The Duke of Sussex is scheduled to appear in court as his action against the Daily Mirror’s publisher over allegedly illegal information collecting gets underway.
Harry is suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for damages, alleging that journalists at MGN’s publications, including the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, were linked 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, his claim is being considered alongside three other “representative” claims.
33 of the 140 articles that Harry claims were published between 1996 and 2010 and contained material obtained illegally will be taken into account during the trial.
MGN is disputing the charges and has either refuted or refused to acknowledge each one. The publisher contends that some of the claimants filed their lawsuits too late.
The Duke is scheduled to appear in court in London on Monday and testify as a witness on Tuesday, when he will be subjected to cross-examination by counsel for MGN.
Just over a month after he attended his father the King’s coronation, he makes a 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, MGN’s attorneys stated that the publisher “unreservedly apologises” to the duke for one instance of unauthorized information collecting and that it accepts he was entitled to “appropriate compensation”.
According to Andrew Green KC, it was acknowledged that an MGN reporter at The People had given 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.
According to Mr. Green, there was a mention of a payment record for £75 made in February 2004.
He continued: “It is admitted that this represented an instruction to engage in unlawful information gathering, and MGN unreservedly apologises and accepts that the Duke of Sussex is entitled to appropriate compensation for it.
“MGN does not know what information this related to, although it clearly had some connection with his conduct at the nightclub.”
The barrister said that there was a People article published in February 2004 “giving the recollection of a woman Harry spent time with” at the club.
Mr Green added: “The Duke of Sussex notably does not claim in relation to this article, so it is not alleged that this instruction led to the publication of his private information.
“The fee paid, £75, suggests little work was involved.”
The three additional 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 known for playing Kevin Webster in the venerable soap opera.
Voicemail interception was disputed in all four cases, according to Mr. Green, and “no evidence or insufficient evidence” was provided.
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 case, an MGN spokesperson 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.
A preliminary hearing for Harry’s separate lawsuit against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), the owner of the Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday, was held in the High Court in March.
A decision is pending in both that lawsuit and another one the duke filed against ANL about the Mail on Sunday’s reporting of his claim against the Home Office regarding his security measures while in the UK.
In addition, he has filed a lawsuit against News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun and the now-defunct News Of The World, alleging that its publications contained unauthorized information. He is currently waiting to hear whether that lawsuit will be allowed to proceed to trial, which is scheduled to begin in January 2019.
The schedule may vary, but the duke is scheduled to wrap up his testimony on Tuesday and MGN witnesses related to Harry’s claim are scheduled to be called to testify on Wednesday.