to a specific article, and what he meant by the comments.

Harry responded: “Some of the editors and journalists that are responsible for causing a lot of pain, upset and in some cases, speaking personally, death.”

He then said his reference to “blood on their hands” was “more broadly towards the press” in general, adding: “I haven’t named the journalists in that particular paragraph.”

Harry's relationship with Chelsy 'always doomed' by PI intrusion

Harry spoke of 135 separate payments to private investigators related to him - and a further 154 for his associates.

He said it had greatly impacted his relationships. “I was upset to discover the amount of suspicious call data and the 13 private investigator payments for Chelsy [Davy, his ex-girlfriend)].

“Had she not been in a relationship with me, she would never have had to endure such a horrific experience at the hands of MGN’s journalists," he said.

Prince Harry (right), spoke of the impact press intrusion had on his relationship with then-girlfriend Chelsy Davy (second-right)  (Photo by Jamie Wiseman - WPA Pool / Getty Images)Prince Harry (right), spoke of the impact press intrusion had on his relationship with then-girlfriend Chelsy Davy (second-right)  (Photo by Jamie Wiseman - WPA Pool / Getty Images)
Prince Harry (right), spoke of the impact press intrusion had on his relationship with then-girlfriend Chelsy Davy (second-right) (Photo by Jamie Wiseman - WPA Pool / Getty Images)

In his written witness statement, Harry referenced a story from November 2007 which appeared in the Irish edition of the Sunday Mirror and reported details of the duke’s relationship with his then-girlfriend.

He wrote: “It reported that Chelsy and I had a ‘secret meeting’ where I had ‘begged her for a second chance’... These kinds of articles made me feel as though my relationship with Chelsy was always set to be doomed.

“We couldn’t even meet in private or have arguments over the telephone without the defendant somehow learning these details and publishing them for the whole country to see.

Harry said Chelsy had found it particularly difficult while she lived in England.

The Duke of Sussex also said that he felt “physically sick” to learn there were eight payments to private investigators in relation to his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.