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May 29, 2024

Prince Harry Wins Phone Hacking Lawsuit Against British Tabloid Publisher

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Dec 16, 2023

Prince Harry was awarded £140,000 ($167,000) in damages after a London court ruled he was the victim of illegal phone hacking by the publisher of Britain’s Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People tabloids.

Judge Rules “Clearly Unlawful” Activity Occurred

High Court judge Mr. Justice Nicklin said hacking of Prince Harry’s voicemail messages was “clearly unlawful” and merited an “award of damages at a substantial level.” However, the damages fell short of the £300,000 Prince Harry was seeking.

The judge concluded Prince Harry had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” regarding his voicemails, and that there was “substantial evidence” that Mirror journalists illegally accessed his messages on multiple occasions dating back to the early 2000s.

Some key evidence cited by the judge:

  • Journalists and private investigators working for Mirror Group Newspapers “freely engaged” in phone hacking to obtain stories about Prince Harry.
  • There were articles containing “verbatim quotes” from Prince Harry’s voicemails as early as 2002 when he was aged 17.
  • Journalists bragged about hacking his phone, referring to Prince Harry as the “new chief hackee.”

While the full truth may never be known, the scale of the hacking was deemed to be “very substantial indeed.”

Prince Harry: A “Great Day for Truth”

Prince Harry issued a statement hailing the verdict as a “great day for truth” and calling out critical media coverage trying to spin the result:

“I am grateful to the British court for holding the Mirror Group to account, as I have done on behalf of my family from the start. We now live in a world where lies have become truth, and truth has become lies. Perhaps, most importantly, we live in a world where greed and profit have been prioritised over decency, honesty and respect.”

“I am proud to play my part in this ongoing fight. We will remain resolute in the truth. My family lost the mother, wife, and sister we loved because of ruthless practices like these.”

Steve Coogan, an actor and fellow victim of phone hacking, praised Prince Harry as “brave” for pursuing the case.

However, not all reactions were supportive. Former tabloid editor Piers Morgan dismissed the case as “yet another orgy of whining” while reporter Dan Wootton accused Prince Harry of conducting a “war on journalism and free speech.”

What’s Next in Prince Harry’s Legal Fights?

The phone hacking judgment is one of several legal battles Prince Harry is currently waging against British media outlets:

  • Meghan Privacy Case Appeal: Prince Harry is awaiting appeal hearings in a case where Meghan sued and won against the Mail on Sunday for breach of privacy over a personal letter she wrote.
  • BBC Documentary: Prince Harry issued complaints and threatened legal action to block the BBC airing part of a documentary re-examining his relationship with a former royal aide. The BBC did not back down.
  • Memoir Legal Threats: When Prince Harry announced his upcoming memoir, lawyers warned publishers against defamation issues that could spur lawsuits.

While Prince Harry scored a victory with the hacking case, his crusade against the media is likely to stir up further controversy and backlash. It remains to be seen if future cases will meet the same success.

History of UK Phone Hacking Scandal

Allegations of phone hacking by British tabloids first surfaced in 2005 and erupted into a major scandal by 2011. A timeline of key events:

Year Key Developments
2005 News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman jailed for hacking phones of royal aides. Believed to be isolated case.
2009 The Guardian reports phone hacking far more widespread, involving up to 3,000 celebrities, politicians, sports stars.
2011 Revelations The News of the World hacked murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone sparks outrage. Newspaper closed down.
2012 UK government launches Leveson Inquiry into press ethics. More papers implicated like the Daily Mirror.
2016 Mirror Group announces paying damages to settle phone hacking claims, but denies senior editors knew.
2023 Prince Harry lawsuit revived interest in scandal. Opened floodgates for other victims to pursue cases.

While phone hacking was deemed unethical and illegal, critics argue sensationalist reporting runs rampant still in tabloids chasing sales through explosive stories about celebrities. Tightening media regulations remains a controversial issue facing the UK Parliament.

Why Prince Harry Pursued Case

Beyond getting justice for being personally victimized, Prince Harry emphasized wider principles at stake.

He drew comparisons of media harassment to what his mother Princess Diana faced, suggesting unfettered press practices ultimately contributed to her death. Prince Harry likely hopes his high-profile case sends a message that accountability is needed.

As evidenced by mixed public reactions though, perceptions of media scrutiny depend much on pre-existing opinions of Prince Harry. He still faces an uphill battle to fundamentally transform the culture and ethics of British tabloid journalism through legal fights alone.

This story relied on a compilation of reporting from Reuters, The New York Times, The Telegraph, PBS, People Magazine, Time Magazine and other sources among those cited. The full depth of the phone hacking case and Prince Harry’s disputes with the media continues unfolding. Check for regular updates on further developments.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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