Entertainment

The Duke of Sussex is set to commence his latest court case, against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), the publisher of the Daily Mirror, over accusations of historical phone-hacking, just days after his father was crowned King.

The joint lawsuit also involves former Girls Aloud bandmate Cheryl, footballer and TV presenter Ian Wright and the estate of the late singer George Michael.

Prince Harry is one of the people expected to give evidence in person in June.

Mirror Group deny the allegations, some of which relate to when Piers Morgan was the Mirror’s editor. The journalist and presenter has since become a vocal critic of the prince and his wife, the Duchess of Sussex.

It’s the latest of multiple cases brought against the tabloid press by Harry and Meghan over the last few years, and this is just one of several cases Prince Harry is currently involved in.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Who’s involved?

The Duke of Sussex v Mirror Group Newspapers will take place at the High Court in London and is set to last for six or seven weeks. The Honourable Mr Justice Fancourt is the judge presiding over the case.

Prince Harry, who will be cross-examined over the allegations, is expected to be critical of ex Daily Mirror editor Morgan, who led the paper from 1995 to 2004.

Hi appearance in the witness box will make him the first senior royal to give evidence in a courtroom since the 19th Century.

While Prince Harry is one of the key players, as a group litigation he is not the only claimant.

The 38-year-old royal is bringing the action along with others including former Girls Aloud bandmate Cheryl, actor Ricky Tomlinson, ex-footballer and TV presenter Ian Wright and the estate of the late singer George Michael.

Other claimants selected for the trial are former Coronation Street stars Michael Le Vell and Nikki Sanderson, comedian Paul Whitehouse’s ex-wife Fiona Wightman and model Paul Sculfor.

David Sherborne is the lawyer representing Prince Harry.

Who are Mirror Group Newspapers?

Mirror Group Newspapers is part of the publisher Reach, which is one of Britain’s biggest newspaper groups.

Previously known as Trinity Mirror, Reach owns multiple national papers including the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Daily Star, local newspapers including the Manchester Evening News and the Liverpool Echo, and the magazine OK!

The company’s headquarters is based at Canary Wharf in London.

What’s alleged?

The lawsuit alleges that unlawful information was gathered on behalf of MGN journalists between 1996 and 2011.

MGN has contested the claims and argues that some have been brought too late. Mirror Group have previously accepted that phone hacking took place at its titles, and paid hundreds of millions of pounds in settlements to victims.

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Lawyers for the claimants say Harry’s case relates to a number of articles published between 1996 and 2011 including information that was allegedly obtained through unlawful means, such as phone hacking.

They say his family and friends – including King Charles and late TV presenter Caroline Flack – were also illegally targeted.

While 148 articles were initially flagged to the court by Harry’s team, only around 33 articles will be considered at trial.

The prince launched the case back in 2019, but it is only now coming to court.

What was the Leveson Inquiry and why is it relevant?

In 2011, judge Sir Brian Leveson led a public inquiry after it was revealed News Of The World journalists had hacked the phone of murdered school girl Milly Dowler.

Initially intended to be carried out in two sections, the first part of the Leveson Inquiry looked at the culture, practices and ethics of the press. It involved celebrities including Hugh Grant, Sienna Miller, Steve Coogan and Charlotte Church.

Part two of the Leveson Inquiry was meant to investigate the relationship between journalists and the police, but never took place. There have since been calls to re-open the uncompleted inquiry, with activists including those from the Hacked Off campaign saying such cases as this show wrongdoing within some newspapers is still taking place.

Who else is Prince Harry taking to court?

Harry and Meghan have filed at least seven lawsuits against the British and American media outlets since 2019, and the prince is currently pursuing four cases against UK tabloids.

The royal is one of a group of high-profile figures alleging unlawful information gathering at Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), the publisher of The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday and MailOnline. The publisher denies the allegations, which include phone-tapping and bugging people’s homes. The lawsuit also involves Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish, Elizabeth Hurley, Sadie Frost and the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence – Baroness Doreen Lawrence.

Harry also has a second ongoing libel case against ANL over an article about his security arrangements in The Mail on Sunday. The paper says the article was based on “honest opinion”. He has a separate legal fight against the Home Office over the same protection issues.

And Prince Harry is also suing News Group Newspapers (NGN), the publisher of The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun newspapers (as well as the now-defunct News of the World) for alleged phone-hacking. The Sun has always denied phone hacking took place at the paper, and the publisher has not admitted any unlawful conduct at the title. Actor Hugh Grant is also involved in the joint action.

Why is Prince Harry doing this?

Prince Harry’s hatred of the British tabloid press is well-documented – he has written about it at length in his memoir Spare and spoken about it in numerous resulting TV interviews.

He has said he blames the paparazzi for the part they played in his mother’s death and vented his frustration at the “injustice” of no one being sent to jail following the inquest into the car crash that killed her.

He has also said that media intrusion was part of the reason he and Meghan stepped back from royal duties in 2020 and moved to America.

Just this year Prince Harry accused members of his family of getting into bed with the devil – the tabloid press – to sully him and his wife Meghan to improve their own reputations.

He has previously described the British tabloid press as “the mothership of online trolling,” and says he is exposing alleged media wrongdoing “to save journalism as a profession”.

The prince says it’s his “life’s work” to change the British “media landscape,” making it more accountable for its actions. With a high profile and deep pockets, it’s a mission he’s started in earnest.

It remains to be seen whether the tell-all interviews, a revealing memoir and now numerous court cases assist Prince Harry in his crusade against the media, or simply fuel the fire he says he is so keen to put out.

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