Harry would feel ‘injustice' if phone hacking claims dismissed, court told
The Duke of Sussex “would feel some injustice” if a judge found that people suing the Daily Mirror’s publisher did not have their phones hacked by its journalists, the High Court has heard.
Harry returned to the witness box on Wednesday for further questions after facing nearly five hours of cross-examination on Tuesday as part of his claim over alleged unlawful information gathering.
The duke, 38, is suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for damages, claiming journalists at its titles – which also include the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People – were linked to methods including phone hacking, so-called “blagging” or gaining information by deception, and use of private investigators for unlawful activities.
During the second day of Harry’s evidence – which made him the first senior royal in more than two decades to appear personally in court proceedings – the duke was asked about how he would feel if the judge hearing the case did not find that his phone was hacked by people working for MGN.
Andrew Green KC, for MGN, asked: “If the court were to find that you were never hacked by any MGN journalists, would this be a relief or disappointment?”
“That would be speculating,” the duke replied.
He later added he believed that phone hacking was carried out on an “industrial scale at at least three of the papers at the time … that is beyond any doubt”.
Harry continued: “To have a decision against me and any of the other people (bringing a claim), given that Mirror Group have admitted hacking, yes I would feel some injustice … if it wasn’t accepted.”
Mr Green then asked: “So you want to have been phone hacked?”
The duke replied: “No one wants to have been phone hacked.”
MGN has previously settled a number of claims against it in relation to unlawful information-gathering, but a 2015 trial of representative claims, including those brought by former Coronation Street actress Shobna Gulati and ex-footballer Paul Gascoigne, is the only other trial to have taken place and led to an award of a record £1.2 million in compensation.
Mr Green asked the duke if he was aware that the claimants in the 2015 trial had “extensive call data” showing calls to their mobile phones.
After Harry said he was not aware of that, Mr Green asked if the lack of call data in his claim suggests his phone was not hacked, to which the duke replied: “Absolutely not.”
Harry alleges that about 140 articles published between 1996 and 2010 by MGN titles contained information gathered using unlawful methods, and 33 of these have been selected to be considered at the trial.
The duke was asked questions over an April 2006 People article reporting his former girlfriend Chelsy Davy’s “fury” over his “boozy evening at a lap-dancing club”.
Mr Green said a News of the World article around the same time mentioned a voicemail that the duke’s brother had left for him imitating Ms Davy’s voice.
The barrister said this story was an “important step” leading to the police arresting News of the World journalist Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who were both later convicted over phone hacking.
Mr Green said no MGN journalists were arrested at the time of a police investigation, adding that journalists would have later been taking an “enormous risk” by hacking Harry’s phone or those around him.
“I think there was a risk right from the beginning,” the duke said, adding: “I believe the risk is worth the reward for them”.
Harry later told the court: “I don’t think anyone even the police knew how to deal with it at first.
“At the time we didn’t know there was voicemail hacking, no one did.”
MGN is contesting his claim and has either denied or not admitted that articles about Harry being examined at the trial involved phone hacking or unlawful activity.
At the start of Harry’s individual case on Monday, Mr Green said there was “simply no evidence capable of supporting the finding that the Duke of Sussex was hacked, let alone on a habitual basis” and that payment records used in the duke’s claim “simply do not demonstrate unlawful conduct or knowledge thereof”.
The duke’s claim is being heard alongside three other “representative” claims during a trial which began last month and is due to last six to seven weeks.
The three other representative claimants are Coronation Street actor Michael Turner, known professionally as Michael Le Vell, who is best known for playing Kevin Webster in the long-running soap, former Coronation Street actress Nikki Sanderson, and comedian Paul Whitehouse’s ex-wife Fiona Wightman.