Prince Harry to find out rulings on hacking claims

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This will be the most significant moment so far in Prince Harry’s legal battles with newspapers
By Sean Coughlan
Royal correspondent

The Duke of Sussex will find out on Friday morning whether he has been successful in a landmark case accusing Mirror Group Newspapers of unlawfully gathering information.

This will be the biggest moment so far in his allegations of phone hacking and other dishonest methods to get stories.

A High Court judge will rule on 33 sample stories Prince Harry says were acquired illegally.

The Mirror Group lawyers rejected the allegations as “entirely speculative”.

In June, amid huge international media interest, Prince Harry became the first senior royal of modern times to give extensive evidence in court in person.

Over two days, he was grilled over his allegations the group’s newspapers – the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and People – had published many stories about him, over several years, based on information obtained unlawfully.

Prince Harry faced questions from the Mirror lawyers in court

The judge’s ruling, likely to extend to more than 100 detailed pages, is due to be published after 10:30.

There are likely to be separate rulings for each story, so the prince could win on some and lose on others, which could mean both sides claiming success.

Prince Harry told the court a sustained breach of his privacy had undermined his relationships, such as with ex-girlfriend Chelsy Davy, and he had faced “intrusion and hate”.

“For my whole life, the press has misled me and covered up the wrongdoing,” he said.

But the Mirror Group’s lawyers called the allegations “wildly overstated”, saying the prince’s evidence had failed to definitively prove a single example of being hacked.

Seeking damages

The stories had come from legitimate sources, such as press releases, and the hacking claims were in the “realms of total speculation”, they said.

This is a civil case, with Prince Harry seeking damages of £320,000 for the 33 stories.

But it has always seemed to be about much more than the money, with the prince wanting his day in court to prove his allegations of phone hacking and other intrusions, which he has blamed for much anxiety and disruption in his life.

The stakes are also high for the Mirror newspapers, with estimates they have already spent £100m on damages and legal costs over previous hacking cases.

Difficult questions

If Prince Harry is successful, it could open the door to dozens of others said to be considering claims.

And, depending on the judge’s findings, there could be difficult questions about who knew what within the newspaper group’s hierarchy.

Prince Harry’s claim against Mirror Group is one of multiple legal battles he is fighting against newspaper groups, including Associated Newspapers and News Group Newspapers.

He has had many procedural legal skirmishes and claims and counter-claims – but this will be the most significant ruling so far, with a judge reaching a decision after a full trial.

Alongside Prince Harry, the judge will also address allegations from three other claimants, Coronation Street actors Michael Le Vell (real name Michael Turner) and Nikki Sanderson and Fiona Wightman, the ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse.

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