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  1. Media Law
June 6, 2023

Prince Harry takes stand vs Mirror: ‘Editors have blood on their hands’

Prince Harry had spoken of the huge personal pain press coverage has caused him.

By PA Media

Prince Harry accused editors and journalists of having blood on their hands as he gave evidence against Mirror Group Newspapers in his civil action over allegations of illegal information gathering at the titles from the 1990s onwards.

Andrew Green KC, for MGN, asked Harry about part of his witness statement in which he states: “How much more blood will stain their typing fingers before someone can put a stop to this madness.”

Green asked if the duke meant “blood on their hands” in relation to a specific article, and further asked him what he meant by it.

Harry said: “Some of the editors and journalists that are responsible for causing a lot of pain, upset and in some cases, speaking personally, death.”

He then said his reference to “blood on their hands” was “more broadly towards the press” in general, adding: “I haven’t named the journalists in that particular paragraph.”

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Harry said: “I remember on multiple occasions hearing a voicemail for the first time that wasn’t ‘new’, but I don’t remember thinking that it was particularly unusual – I would simply put it down to perhaps a technical glitch, as mobile phones were still relatively new back then, or even just having too many drinks the night before, and having forgotten that I’d listened to it.”

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The duke said that he now believes that both his and his associates voicemail messages were hacked by MGN, and that it also used “other unlawful means” to obtain private information.

He continued: “The fact that the defendant’s journalists and those instructed on their behalf were listening in to private and sensitive voicemails at the level of detail discussed in this statement rather suggests that they could have heard anything and everything.

“This not only creates a huge amount of distress but presented very real security concerns for not only me but also everyone around me. I would say their actions affected every area of my life.”

Payments to private investigators for information about Diana made him sick

The Duke of Sussex said in his written evidence that he felt “physically sick” to learn there were eight payments to private investigators in relation to his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

The duke said that there were 135 separate payments related to him, and a further 154 for his associates.

He continued: “I’m shocked and appalled at the sheer volume of payments made by MGN titles to private investigators, who are known in this litigation to have used voicemail interception and other unlawful information-gathering techniques to obtain private information about their targets, for private information about me and my associates over a ten-year period, from 1999, when I was still very much a minor, to 2009.”

The duke added: “I now realise that my acute paranoia of being constantly under surveillance was not misplaced after all.”

“I was upset to discover the amount of suspicious call data and the 13 private investigator payments for Chelsy (Davy, his ex-girlfriend).

“Had she not been in a relationship with me, she would never have had to endure such a horrific experience at the hands of MGN’s journalists.

“There are even eight private investigator payments made in relation to my mother, which I have only learnt of since bringing my claim. This makes me feel physically sick.”

Prince Harry takes the stand: Did he actually read the articles?

The Duke of Sussex faced questions from Mr Green about claims in his witness statement that MGN’s alleged intrusion into his life contributed to “a huge amount of paranoia”.

Green asked Harry how he had such feelings if he was not aware of articles published in relation to him at the time.

The Duke said he would be “speculating” if he said which articles he had read and which he had not.

Harry added: “In my experience, the vast majority of the quotes were attributed to a pal, a friend, a source, an onlooker, which actually creates more suspicion”.

The duke said he started to re-examine articles when he “realised information had been unlawfully obtained”.

The Duke of Sussex, in his witness statement, described a story in the Mirror in 2005, in which it was claimed his then-girlfriend Chelsy Davy was “furious and had given me a ‘tongue-lashing down the phone’ following allegations that I had been flirting with a brunette” at a party.

Harry said: “I had been immature, I hadn’t really thought about my actions and I had made a stupid decision – and my mistakes were being played out publicly.”

He said Chelsy was extremely guarded about their relationship and a lot of their long-distance relationship was conducted over the telephone.

“Every time these kinds of stories were published, there was a strain put on our relationship, we started to distrust everyone around us,” he said.

“In hindsight, knowing the extent to which MGN journalists were targeting us and intercepting our communications, we probably lost friends needlessly and put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be secretive and deal with problems without support, out of the sense of paranoia that articles like this created.”

