Britain’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, arrives to the Royal Courts of Justice, Britain’s High Court, in central London on June 6, 2023. Prince Harry is expected to take the witness stand as part of claims against a British tabloid publisher, the latest in his legal battles with the press. King Charles III’s younger son will become the first senior British royal to give evidence in court for more than a century when he testifies against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN). (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP)
(AFP) – Prince Harry arrived at a London court on Tuesday to a sea of flashbulbs and camera lenses, to give evidence in his case against a British tabloid publisher for illegal information gathering.
The 38-year-old Duke of Sussex will become the first royal since 1890 to take the stand in a court case, when he testifies against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) Ltd.
In his latest legal battle with the press, King Charles III’s younger son and various other high-profile claimants accuse MGN of unlawful activities, including phone hacking.
Harry has brought several cases against British newspaper groups since stepping down from frontline royal duties in early 2020 and relocating to California with his American wife Meghan.
Photographers and television camera crews had gathered since early morning to await his arrival but he said nothing to reporters after stepping out of a black SUV.
The prince earned a rebuke from the judge on Monday for not turning up for the opening statement in his case.
His lawyer said he had been attending his younger daughter’s second birthday on Sunday.
In court, lawyer David Sherborne said Harry was targeted by illegal information gathering even as a young schoolboy and his phone would have been hacked on “multiple occasions”.
“No aspect of the young prince’s life was safe” from press intrusion, he submitted.
But representing MGN, publisher of The Mirror and The Sunday People tabloids, lawyer Andrew Green said there was “no evidence” that Harry’s phone was tapped.
The case against MGN centres on claims its tabloids conducted unlawful information gathering to obtain stories about Harry and other claimants, including two TV soap opera actors and the ex-wife of a comedian.
At the start of the trial on May 10, MGN apologised and admitted to “some evidence” of unlawful information gathering, including for a story about Harry.
But it denied voicemail tapping and also argued that some claims had been brought too late.
Sherborne submitted that “industrial scale” illegal activities were happening at MGN and had been approved by senior executives.
– Legal battles –
Harry, who is fifth in line to the throne, has had a turbulent relationship with the press and holds the media responsible for the death of his mother Princess Diana, who died in a Paris car crash in 1997 while being pursued by paparazzi.
In television interviews and his explosive memoir “Spare”, released in January, Harry hit out at other royals, accusing them of colluding with the press.
In court filings unveiled in April, Harry claimed the royal family as an institution had struck a “secret agreement” with one UK publisher that had prevented him from suing, to avoid a royal entering the witness box.
He also alleged the monarchy wanted to prevent the opening of a “Pandora’s Box” of negative coverage that could tarnish the royal brand.
The prince has vowed to spearhead efforts to enforce change on Britain’s tabloid media, and the MGN trial is one of several ongoing legal battles he has launched against the press.
They include joint legal action against Associated Newspapers (ANL), publisher of the Daily Mail, over alleged breaches of privacy.
The California-based prince made a surprise appearance at the High Court in March to hear legal arguments in the case but did not give in-person evidence.
His testimony on Tuesday will be the first time a senior royal has given evidence in court since Edward VII, who took the stand in an 1890 slander trial before becoming monarch.
Charles’s sister, Princess Anne, became the first member of the current royal family to be convicted of a criminal offence after one of her dogs bit two children in 2002.
She pleaded guilty to an offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act so was not required to give evidence in court.
© Agence France-Presse