Prince Harry’s legal battle against the British press might put a royal on the witness stand to confront humiliating disclosures.
Wednesday marks the first trial of the Duke of Sussex’s three phone hacking claims. Harry and three lesser-known celebs are suing the former Daily Mirror publisher for privacy violation.
Over two decades, journalists and private eyes intercepted royal family, politician, athlete, celebrity, and crime victim voicemails. Hacking scandalized.
His lawyer said Harry will testify in June. After his unexpected visit last month to watch much of a four-day hearing in one of his other lawsuits, he will return to the High Court.
He may miss trial opening statements. Harry flew returned to California after his father, King Charles III, was crowned on Saturday in London.
In court claims and his best-selling novel “Spare,” the prince has vowed to overhaul British tabloids, which he blames for Princess Diana’s murder. She perished in a 1997 Paris vehicle crash while evading photographers.
Harry also sued the Daily Mail and The Sun over the phone hacking crisis that erupted in 2011 after a year-long press ethics probe revealed that News of the World workers listened to mobile phone voicemails.
Harry claims in court filings that the media has harassed him since childhood and characterized him as “the ‘thicko,’ the ‘cheat,’ the ‘underage drinker.’” “The entire tabloid press as a third party” destroyed his girlfriends.
“Looking back on it now, such behavior on their part is utterly vile,” he added in a similar court witness testimony.
His litigation might strain family relations, which have been strained since Harry and Meghan abandoned royal life in 2020 and went to the US to protest British press racism.
Mirror Group Newspapers and other publishers have defended themselves by claiming Harry neglected to bring his lawsuits within six years. The duke’s counsel argues that publishers intentionally disguised the skullduggery, warranting an exemption.
Harry blamed his family for his delay in filing suit last month, revealing his father’s shame.
He claimed that a “secret agreement” — reportedly endorsed by Queen Elizabeth II — required a private payment and apology, barring him from suing The Sun and other Rupert Murdoch tabloids.
“The reason for this was to avoid the situation where a member of the royal family would have to sit in the witness box and recount the specific details of the private and highly sensitive voicemails that had been intercepted,” Harry stated in a witness statement against News Group Newspapers.
“The institution was incredibly nervous about this and wanted to avoid at all costs the sort of reputational damage that it had suffered in 1993,” he said, referring to a Sunday Mirror transcript of a leaked recording of his father, then Prince of Wales, comparing himself to a tampon in an intimate conversation with his paramour, now Queen Camilla.
Harry alleged his brother, Prince William, secretly resolved his hacking allegations with News Group for a “huge sum” in 2020. He said his father ordered palace personnel to force him to abandon his case because it was harmful for the family.
Murdoch’s firm rejected the “secret agreement” and wouldn’t comment on the settlement. The palace hasn’t replied to inquiries.
Harry claims the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, and Sunday People illegally gathered material from his family and friends for roughly 150 stories. The publication says its reporters utilized legal procedures for several pieces, contradicting him.
The Mirror published a front-page apology for phone hacking in 2015 and quadrupled its victim compensation fund to 12 million pounds ($15 million).
“Where historical wrongdoing has taken place, we have made admissions, take full responsibility and apologize unreservedly,” a Mirror Group Newspapers representative stated before the trial. But we will actively defend against misconduct if our journalists acted lawfully.”
The cases were joined as a test case for hacking accusations against Mirror Group by former Girls Aloud member Cheryl, the estate of George Michael, and former soccer star Ian Wright.