Prince Harry to make history with UK court testimony

Harry has also challenged the UK government in court over his security arrangements when he is back from the United States.

Prince Harry was the target of illegal information-gathering even as a young schoolboy, his lawyer told a London court Monday in his case against a tabloid newspaper publisher.

The 38-year-old prince will become the first senior British royal to give evidence in court for more than a century when he testifies this week against Mirror Group Newspapers.

Banks of photographers and camera crews gathered outside London’s High Court in anticipation of Harry’s arrival for opening speeches in the case.

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But his lawyer, David Sherborne, said Harry will not take the stand until Tuesday, as he had been celebrating his daughter Princess Lilibet’s second birthday and only flew to the UK late Sunday.

That earned him a rebuke from the judge Timothy Fancourt, who said he was “a little surprised” that the prince was not in court on Monday.

Sherborne said stories about Harry were clearly a money spinner for tabloids and started when he was aged 11.

The pursuit of stories by illegal methods even continued after “the tragic death of his mother” Princess Diana in a Paris car crash in 1997 while she being pursued by photographers.

The prince’s phone “would have been hacked on multiple occasions”, he submitted.

King Charles III’s younger son and other high-profile figures allege that MGN Ltd engaged in illegal activities, including phone hacking, at its titles and are seeking damages.

The case is one of several that Harry has brought against British newspaper groups since stepping down from royal duties in early 2020 and relocating to the United States.

The MGN trial, which is expected to last up to seven weeks, kicked off last month, days after Charles’s May 6 coronation which Harry attended.

The California-based prince also made a surprise appearance at the High Court in March for a privacy claim he and others have launched against Associated Newspapers (ANL), publisher of the Daily Mail.

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Harry, formally known as the Duke of Sussex, made written submissions in that case but did not give in-person evidence, sitting near the back of the court during several days of proceedings.

His appearance on the stand is said to be the first time a senior royal has given evidence in court since Edward VII, who took the stand in an 1890 slander trial before becoming monarch.

Charles’s sister Princess Anne became the first member of the current royal family to be convicted of a criminal offence after one of her dogs bit two children in 2002.

She pleaded guilty to an offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act so was not required to give evidence in court.

Harry battles

Harry, who is fifth in line to the throne, has had a difficult relationship with the media, especially since he and his American wife Meghan left Britain.

As well as filing multiple lawsuits, the couple has repeatedly lashed out over alleged privacy invasions by photographers in particular.

Just weeks ago, they claimed to have been involved in a “near catastrophic car chase” with paparazzi in New York, an incident police and other officials played down.

Harry has also challenged the UK government in court over his security arrangements when he is back from the United States.

But on May 23, he lost his bid for a legal review of a decision refusing him permission to pay for specialist UK police protection himself.

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In television interviews and his explosive memoir “Spare” — released in January — Harry hit out at other royals, accusing them of colluding with the press.

In court filings unveiled in April, Harry claimed the royal family as an institution had struck a “secret agreement” with one UK publisher that had prevented him from suing, to avoid a royal entering the witness box.

He also alleged the monarchy wanted to prevent the opening of a “Pandora’s Box” of negative coverage that could tarnish the royal brand.

Tapping claims

The MGN case centres on claims its tabloids conducted unlawful information-gathering, including voicemail tapping, to obtain stories about Harry and other high-profile figures.

The other claimants are two television soap opera actors and the ex-wife of a comedian.

At the outset of the trial on May 10, MGN apologised and admitted to “some evidence” of unlawful information-gathering and assured that “such conduct will never be repeated”.

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But it denied voicemail interception and argued that some claims had been brought too late.

Sherborne submitted that “industrial scale” illegal activities were happening at MGN and had been approved by senior executives.