Article dated from two years BEFORE Harry owned mobile phone

Green questioned the duke about a Daily Mirror article publisher in September 1996 entitled “Diana so sad on Harry’s big day”.

The court heard that Harry has complained about the article containing details of his feelings regarding the divorce of his parents and the ill health of a family friend.

The MGN barrister said the duke was first issued with a mobile phone when he went to Eton in 1998, putting it to Harry that the 1996 article could not have involved phone hacking.

Harry replied: “That’s incorrect. My security at school had a separate room with a land line.”

He said “most Sunday nights”, after being dropped off by his mother “the first thing we would do is to use the phone to ring her… in floods of tears”.

Harry also said it could have been his mother who was hacked, but Mr Green replied “that’s just speculation you’ve come up with now”.

Green said the article reported that Harry at the time was “believed to be taking the royal divorced badly”, with the duke replying: “Like most children I think, yes”.

The barrister said such information was not saying anything that was not “pretty obvious”.

The duke said there was “no legitimacy” in putting such information in the newspaper, adding that “the methods in which it was obtained seem incredibly suspicious”.

Newspapers knew there was no way James Hewitt could be Harry’s father

In his witness statement, the Duke of Sussex described a 2007 story in The People about his then-girlfriend Chelsy Davy’s fears for his safety over his proposed military deployment to Iraq as “so violating”.

He said he believed journalists had listened to his and Miss Davy’s private messages, saying: “This article once more shows it’s not my career and professional life that the defendant’s journalists were interested in, but very private, raw emotions between me and my partner.

“It’s so violating.”

The Duke of Sussex has suggested newspaper stories about rumours his father was Diana, Princess of Wales’ former lover James Hewitt were aimed at ousting him from the royal family.

In his witness statement, Harry referred to an article in The People from 2002 with the headline “Plot to rob the DNA of Harry” which reported a bid to steal a sample of the duke’s DNA to check his parentage.

“Numerous newspapers had reported a rumour that my biological father was James Hewitt, a man my mother had a relationship with after I was born,” Harry said. “At the time of this article and others similar to it, I wasn’t actually aware that my mother hadn’t met Major Hewitt until after I was born.”

He said he learnt of this timeline in 2014 but that this was common knowledge amongst the defendant’s journalists.

“At the time, when I was 18 years old and had lost my mother just six years earlier, stories such as this felt very damaging and very real to me,” the duke said.

“They were hurtful, mean and cruel. I was always left questioning the motives behind the stories.

“Were the newspapers keen to put doubt into the minds of the public so I might be ousted from the royal family?”

Harry: To save journalism, journalists most expose illegal newsgatherers’

Concluding his witness statement, Harry criticises the state of British journalism and the present Government as both being at “rock bottom”.

He writes: “In my view, in order to save journalism as a profession, journalists need to expose those people in the media that have stolen or highjacked the privileges and powers of the press, and have used illegal or unlawful means for their own gain and agendas.

“In the same vein, I am bringing this claim, not because I hate the tabloid press or even necessarily a section of it, but in order to properly hold the people who have hijacked those privileges, which come with being a member of the press, to account for their actions.

“This has become a huge problem of which I have a unique perspective and experience perhaps, having had a front row seat to it. Because they have showed no willingness to change, I feel that I need to make sure that this unlawful behaviour is exposed, because obviously I don’t want anybody else going through the same thing that I’ve been going through on a personal level.

“But also, on a national level as, at the moment, our country is judged globally by the state of our press and our Government, both of which I believe are at rock bottom.

“Democracy fails when your press fails to scrutinise and hold the Government accountable, and instead choose to get into bed with them so they can ensure the status quo.”

Mirror’s apology to Prince Harry

Green apologised to the duke in person on behalf of MGN, repeating the publisher’s “unreserved apology” to him at the outset of the trial for one instance of unlawful activity.

He said: “MGN unreservedly apologises to you for that, it should never have happened and it will never happen again.”

Green told Harry that, if the judge finds that MGN was responsible for any further acts of unlawful information gathering, “you will be entitled to, and will receive, a more extensive apology”.

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