Prince Harry Wins Phone Hacking Lawsuit Against British Tabloid

Prince Harry Wins Phone Hacking Lawsuit Against British Tabloid: Prince Harry secured victory in his phone hacking lawsuit on Friday against the publisher of the Daily Mirror, receiving an award exceeding 140,000 pounds ($180,000). This marks the first of several lawsuits filed by Prince Harry against British tabloids to go to trial.

In the High Court, Justice Timothy Fancourt determined that phone hacking was “widespread and habitual” at Mirror Group Newspapers over an extended period. He emphasized that private investigators played a crucial role in the system, collecting information unlawfully. Justice Fancourt also noted that executives at the papers were aware of this practice and engaged in efforts to conceal it.

Justice Fancourt stated that he granted damages to the Duke of Sussex for 15 out of the 33 newspaper articles under consideration in the trial. These articles were deemed to be the outcome of unlawful information gathering, leading to the misuse of Harry’s private information. “Today is a significant day for truth and accountability,” Harry stated in a message conveyed by his lawyer outside the court.

Justice Fancourt granted damages to the Duke, compensating for the distress he endured. Additionally, an extra amount was awarded for aggravated damages, taking into account the specific harm and sense of outrage. This was particularly emphasized due to the knowledge that two directors at Trinity Mirror were aware of the activity and failed to intervene.

“Instead of doing so, they turned a blind eye to what was going on and positively concealed it,” stated Justice Fancourt. “Had the illegal conduct been stopped, the misuse of the duke’s private information would have ended much sooner.”

Prince Harry is at the forefront of a campaign against the British media.

Harry, the younger son who is estranged from King Charles III, had requested 440,000 pounds ($560,000) as a part of his campaign against the British media. This action goes against his family’s historical avoidance of legal action and marks him as the first senior royal member to testify in court in over a century.

During his two-day appearance in the witness box in June, Harry created a spectacle by making allegations against Mirror Group Newspapers. He claimed that the media outlet had employed journalists who eavesdropped on voicemails and hired private investigators to gather information using deceptive and unlawful means about him and other members of his family.

“I am convinced that phone hacking was occurring on an industrial scale across at least three newspapers at the time,” Harry declared in the High Court. “There is no doubt about that.”

The judge noted that Harry displayed a tendency in his testimony “to assume that everything published was the product of voicemail interception,” clarifying that this was not the actual scenario. The judge emphasized that the Mirror Group was “not responsible for all of the unlawful activity directed at the duke. “This case marks the initial of three lawsuits initiated by Harry against the tabloids, accusing them of phone hacking or engaging in some form of unlawful information gathering. These legal actions constitute the forefront of his efforts, representing what he describes as his life’s mission to reform the media.

Harry’s dissatisfaction with the news media is deeply rooted and extensively discussed in his memoir, “Spare.” He attributes the car crash that resulted in the death of his mother, Princess Diana, to paparazzi, and he asserts that intrusions by journalists played a significant role in his and his wife Meghan’s decision to step away from royal life and relocate to the U.S. in 2020.

Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan have stated that they experienced a ‘near-catastrophic’ car chase with paparazzi.

Harry has claimed that Mirror Group Newspapers employed unlawful methods to create nearly 150 stories about his early life from 1996 to 2010, covering topics such as his romances, injuries, and alleged drug use. He expressed that the reporting caused significant emotional distress, but proving it was challenging due to the destruction of records by the newspapers. Regarding the 33 articles under scrutiny in the trial, Mirror denied employing unlawful reporting methods for 28 of them and made no admissions regarding the remaining five.

The judge who presided over the Mirror case had previously dismissed Harry’s hacking claims against the publisher of The Sun. However, the judge is permitting Harry and actor Hugh Grant, who has similar allegations, to proceed to trial. The trial will focus on claims that journalists from News Group Newspapers used other unlawful methods to intrude on their privacy.

Recently, another judge granted Harry permission to proceed with a similar case against the publisher of the Daily Mail. This decision came after the newspaper’s attempts to dismiss the lawsuit were rejected.

The practice of phone hacking involving members of the royal family and celebrities has been a longstanding strategy employed by the British media.

The history of phone hacking by British newspapers spans over two decades, originating in a period when unscrupulous journalists resorted to a rudimentary technique. They would dial the numbers of royals, celebrities, politicians, and sports stars, and upon being prompted to leave a message, they would input default passcodes to eavesdrop on voicemails. The phone hacking practice escalated into a major scandal in 2011 when it was exposed that Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World had intercepted messages from a murdered girl, relatives of deceased British soldiers, and victims of a bombing. In response, Murdoch decided to shut down the newspaper.

Subsequently, newspapers were discovered to have employed more invasive methods, including phone tapping, home bugging, and obtaining flight information and medical records. Mirror Group Newspapers stated that it has disbursed over 100 million pounds ($128 million) in various phone hacking lawsuits over the years. However, the organization denies any wrongdoing in Harry’s case and asserts that it employed legitimate reporting methods to gather information about the prince.

On one occasion, Mirror Group issued an “unreserved” apology for employing a private investigator in a story about Harry partying at a nightclub in February 2004. Even though the article titled “Sex on the beach with Harry” wasn’t part of the trial’s focus, Mirror Group acknowledged the need to compensate him with 500 pounds ($637).

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