LONDON — Prince Harry entered a London courtroom on a mission to prove that the publisher of the Daily Mirror tabloid had hacked his phone and unlawfully snooped on his life.
He left the witness box Wednesday having shown that he was highly suspicious of how Mirror Group Newspapers obtained information for stories about him, but without offering phone records or much other evidence to support his hacking claim.
“I believe that phone hacking was at an industrial scale across at least three of the papers at the time,” the Duke of Sussex asserted in his second day of testimony in London’s High Court. “That is beyond any doubt.”
Phone hacking is central to his case against Mirror Group and two related lawsuits against other British tabloid publishers that he claims invaded his privacy by eavesdropping on emails and using other illegal methods to report on the smallest details of his life, causing him great emotional turmoil.
Harry is the first senior member of the royal family to testify in court in over 130 years, and his high-stakes gamble in taking his cases to trial is unprecedented in modern times. In addition to a desire to hold the newspapers accountable for a “destructive” role in his life and what he said was a cover-up of the hacking scandal, the pursuit indicates the seriousness of his larger mission to reform the press.
“Finding out about this level of cover up is what makes me want to see my MGN claim through to the end, so people can really understand what happened,” he testified.
During cross-examination, Mirror Group attorney Andrew Green pressed the prince to explain which elements of articles had come from hacking and how he could prove it without providing call data.
Harry continued to insist that parts of certain stories were suspicious and said Green should consult the reporters who wrote the articles about what they did. He said reporters had used burner phones and destroyed records.
Green, who has said Harry’s phone was not hacked, asked the witness if he would be relieved or upset if the judge reached the same conclusion.
“To have a decision against me … given that Mirror Group have admitted hacking, yes, it would feel like an injustice,” Harry responded.
“So you want to have been phone hacked?” Green said.
“Nobody wants to be phone hacked,” Harry replied.
Harry’s suspicions of the press run deep. He questioned not only whether unnamed sources were real but also whether people quoted by name had actually said the things attributed to them.
More than once, he said that seeing something in print attributed to someone “doesn’t mean that it’s true” and said false information was added to stories “to put people like myself off the scent.”
Green asked if he really thought that journalists would be foolish enough to risk getting caught phone hacking after a News of the World reporter and a private investigator went to prison for such activity in 2007.
“I believe the risk is worth the reward for them,” Harry answered.
Green has apologized for the one instance Mirror Group has admitted to hiring a private investigator to dig up dirt on Harry, though it was not among the claims he has brought. Mirror Group denies or doesn’t admit his other allegations.
Harry, the 38-year-old younger son of King Charles III, is the first senior British royal since an ancestor, the future King Edward VII, appeared as a witness in a trial over a gambling scandal in 1891.
Harry has said the royal family avoided legal entanglements to prevent having to be put in the witness box.
His case dates from 1996 to 2011 — a period when phone hacking by tabloid journalists was later discovered to have been widespread. The scandal led to revelations of more intrusive means such as phone tapping, home bugging and using deception to obtain flight information and medical records.
Harry’s fury at the U.K. press runs through his memoir, “Spare.” He blames paparazzi for causing the car crash that killed his mother, and said intrusion by the U.K. press, including allegedly racist articles, led him and his wife, Meghan, to flee to the U.S. in 2020 and leave royal life behind.
Mirror Group has paid more than 100 million pounds ($125 million) to settle hundreds of unlawful information-gathering claims, and printed an apology to phone hacking victims in 2015.