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Judge Rules on ‘Extensive’ Phone Hacking



Prince Harry has received a judgement in his case against British tabloid newspaper The Mirror. Mr Justice Fancourt, who presided over the trial earlier this year, said he found “extensive” phone hacking between 2006 and 2011, the PA reports.

Judge Fancourt, who handed down his lengthy judgment on Friday morning, local time, added that the British royal’s phone was likely hacked “to a modest extent” between 2003 and 2009. He has been awarded “modest” damages, amounting to £140,600 ($180,000) to cover the “hurt” caused by the publisher’s “concealment” of their wrongdoing.

Harry, who now lives in California, sued the paper’s publisher Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), alleging that more than 30 stories it had printed about him dating back to the early 2000s had been written as a result of “unlawful information gathering,” colloquially known as hacking. The judge said Harry had proved his case in 15 of 33 of those instances.

But he added that Harry had a “tendency” to assume all articles about him and come from unlawful information gathering but that was not the case. “Phone hacking was not the only journalistic tool at the time and his claim in relation to the other 18 articles did not stand up to careful analysis.”

“I recognise that Mirror Group was not responsible for all the unlawful activity that was directed at the Duke, and that a good deal of the oppressive behaviour of the Press towards the Duke over the years was not unlawful at all,” his judgment continued.

Judge Fancourt did not hand down an over-all ruling but instead gave detailed findings on each of the stories, determining whether or not he found the prince’s allegations credible.

Harry became the first senior royal in 130 years to testify when he entered the witness box at London’s High Court during the trial earlier this year. He was grilled over two days by MGN’s lawyer Andrew Green KC over dozens of articles which the prince claimed were the result of intercepting voicemails, impersonation or bribery.

In all instances bar one, for which the publisher accepted responsibility and apologized for at the beginning of the trial, MGN denied the claims. In court, Green repeatedly pointed out that information on which the stories were based had come from Buckingham Palace press officers, other publications or, in one case, an interview the prince himself had given to the Press Association. Broadcaster Piers Morgan edited The Mirror between 1995 and 2004, the period during which many of those stories were published. He did not testify during the trial.

The prince was not alone in his lawsuit against the tabloid publisher. He was joined by “Coronation Street” actors Michael Le Vell and Nikki Sanderson and by the ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse, Fiona Wightman. Harry was represented in court by high-profile lawyer David Sherborne, whose other clients include Johnny Depp, Hugh Grant and Coleen Rooney.

In his controversial memoir “Spare,” Harry revealed he had met Sherborne while vacationing at Elton John’s home in the South of France, and the lawyer had encouraged him to fight back in court against what he believed were unlawful journalistic practices.

The prince is involved in a number of other lawsuits, including against the Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers and against the British government regarding security.


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