The Duke of Sussex has arrived at the High Court in London to testify in his lawsuit against the Mirror’s publisher over alleged illegal information collecting.
Harry is suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for damages, alleging that journalists at MGN’s publications, which also include the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, were connected to practices like phone hacking, so-called “blagging” or obtaining information by deception, and the use of private investigators for illegal purposes.
In a trial that started last month and is expected to last six to seven weeks, the 38-year-old’s claim is being heard alongside three other “representative” claims.
On Tuesday, the duke arrived at the Rolls Building, which was heavily guarded by police and surrounded by journalists.
He was supposed to show up in court on Monday, but his attorneys stated he would not show up until Tuesday, when he will be subjected to the MGN lawyer’s cross-examination.
Harry had travelled from Los Angeles, California, to the UK on Sunday night after celebrating his daughter Lilibet’s second birthday, according to David Sherborne, who is the duke’s attorney and also represents the other claims, as the hearing got underway on Monday.
The judge handling the matter, Mr. Justice Fancourt, stated that he was “a little surprised” to learn that the duke would not be appearing in court on Monday.
The judge testified that he instructed witnesses to be accessible the day before their testimony was scheduled to be heard in case the opening statements from the defense teams were rushed.
Mr Sherborne told the court on Monday that the duke was subjected to unlawful information-gathering activity “right from when he was a young boy at school” into adulthood, adding: “Nothing was sacrosanct or out of bounds.”
He continued: “Every part of the prince’s life during these years was invaded by these three papers using these unlawful methods.”
Contrary to some criticism of Harry, the barrister claimed that Harry had not been dragged to court as a result of some sort of personal vengeance against the press as some have claimed.
33 of the 140 articles that Harry claims were published between 1996 and 2010 and contained data obtained illegally will be taken into account during the trial.
Mr. Sherborne claimed that the 147 pieces in Harry’s claim represent only a “fraction” of the total number of articles on the duke’s personal life published during that time. He added that MGN had revealed “almost 2,500” items that had been written about the duke during that time.
The duke, in particular, and “every aspect of his private life,” he claimed, were the subjects of MGN’s “huge interest” in the royal family.
Harry was “one of the most written about people in those newspapers” for a number of years, according to the barrister.
MGN is disputing the charges and has either refuted or refused to acknowledge each one.
Additionally, the publisher contends that some of the claimants filed their lawsuits too late.
Just over a month after Harry attended the coronation of his father, the King, he will make his court appearance.
The Princess Royal admitted guilt to a charge under the Dangerous Dogs Act in 2002 when her pet bit two youngsters in Windsor Great Park, and it is believed that this is the first time a senior member of the royal family has directly attended in court proceedings since that time.
On the first day of the trial, lawyers for MGN said the publisher “unreservedly apologises” to the duke for one instance of unlawful information-gathering and that it accepts he is entitled to “appropriate compensation”.
According to Andrew Green KC, it is acknowledged that an MGN reporter at The People gave a private investigator instructions to illegally obtain information about Harry’s activities at the Chinawhite nightclub one night in February 2004.
“Otherwise, the specified allegations are denied, or in a few cases not admitted,” he added.
The three more claimants are comedian Paul Whitehouse’s ex-wife Fiona Wightman, former Coronation Street actress Nikki Sanderson, and actor Michael Turner (better known by his stage name Michael Le Vell), who is best remembered for playing Kevin Webster in the venerable soap opera.
At the beginning of the trial, Mr. Green asserted that voicemail interception is disputed in each of the four incidents and that “no evidence or insufficient evidence” exists.
The barrister continued: “There is some evidence of the instruction of third parties to engage in other types of unlawful information-gathering in respect of each of the claimants, save for Mr Turner whose claim is entirely denied, and MGN has made pleaded admissions in respect thereof.
“MGN unreservedly apologises for all such instances of unlawful information-gathering, and assures the claimants that such conduct will never be repeated.”
At the start of the trial in May, an MGN spokesman said: “Where historical wrongdoing has taken place we have made admissions, take full responsibility and apologise unreservedly, but we will vigorously defend against allegations of wrongdoing where our journalists acted lawfully.
The only other trial to have occurred during the protracted litigation was a 2015 trial of representative claims, including those brought by former Coronation Street actress Shobna Gulati, former footballer Paul Gascoigne, and actress Sadie Frost. MGN has previously settled a number of claims against it in relation to unlawful information-gathering.