Britain’s Harry seeking up to GBP440k in phone-hacking lawsuit

Prince Harry is seeking up to GBP440,000 in phone-hacking lawsuit.
Prince Harry is seeking up to GBP440,000 in phone-hacking lawsuit.

Prince Harry is seeking up to GBP440,000 (RM2,609,200) in his phone hacking lawsuit against the publisher of the Daily Mirror tabloid

LONDON — Prince Harry is seeking damages from Britain’s Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), court documents released on Friday revealed as the trial of the royal’s phone-hacking lawsuit came to an end.

The royal’s case against the newspaper publisher ended on Friday after a seven-week trial, with the prince asking the court to award him more than GBP440,000 (RM2,609,200) in damages – potentially one of the biggest ever phone-hacking settlements.

The prince and three others are suing MGN, the publisher of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, at London’s High Court over allegations of phone-hacking and unlawful information gathering between 1991 and 2011.

According to Reuters, they claim senior editors and executives at MGN knew about and approved of the wrongdoing. MGN, owned by Reach (RCH.L), is fighting the lawsuit and says there is no evidence for the accusations.

Harry, the Duke of Sussex, says he was targeted by MGN for 15 years from 1996, since the early years of his royal life, and that over 140 stories which appeared in the tabloids were the result of unlawful information gathering, though the trial – which ends on Friday – is only considering 33 of these.

The 33 stories that the Prince’s lawyers are highlighting in their claim include reports about his ex-girlfriend Chelsy Davy and his drug taking. Harry says the reports must have been obtained illegally, through intercepting voicemails or other illegal activity.

The prince is seeking up to GBP320,000 (RM1,897,600) in damages in relation to the 33 articles.

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In a document released later, they said he is also seeking further damages of about GBP120,000 (RM711,600). This relates to allegations of unlawful information gathering by MGN publication against Prince Harry, including over the targeting of his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

The court may also consider whether Harry is entitled to what are known as aggravated damages, if it finds in the prince’s favour and concludes that the articles caused significant distress.

The trial forced the world’s media to re-examine the excesses of the British tabloid newspapers – as well as the roles of the former Mirror editor Piers Morgan and the network of private investigators who are willing to do almost anything for an exclusive story.

MGN argues that none of the 33 articles resulted from unlawful information gathering. It says there is no evidence Harry’s phone was hacked and that some of the personal information about Harry had come from, or with the consent of, senior Buckingham Palace aides.

The publisher argues Harry should receive no more than GBP37,000 (RM219,410), even if he wins on all 33 articles, according to the documents released on Friday

The highest damages application is for a 2005 “splash” on the front page in the Daily Mirror which reported the prince’s then-girlfriend Chelsy Davy was to “dump him”.

A second article was headlined “Chelsy Is Not Happy”.

His lawyers said the story included photos of Prince Harry and Chelsy Davy taken at a distance and went into detail about the state of their relationship.

They claimed highly specific details of telephone contact between the couple were included.

Lawyers alleged a private investigator and “flight and call data blagger” in South Africa helped with details for the story.

A court document stated: “The article came at a difficult and vulnerable time for the Duke of Sussex, where details of his mistakes were played out so publicly.”

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“Whilst the Duke of Sussex was remorseful for his actions, the article added to his embarrassment by revealing the impact on his personal relationship with Ms Davy, with humiliating details of private arguments between the couple and added to his sense of distrust and paranoia of those around him.”

At the start of the trial in May, MGN admitted that on one occasion a private investigator had been engaged to unlawfully gather evidence about Harry in 2004, though the article which was published did not form part of the trial.

The company argues Harry was not otherwise a victim of unlawful information gathering.

Harry became the first senior royal to give evidence in court in130 years when he appeared this month for a day-and-a-half of questioning in the witness box. He described how press intrusion destroyed his relationships and left him with “bouts of depression and paranoia”. He came close to tears, insisting there was “hard evidence” he was illegally targeted by the Mirror’s journalists and would feel “some injustice” if he lost the case.

The fifth-in-line to the throne said he believed phone- hacking took place on an industrial scale at MGN’s titles.

MGN’s lawyer Andrew Green argued in court filings that Harry’s “undoubtedly fair resentment about his treatment by British and international media” had motivated his legal action, which he said was part of his “campaign to ‘reform’ the British press”.

The trial concluded on Friday and the judge, Timothy Fancourt, said his ruling “will take some time”. — Mediahit

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