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  1. Media Law
May 10, 2024

Daily Mail publisher ‘denies under oath’ Prince Harry hacking claim

Four current national newspaper editors named in illegal newsgathering claim.

By Dominic Ponsford

The publisher of the Daily Mail has “denied under oath” that it engaged in phone-hacking and other illegal newsgathering methods against Prince Harry and others.

Prince Harry, Sir Elton John, Sadie Frost, Sir Simon Hughes, Doreen Lawrence, Elizabeth Hurley and David Furnish launched their legal action against the Mail titles in October 2022, alleging illegal newsgathering dating back up to 30 years.

The privacy claim includes allegations that the Mail titles hired private investigators to secretly place listening devices in cars and homes. Claimants also allege that journalists eavesdropped on private phone calls and obtained bank and medical records by deception.

Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL) is the corporate entity defending the case. Parent company DMG Media said in a statement: “In papers submitted to the High Court, the publisher of the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday denied under oath that its journalists had commissioned or obtained information derived from phone hacking, phone tapping, bugging, computer or email hacking or burglary to order.

“Associated also denied claims made by Prince Harry and Baroness Lawrence that it commissioned private investigators Gavin Burrows and Jonathan Rees, as well as claims by Sir Simon Hughes that it commissioned convicted phone hacker Glenn Mulcaire.

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“Indeed, it is highly significant that Gavin Burrows has retracted a statement he allegedly gave to the claimants, on which their case appears to be based.

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“The publisher stands by its previous statements that the claims are preposterous and without foundation, and says in its defence submission that the case brought by the prince and others is ‘an affront to the hard-working journalists whose reputations and integrity, as well as those of Associated itself, are wrongly traduced’.

“It says that the stories concerned, many of which were published 20 or more years ago, and not subject to any complaint at the time, were the product of responsible journalism based on legitimate sources.”

In other developments in the case yesterday, around 70 current and former journalists were named in legal documents after reporting restrictions – sought by the Daily Mail publishers – were lifted.

Among those named in the claims are:

  • Current Sun editor Victoria Newton (Mail showbiz editor in the early 2000s)
  • Times editor Tony Gallagher (a former Daily Mail deputy editor)
  • Sunday Times editor Ben Taylor (formerly executive editor of the Daily Mail)
  • And Mail on Sunday editor David Dillon.

Harry’s barrister David Sherborne said in the written claim: “The claimant will contend that the information obtained by these private investigators on behalf of Associated and its journalists was unlawfully or illegally obtained, and was known or must have been known to be, or were obviously, to have been so obtained.”

However ANL’s written defence says the duke’s case is “replete with sweeping allegations of serious criminal conduct which lack even the most basic of particulars”.

ANL says: “It is denied that Associated’s journalists widely and habitually carried out, or commissioned the carrying out of, illegal or unlawful information gathering activities.”

Home Secretary (not hacking) was source of Lawrence Inquiry scoop, says Mail

One claim rebuffed in ANL’s defence is the allegation that a front page Daily Mail story from July 1997 revealing a public inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence was illegally obtained.

The Daily Mail led the campaign to secure justice for Stephen Lawrence following his murder in 1993 at the age of 18. After a series of police failures, the Daily Mail risked a libel action by branding five named men “murderers” in a famous front-page story in February 1997.

ANL said far from being obtained illegally, the information about the launch of the public inquiry was shared with Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre by then home secretary Jack Straw.

The Daily Telegraph reports that it has been alleged another story published in 2007, that the five suspects faced new charges, was obtained by phone-hacking. The Mail contends that in fact the story came from a via senior police source.

Daily Mail ‘Murderers’ front page from 14 February, 1997.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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