Prince Harry attacked Mirror Group Newspapers for “industrial-scale destruction of evidence” on Wednesday, as he concluded his testimony against the media group at London’s high court.
The Duke of Sussex was cross-examined for a second day about 33 articles published in the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror or The People, which he alleges were the result of phone-hacking or unlawful information gathering over a 15-year period. Mirror Group denies his allegations and is defending the case.
The outcome of the action brought by Charles III’s younger son, who has three parallel legal cases claiming phone hacking and other illegal behaviour by British newspapers, will be watched eagerly by other media groups.
The prince, who is the first royal to give evidence in a court of law since the 19th century, was cross-examined by Mirror Group’s barrister Andrew Green KC, who said there was no call data evidence that showed his mobile phone had been intercepted by Mirror Group journalists.
In response, Prince Harry said “burner phones were used” which left no trace of activity, adding there had been “industrial-scale destruction of evidence” by Mirror Group.
After finishing his testimony, Prince Harry was asked by his barrister, David Sherborne, how he felt after being cross-examined while watched by the world’s media. The prince, who appeared more confident in the witness box on his second day, replied in a slightly cracked voice: “It’s been a lot.”
During questioning, Mr Green asked the prince how he would respond if the court ruled his phone had not been hacked: “I believe there was phone hacking on an industrial scale across at least three papers at the time ... to have a decision against me ... I would feel some injustice.”
He also pointed to payments to private investigators made by journalists, one of which was entitled “Project Harry”, which the prince said was “incredibly disturbing”.
Prince Harry was asked about an article in The People newspaper in April 2006 detailing his visit to lapdancing club Spearmint Rhino as the court was shown a story that stated the visit had prompted angry calls from his then girlfriend Chelsy Davy.
Prince Harry told the high court that the “detail about the timing and length of the calls is so specific” that he suspected Mirror Group journalists had “access to one of our phone records and put two and two together to make a story”. He added that on one occasion a tracker device was found on Ms Davy’s car.
He also criticised the use of obscure sourcing. “Attributing information to a ‘palace source’ is suspicious”, he said, adding that he had never spoken to anyone in Buckingham Palace about his relationship with Ms Davy.
Mirror Group denies that Prince Harry had his phone hacked or was the target of unlawful information gathering but does acknowledge that an investigator was engaged by a journalist at The People to unlawfully gather information about his conduct at the Chinawhite nightclub in London on one occasion in February 2004.
Mirror Group either denies or does not admit the 33 articles at the centre of the trial were the result of unlawful information gathering and it also claims Prince Harry’s lawsuit has been brought too late. The case continues.
– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023