Thursday, May 23, 2024

A London court on Friday found in favor of Prince Harry in a lawsuit that he had pursued against a British tabloid publisher, a major victory in the royal’s long-running battle with Britain’s news media over its intrusion into his life.

The judge found there was sufficient proof that Mirror Group Newspapers, which owns several publications, had engaged in unlawful information gathering, including phone hacking, in its coverage of Harry.

Judge Timothy Fancourt, in his ruling, determined that the information in 15 of 33 articles submitted by Harry’s lawyers as evidence of phone hacking had been unlawfully gathered by journalists, and awarded the royal some 140,600 pounds, or around $180,000, in damages. He said that it appeared Harry’s personal phone was targeted between 2004 and 2009.

The lawsuit, a civil matter, is one of a number of cases that Harry, the Duke of Sussex and younger son of King Charles III, and his wife, Meghan, have brought against Britain’s tabloid news media over privacy rights.

The ruling, the first to be handed down in Harry’s three lawsuits that are making their way through the British courts, goes some way toward vindicating that crusade.

Harry, 39, had alleged that journalists at The Mirror, The Sunday Mirror and The Sunday People tabloids targeted him and those in his inner circle by gaining access to his voicemail messages and using other unlawful methods for years, causing him “considerable distress.”

Most of the actions outlined in the case occurred from 1991 to 2011, at a time when Harry was third in line to the British throne, behind his father and elder brother, William.

During the case, Harry gave testimony for over seven hours in a London courtroom in June, becoming the first senior member of Britain’s royal family to take the stand since the 19th century. His lawyer submitted 147 newspaper articles as evidence, dozens of which were forensically explored during the hearing.

In his testimony, Harry said that the negative stories about him and his family splashed across the papers’ front pages had led him to distrust even his closest friends. In written evidence, he declared that editors and journalists had “blood on their hands” because of the methods they had used and the lengths to which they had gone to report on him and his family. Harry’s mother, Diana, died in a car crash in 1997 after being pursued by photographers in Paris.

During his hours of testimony, Harry discussed Mirror Group articles about his life, some of which were written when he was in elementary school, that revealed often distressing or damaging personal details.

One included details about his breaking his thumb at school.

“Not only do I have no idea how they would know that, but those sorts of things instill paranoia in a young man,” Harry testified, suggesting that his doctor’s phone could have been hacked to obtain the information.

Several of the stories focused on Harry’s relationship with Chelsy Davy, a former girlfriend, whom he began dating after he left school. The prince said that at one point the pair had found a tracking device on her car.

Crucially, the cross-examination of Harry produced no concrete evidence of phone hacking. That became a central question confronting the judge, who had to rule on whether a series of highly detailed stories about Harry’s private life amounted to sufficient proof that the Mirror Group tabloids had used illegal methods to obtain information about him.

A lawyer for the Mirror Group, Andrew Green, had pressed the royal for hard evidence that its journalists had hacked his phone and argued that much of the information that Harry and his legal team said was unlawfully obtained had actually been available from other sources, including from press officers associated with the royal family.

In late July, a judge in Britain ruled that only part of another lawsuit that Harry has filed against Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids would go to trial next January.

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