By Jonathan Mason-June 5th, 2023.
Prince Harry’s court case against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) started today in London. Prince Harry is suing the newspaper group over 33 stories, some of them as much as 20 years old, that he claims were based on information obtained illegally by accessing cell phone voicemail recordings.
Prince Harry did not appear in court this morning, apparently having been delayed by attendance at the second birthday party of his daughter Princess Lilibet Diana in Califonia.
The judge, Mr Justice Fancourt, said he was “a little surprised” that Harry was not there, as he had requested that witnesses be present today in case there was time for cross-examination this afternoon.
In civil cases in the UK the normal procedure is that the main evidence of a complainant is submitting in writing in a witness statement, and the witness is then cross-examined on their statement in person by lawyers for the defendants.
Lawyers for MGN accused Prince Harry of “wasting time” in the case by not being present in court today – but he is expected in the witness box tomorrow, and may even arrive at the court later today, having recently jetted in from California, where he now lives.
MGN’s lawyer Andrew Green KC said it was “absolutely extraordinary” he was “not available for day one of his own trial”
Prince Harry and three others accuse the publisher of using unlawful means – including phone hacking – to gather information for stories about them.
In court, Harry’s lawyer David Sherborne has been highlighting some of the 33 stories which form part of this claim, saying “every facet” of Harry’s life was splashed across the papers.
Sherborne has questioned why certain witnesses, such as Mirror group journalists, aren’t giving evidence. In the UK journalists usually cannot be compelled to reveal information about confidential sources.
MGN denies phone hacking in this case and says it can show proof that the vast majority of the 33 stories were legitimately sourced. For example a story about Prince Harry having injured his back when playing the Wall Game at Eton was not a leak of medical information, says, MGN, but something that was common knowledge to unnamed sources and informants at Eton College who supplied information to MGN journalists.
The case will continue tomorrow with Prince Harry expected to be the first member of the royal family to be cross-examined in more than 100 years.