LONDON: Britain's Prince Harry on Monday made an unexpected appearance at London's high court when he arrived for a hearing in his claim against a newspaper publisher over allegations of unlawful information gathering.
The publisher of the Daily Mail, Associated Newspapers, is bidding to end the high court claims brought by high-profile figures, including Harry and singer Elton John, over alleged unlawful activity at its titles.
Harry, who now lives in California after quitting royal duties in 2019, was pictured arriving at the court in central London.
Others taking part in the legal action include actresses Liz Hurley, Sadie Frost, John's husband David Furnish and Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murder victim Stephen Lawrence.
The group launched the legal action last year after becoming aware of "compelling and highly distressing evidence that they have been the victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy" by Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), according to a statement by law firm Hamlins released in October 2022.
Hamlins has alleged that the unlawful acts included hiring private investigators to secretly place listening devices inside cars and homes and the recording of private phone conversations.
Associated Newspapers has described the allegations as "preposterous smears" and a "pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone-hacking scandal".
Britain's phone hacking scandal, which first blew up in 2006, saw journalists at the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World hack into the voicemails of royals, celebrities and murder victims.
It triggered the closure of the mass-selling Sunday tabloid, a mammoth police investigation, a judge-led inquiry and criminal charges that gripped Britain for years.
- 'Defamatory' -
A spokesperson for ANL also said the allegations were "unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims, based on no credible evidence".
A four-day preliminary hearing at the high court is being held from Monday and is set to include ANL’s bid for the claims to be dismissed without a trial.
Harry, the younger son of Britain's King Charles III, has long had a difficult relationship with the media.
His mother Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 after she and her companion, Dodi Fayed, left the Ritz Hotel pursued by paparazzi photographers.
In 2019 while on a tour of South Africa with his wife Meghan, he linked media intrusion to Diana's death and spoke of his fears of history repeating itself.
"I will not be bullied into playing a game that killed my mum," he told television journalist Tom Bradby, accusing sections of the media of waging a "ruthless campaign" against Meghan.
"Everything that she (Diana) went through, and what happened to her, is incredibly important every single day, and that is not me being paranoid, that is just me not wanting a repeat of the past," he said.
Both Harry and Meghan have been involved in other recent legal action targeting British newspapers.
The couple, whose popularity ratings have plummeted, have dominated headlines in the past few years due to a string of interviews, a Netflix series and Harry's autobiography "Spare" in which they complained bitterly about their treatment as working members of the royal family.
Buckingham Palace has not responded to the claims, while the late Queen Elizabeth II famously commented that "recollections may vary".