British Tabloids Hacked Prince Harry’s Phone for Years, Judge Rules | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

Prince Harry after giving evidence at the Mirror Group Phone hacking trial at a High Court in London on June 7, 2023.
Carl Court/Getty Images

  • Prince Harry won a legal battle against the Mirror Group on Friday. 
  • A London court found outlets like The Mirror unlawfully gathered information on Harry for years.
  • The prince gave evidence that Mirror Group outlets hacked his phone and hired private investigators.

Prince Harry won a significant legal battle against a series of British tabloids.

On Friday, a London judge ruled in Harry’s favor in his civil lawsuit against the Mirror Group, in which he accused several of the media company’s outlets of illegally hacking his phone.

Harry and his three co-plaintiffs alleged that Mirror Group outlets The Mirror, The Sunday Mirror, and The Sunday People hacked their phones and hired private investigators to illegally gather information on them.

The Duke of Sussex claimed the outlets hacked his phone from 1996 to 2011, and his legal representation provided the court with 33 articles as evidence of the tampering.

Judge Timothy Fancourt found 15 of those articles proved Harry’s phone was hacked, writing in his ruling: “I consider that his phone was only hacked to a modest extent, and that this was probably carefully controlled by certain people at each newspaper.”

The judge ruled that the phone hacking happened “on occasions from about the end of 2003 to April 2009.”

However, he noted that “there was a tendency for the Duke in his evidence to assume that everything published was the product of voicemail interception because phone hacking was rife within Mirror Group at the time. But phone hacking was not the only journalistic tool at the time, and his claims in relation to the other 18 articles did not stand up to careful analysis.”

The judge awarded Harry damages for the hacking and “distress” the illegal information gathering caused him in the sum of £140,600, approximately $178,400.

Representatives for the Mirror Group did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on the ruling.

Harry’s ‘mission’ to seek justice against British tabloids isn’t over

In a statement read by his lawyer in court on Friday, provided to BI by representatives of the Duke of Sussex, Harry described the ruling as “a great day for truth as well as accountability.”

“This case is not just about hacking; it is about a systemic practice of unlawful and appalling behaviour, followed by cover-ups and destruction of evidence, the shocking scale of which can only be revealed through these proceedings,” his statement read.

His statement went on to say that battles for “justice” can be “slow and painful” and that since launching his claim five years ago, he and his family have continued to be victims of “defamatory stories and intimidating tactics.”

Prince Harry leaves a London court in June 2023.
Neil Mockford/GC Images

“I hope that the Court’s findings will serve as a warning to all media organisations who have employed these practices and similarly lied about them,” Harry added. “I’ve been told that slaying dragons will get you burned. But in light of today’s victory and the importance of doing what is needed for a free and honest press — it’s a worthwhile price to pay. The mission continues.”

While Harry may have slayed one of his dragons, his battle against the British media isn’t over by any means.

As CBS News reported, he and his wife, Meghan Markle, have sought legal action against a minimum of seven newspapers in the UK since 2019, a year before they formally announced they were stepping back from their royal duties.

The Sussexes’ successes include a High Court judge ruling in Meghan’s favor in the privacy case she brought against the Daily Mail’s publisher, Associated Newspapers Limited, for printing excerpts of a letter she wrote to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, in 2018 before her wedding.

But not every case has culminated in success for Team Sussex.

On Monday, Harry faced a setback in a suit against Associated Newspapers, which owns the Daily Mail. As the AP reported, Harry claimed the Daily Mail committed libel in a story about the Duke of Sussex trying to conceal his attempts to keep his security, funded by the British public, while visiting the country following his step back from royal life. However, on Monday, a London judge ruled that the Daily Mail had not committed libel in this case and ordered that Harry pay Associated Newspapers’ legal fees, amounting to close to £50,000 (around $63,500).

And in July, the same High Court judge who ruled in Harry’s favor against the Mirror Group threw out his claim that the now-defunct News of the World, a newspaper that was owned by the News Group Newspapers, engaged in phone hacking to gather coverage on him, the Associated Press reported at the time.

The judge also rejected Harry’s claim that he did not bring his case against NGN sooner because of a “secret agreement” between the publisher and the royal family.

Members of the royal family at Buckingham Palace on July 10, 2018.
Anwar Hussein/WireImage

Nevertheless, Harry’s case against NGN is partially going forward with a focus on his and actor Hugh Grant’s claims that The Sun (another NGN outlet) used illegal newsgathering tactics in stories about them. A trial is likely to take place in January 2024, the AP reported.

But his win against the Mirror Group is a royal first

The Duke of Sussex became the first senior royal to supply evidence in court in 130 years when he provided testimony against The Mirror in June.

According to Reuters, Harry submitted a 50-page written witness statement and underwent five hours of questioning while sitting in the court witness seat.

During the appearance, he described the newsgathering behavior of the news publisher as “utterly vile.”

Meanwhile, other members of the royal family have remained silent, choosing not to comment on the Duke of Sussex’s cases against several British newspaper groups publicly.

Representatives for Buckingham Palace did not immediately respond to BI’s request for comment on the ruling.


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