Prince Harry’s absence from court on the first day of his U.K. tabloid case has surprised the judge and caused discontent among those present. The Duke of Sussex’s lawyer explained that he was unable to testify due to his return from Los Angeles after celebrating his daughter’s second birthday. However, Justice Timothy Fancourt expressed his surprise, as he had explicitly instructed Harry to be present for the trial’s commencement.
The lawyer representing Mirror Group Newspapers, Andrew Green, expressed deep concern over Harry’s absence and accused him of wasting time in the court proceedings. Green found it extraordinary that Harry was unavailable on the trial’s first day, emphasizing the significance of the case for the prince.
This trial against Mirror Group is the first of several lawsuits Prince Harry has filed against the media. The lawsuits allege that tabloid publishers engaged in unlawful practices to obtain information about him and his family. Harry’s lawyer, David Sherborne, argued that the extent of phone hacking and unlawful information gathering was so vast that it seemed implausible that the newspapers in question had only used these tactics once, as they claimed.
Sherborne stated that the defendant prioritized sales over ethical journalism, resulting in numerous articles that intruded into every aspect of Harry’s life. He emphasized that there was no time in the prince’s life when he felt safe from such activities, and nothing was off-limits for the tabloids.
While Harry was initially scheduled to testify the following day, his lawyer was informed that he should also attend the opening statements. Once Harry takes the witness stand, he will be the first member of the British royal family to testify in court in over a century. He is expected to share his experiences of being hounded by the media throughout his life and the impact it had on him and those around him.
Harry attributes his decision to leave royal life and move to the U.S. with his wife, Meghan, to the harassment and intrusion of the U.K. press. The trial focuses on articles dating back to Harry’s childhood and aims to establish that the tabloids used illegal methods to gather information about him.
Mirror Group Newspapers has denied hacking Harry’s phone and maintains that their articles were based on legitimate reporting techniques. While they admitted to hiring a private investigator for one article, they claim it is unrelated to the 33 articles under scrutiny in the trial. The trial takes place against previous revelations of phone hacking scandals in British tabloids, which had a significant impact on the industry. Mirror Group has settled numerous unlawful information-gathering claims and issued apologies in the past. The trial will examine the extent of their knowledge and involvement in these practices.
Prince Harry’s grievances with the U.K. press are well-documented and form a central theme in his memoir and interviews. However, the courtroom provides a different platform, where Mirror Group’s lawyer will subject his claims to rigorous cross-examination.
The opening statements mark the second phase of the trial, which includes Harry and three other claimants. The court will determine if two additional phone hacking cases involving Harry will proceed to trial. News Group Newspapers and Associated Newspapers Ltd. argue that the cases should be dismissed due to the six-year deadline for filing lawsuits. Still, Harry’s legal team asserts that an exception should be made due to the publishers’ deception and concealment of illegal activities.