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  1. Media Law
February 9, 2024

Prince Harry settles rest of Mirror group hacking claim

Mirror Group Newspapers also ordered to pay part of costs of last year's hacking trial.

By PA Media

Prince Harry has settled the remaining parts of his phone hacking claim against the publisher of the Daily Mirror, the High Court has heard.

The Duke of Sussex, 39, sued Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for damages, claiming journalists at its publications were linked to methods including phone hacking, so-called “blagging” – gaining information by deception – and use of private investigators for unlawful activities.

In December, a judge ruled that phone hacking became “widespread and habitual” at MGN titles in the late 1990s and was practised “even to some extent” during the Leveson Inquiry into press standards in 2011.

Mr Justice Fancourt also concluded that Harry’s phone was hacked “to a modest extent” by MGN, awarding him £140,600 in damages.

Thirty-three articles in Harry’s claim were examined during the trial last year, with 15 articles found to have been the product of unlawful information gathering.

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A further 115 articles were in his claim, which may have been the subject of a further trial.

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‘Substantial additional sum’ in damages as Harry hacking claim settled

However, during a hearing in London on Friday, his barrister David Sherborne confirmed a settlement had been reached between the duke and MGN.

Sherborne said the publisher will pay Harry “a substantial additional sum by way of damages” as well as his legal costs, and that it would make an interim payment of £400,000.

An MGN spokesperson said: “We are pleased to have reached this agreement, which gives our business further clarity to move forward from events that took place many years ago and for which we have apologised.”

In a statement read by Sherborne outside the court on Friday, Harry said: “After our victory in December, Mirror Group have finally conceded the rest of my claim which would have consisted of another two trials, additional evidence, and 115 more articles.

“Everything we said was happening at Mirror Group was in fact happening, and indeed, far worse, as the court ruled in an extremely damaging judgment.

“As the judge has said only this morning, we have uncovered and proved the shockingly dishonest way in which the Mirror acted for so many years, and then sought to conceal the truth.”

He went on to criticise former Mirror editor Piers Morgan, who Mr Justice Fancourt found would have known about the hacking.

Harry, via Sherborne, said Morgan “knew perfectly well what was going on” and that his “contempt for the court’s ruling and his continued attacks ever since demonstrate why it was so important to obtain a clear and detailed judgment”.

Also on Friday MGN was ordered to pay the costs of part of last year’s hacking trial, which featured claims by others as well as Harry.

As well as the “representative” claims brought by the duke and three others against the publisher of the Daily and Sunday Mirror and The People, the trial last year also heard “generic” evidence about wider alleged wrongdoing at MGN.

Mr Justice Fancourt said the publisher should pay so-called “generic” legal costs to the more than 100 people currently involved in the legal action.

The judge said: “On the generic issues, there can be little doubt that the claimants were successful.

“In this unusual case, justice is only done by awarding the claimants their costs of the generic issues,” he added.

The figure of costs is yet to be assessed, but the High Court in London previously heard the group of people who sued the publisher were currently seeking payment of £1,976,660 from MGN towards the legal costs of bringing those allegations to court.

Sherborne previously said decisions about the costs in Harry’s case against the publisher were reserved until the rest of his claim was determined.

Some Mirror group hacking claimants told to pay publisher’s costs

Harry’s case was heard alongside similar claims brought by actor Michael Turner, who is known professionally as Michael Le Vell and is most famous for playing Kevin Webster in Coronation Street, actress Nikki Sanderson, and Fiona Wightman, the ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse.

The claims brought by Sanderson and Wightman were dismissed by Mr Justice Fancourt because they were made too late, despite the judge finding that some of their complaints were proved.

In his ruling on Friday, Mr Justice Fancourt ruled that Sanderson and Wightman should pay MGN the legal costs of defending their individual claims.

The judge also ruled that Turner should pay MGN’s costs of responding to his claim from the date of 5 March 2022, when an offer was made.

Roger Mallalieu KC, for MGN, previously said the publisher would be seeking interim payments from the trio – who are said to be insured for their adverse costs – of around £100,000 each.

Mr Justice Fancourt ruled that 90% of the interim payments should be made to MGN, with some deductions.

The MGN spokesperson said: “We welcomed December’s judgment that gave the business the necessary clarity to move forward from events that took place many years ago.

“Where historical wrongdoing took place, we apologise unreservedly, have taken full responsibility and paid compensation.”

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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.
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