‘Media did listen to Prince Harry’s phone conversations’, says court

Henry

A judge in Britain ruled that Prince Harry’s mobile phone conversations were wiretapped by journalists working for the Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) and awarded damages of £140,600 (R3.2 million) to the royal.

This case is one of many legal cases that Harry has brought against the British media.

High Court judge Timothy Fancourt ruled in favor of the Duke of Sussex in 15 of the 33 sample articles the prince submitted as evidence in his lawsuit against MGN. MGN is the publisher of tabloids such as Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People.

Fancourt concluded that between 2006 and 2011 the newspapers carried out an “extensive” campaign in which celebrities’ mobile phone calls were tapped. This in the midst of a public investigation into the actions of the British press.

Fancourt said Harry’s personal phone was targeted between 2003 and 2009 and that the 15 articles published were “the product of the illegal gathering of information”.

“I am of the opinion that his phone was only targeted to a modest extent, and that it was probably carefully controlled by certain people at each newspaper,” said the judge.

Harry’s lawyers said in a statement outside the court that the verdict was “just and affirmative”.

“I was told that killing dragons will burn you,” Harry’s statement read.

“But in light of this victory and the importance of doing what is necessary for a free and honest press, it is a worthy price to pay. The mission continues.”

The prince has had a turbulent relationship with the British press for years. He also holds the media responsible for the death of his mother, Princess Diana, after she crashed in 1997 while paparazzi followed her in Paris.

He was also the first senior British royal in over a century to testify in court after taking on MGN over the matter.

A spokesperson for MGN apologized for its “historic transgressions” and pledged to “take full responsibility and pay the appropriate compensation”.

MGN admitted that there was “some evidence” of information being illegally gathered relating to an article about Harry. However, the publisher denied that it intercepted voicemails and also argued that some claims were filed too late by Harry and the other plaintiffs.

Friday’s ruling concluded that senior managers of MGN “turned a blind eye” to illegal practices in which journalists or private investigators obtain information through impersonation.