LONDON - Britain's Prince Harry has accused his family of withholding information about phone hacking from him to avoid sitting in the witness box and opening "a can of worms", a witness statement released Tuesday said.
The Duke of Sussex made the claim in submissions for a privacy claim he and other celebrities have filed against the publisher of the Daily Mail, Associated Newspapers (ANL).
Lawyers for the group, which also includes pop superstar Elton John, claim ANL commissioned the breaking and entry into private property, illegally intercepted voicemail messages and obtained medical records.
The alleged wrongdoing dates from 1993-2011, but some went on as late as 2018, according to their lawyer David Sherborne.
In his partially redacted statement, Harry stated he "became aware that I had a claim that I could bring" only in 2018, in part due to the royal family -- which he refers to as "the Institution".
"The Institution was without a doubt withholding information from me for a long time about... phone hacking," he added.
"That has only become clear in recent years as I have pursued my own claim with different legal advice and representation."
The prince went on to state: "The Institution made it clear that we did not need to know anything about phone hacking and it was made clear to me that the Royal Family did not sit in the witness box because that could open up a can of worms."
The prince, who lives in California, made a surprise appearance at London's High Court on the first two of four days of hearings this week, on Monday alongside John and other figures involved.
- 'The bubble burst' -
ANL has described the allegations as "preposterous smears" and an attempt "to drag the Mail titles into the phone-hacking scandal".
It is trying to end the legal claims by arguing they are "stale" and "based on no credible evidence", so should not go to trial.
A spokesperson for ANL said that Harry "has become a serial litigant against Mail newspapers with whom he seems obsessed".
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.
Harry, the younger son of Britain's King Charles III, has long had a difficult relationship with the media.
In his statement, he said leaving the UK had proved pivotal in bringing the lawsuit.
"It is not an exaggeration to say that the bubble burst in terms of what I knew in 2020 when I moved out of the United Kingdom," the prince stated.
He concluded by arguing he was bringing the claim "because I love my country and I remain deeply concerned by the unchecked power, influence and criminality" of the publisher.
"The British public deserve to know the full extent of this cover up and I feel it is my duty to expose it," he added.
Buckingham Palace declined to comment.