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LONDON, United Kingdom – Prince Harry was a “prime target” for the tabloid press and must have been a victim of phone hacking, his lawyer told London’s High Court on Wednesday, June 28, as the trial in the British royal’s lawsuit against a newspaper publisher nears its end.
The prince and around 100 others are suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), the publisher of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, and Sunday People, over allegations of phone hacking and unlawful information gathering between 1991 and 2011.
They claim senior editors and executives at MGN knew about and approved of the wrongdoing. MGN, owned by Reach, is fighting the lawsuit and says there is no evidence for the accusations.
The claimants’ lawyer, David Sherborne, told the court on Wednesday, that the case against MGN was “inferential,” stressing that phone hacking and other unlawful information gathering was a covert practice.
But, he added, the court could find that Harry was a victim of phone hacking because of the prevalence of the practice at MGN newspapers and the level of press interest in the prince.
“The newspapers regarded him as a prime target, perhaps one of the most prime targets, in the sense of royal stories drive newspaper sales,” Sherborne said.
MGN has previously admitted its titles were involved in unlawful information gathering and has settled more than 600 claims, but says there is no evidence Harry’s phone was hacked.
It argues that some of the personal information about Harry in stories cited during the case had come from, or with the consent of, senior Buckingham Palace aides.
MGN’s lawyer Andrew Green said in court filings that it was “highly unlikely” MGN would have targeted Harry, particularly after the 2006 arrest of the then-royal editor of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid and a private investigator for accessing royal aides’ voicemails.
However, Sherborne said the idea that MGN would not have “used every opportunity to obtain stories … is plainly implausible and they had the means to do so.”
On Tuesday, June 27, Sherborne argued that MGN’s failure to call its former employees, such as former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, to give evidence was a fatal blow to its defense.
Morgan has always denied any knowledge of or involvement in wrongdoing and said, after the trial started, that he would not “take lectures on privacy invasion from Prince Harry.”
The fifth-in-line to the throne said he believed phone hacking took place on an industrial scale at MGN’s titles.
MGN’s lawyer Green argued in court filings that Harry’s “undoubtedly fair resentment about his treatment by British and international media for many years” had been channeled into his legal action, which he said was not for compensation but part of his “campaign to ‘reform’ the British press.”
He added that Harry’s lawsuit against MGN was “wildly overstated and substantially baseless.”
At the start of the trial in May, MGN admitted that on one occasion a private investigator had been engaged to unlawfully gather evidence about Harry.
However, it said he should receive no more than 500 pounds in damages for that incident.
Green is expected to begin making MGN’s closing arguments on Wednesday afternoon, with the trial due to conclude on Friday. – Rappler.com