Emotional Harry finishes court testimony
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Emotional Harry finishes court testimony

Prince says Mirror newspapers guilty of 'industrial scale' phone hacking

Prince Harry waves before heading into court for a second day of testimony in a case against Mirror Group Newspapers Ltd at the High Court in London. (Photo: AFP)
Prince Harry waves before heading into court for a second day of testimony in a case against Mirror Group Newspapers Ltd at the High Court in London. (Photo: AFP)

LONDON: Prince Harry accused a tabloid publisher of "industrial scale" phone hacking as he wrapped up almost eight hours of court testimony on Wednesday, becoming the first British royal in over a century to take to the witness stand.

The younger son of King Charles III appeared emotional as he came to the end of his two days' cross-examination by a lawyer for Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), which publishes The Mirror, Sunday Mirror and the Sunday People.

"It's a lot," the 38-year-old prince replied in a barely audible voice after his own lawyer David Sherborne asked him how having to relive upsetting episodes of his life in court had made him feel.

Harry and several other claimants allege the titles engaged in "illegal information gathering", including intercepting phone voicemails, to write dozens of stories about him.

"I believe phone hacking was at an industrial scale across at least three of its (MGN's) papers and that is beyond doubt," Harry said under renewed questioning by MGN lawyer Andrew Green.

If that was not accepted by the court, he added, "I would feel some injustice".

Pressed on why he was singling out MGN, Harry said he believes alleged hacking elsewhere was on a lesser scale and that it "started at Mirror group".

He also revealed that part of the motivation for the lawsuit was a desire to do something about the "hate that was coming towards me and my wife" in recent years.

 'All made sense' 

The last time a royal gave evidence in court was in the 1890s when the future king Edward VII took the stand in a slander trial.

Harry — fifth in line to the throne — has rarely been far from the headlines since quitting royal life in 2020 and relocating to California with his American wife Meghan.

The Duke of Sussex, as he is also known, has launched legal action against several tabloid media groups, alongside barrages of attacks aimed at his family and the monarchy.

In a rarity for a British royal, who normally steer clear of politics, he also hit out at the government during Tuesday's proceedings.

In a lengthy written witness statement, the prince said media intrusion had blighted his life while claiming the state of both the press and government were "at rock bottom".

In the witness box and after swearing an oath on the Bible, Harry argued he had been the victim of relentless and distressing media intrusion virtually his entire life.

Some media had blood on their hands, he argued, and said stories written about him had made him paranoid and untrusting in friendships and relationships.

When the practice of phone-hacking came to light, "it all made sense", he told the court.

Harry described a sense of being besieged by the media during a trip to Argentina when "very aggressive paparazzi" surrounded the ranch where he was staying and local police said the only way to get rid of them would be to pay them off.

He said it became clear that it would be difficult to leave without being "chased or swarmed by these individuals".

 'Land of speculation'

MGN has admitted to "some evidence" of unlawful information gathering, including for a story about Harry.

But it has denied voicemail interception and also argued that some claims were brought too late by Harry and the other claimants.

In court, the prince faced questions about various aspects of the 33 tabloid stories being considered, covering everything from ex-girlfriends and rumours that army officer James Hewitt was his father, to royal family relations.

Harry admitted that he had no recollection of reading the majority of the articles, which date back over the last 20 years.

He has long had a turbulent relationship with the press and holds the media responsible for the death of his mother, Princess Diana, in a 1997 Paris car crash while being pursued by paparazzi.

Allegations that tabloid journalists hacked into celebrities' mobile phones first emerged two decades ago and prompted a public inquiry.

It found British newspapers had "wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people", and led to the closure of Britain's top-selling newspaper, the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World in 2011.

But MGN lawyer Green suggested Harry was "in the land of total speculation" by accusing the publisher of using hacked voicemails for its stories.

"Not at all. I disagree," the prince responded.

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