Prince Harry Settles Hacking Case Against U.K. Newspaper Group, Receives Substantial Damages

Bianca Echa

Prince Harry Settles Hacking Case Against U.K. Newspaper Group, Receives Substantial Damages

LONDON — A British newspaper publisher has agreed to pay Prince Harry a “substantial” sum in costs and damages for invading his privacy with phone hacking and other illegal snooping, Harry’s lawyer said Friday.

Attorney David Sherborne said Mirror Group Newspapers had agreed to pay all of Harry’s legal costs, plus damages, and would make an interim payment of 400,000 pounds ($505,000) within 14 days. The final tab will be assessed later.

Harry was awarded 140,000 pounds ($177,000) in damages in December, after a judge found that phone hacking was “widespread and habitual” at Mirror Group Newspapers in the late 1990s, went on for more than a decade and that executives at the papers covered it up. Judge Timothy Fancourt found that Harry’s phone was hacked “to a modest extent.”

The settlement avoids a new trial over 115 more tabloid articles that Harry says were the product of hacking or other intrusions.

Mirror Group said in a statement that it was “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 apologized.”

Harry’s case against the publisher of the Daily Mirror and two other tabloids is one of several that he has launched in a campaign against the British media, which he blames for blighting his life and hounding both his late mother Princess Diana and his wife Meghan.

“Our mission continues,” Harry said in a statement read outside court by his lawyer.

In June, he became the first senior member of the royal family to testify in court in more than a century during the trial of his case against the Mirror.

Harry, also known as the Duke of Sussex, was not in court for Friday’s ruling. He traveled to London from his home in California earlier this week to visit his father King Charles III, who has been diagnosed with cancer. Harry flew back to the United States about 24 hours later.

Harry still has ongoing cases against the publishers of The Sun and Daily Mail over allegations of unlawful snooping. He recently dropped a libel case against the publisher of the Mail after an unfavorable pretrial ruling.

At a High Court hearing on Friday, the judge ordered Mirror Group to pay some of the legal costs for three other claimants whose cases were heard alongside Harry’s.

Fancourt said that “all the claimants have been vindicated” by the court’s findings about the Mirror Group’s misbehavior, and that legal costs had been increased by the publisher’s “attempts to conceal the truth.”

He ordered the publisher to pay “common costs” of a general case seeking to show wrongdoing by the company. That is separate from the legal costs of preparing for and presenting individuals’ specific claims.

The judge said that the three other claimants must pay some of the Mirror Group’s costs in their individual cases, because they made exaggerated claims or failed to accept reasonable offers to settle.

The judge found in December that the privacy of all four claimants had been violated, but tossed out cases brought by actor Nikki Sanderson and Fiona Wightman, the ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse, because they were filed too late. A claim by actor Michael Turner partially succeeded.

Phone hacking by British newspapers dates back more than two decades to a time when scoop-hungry journalists regularly phoned the numbers of royals, celebrities, politicians and sports stars and, when prompted to leave a message, punched in default passcodes to eavesdrop on voicemails.

The practice erupted into a full-blown scandal in 2011 when Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World was revealed to have intercepted messages of a murdered girl, relatives of deceased British soldiers and victims of a bombing. Murdoch closed the paper, and a former News of the World editor was jailed.

Newspapers were later found to have used other intrusive means such as phone tapping, home bugging and “blagging” details of medical records, meaning obtaining information by deception.

Mirror Group Newspapers said it has paid more than 100 million pounds ($128 million) in other phone hacking lawsuits over the years, but denied wrongdoing in Harry’s case. It said it used legitimate reporting methods to get information on the prince.

SOURCE

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