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Prince Harry claims there was a secret agreement between News Group Newspapers (NGN) and the royal family to stop the palace from taking legal action against the company.
The Duke of Sussex is currently suing NGN, the publisher of The Sun and the now-defunct News of the World, over alleged phone hacking and other illegal acts (one of three different damages claims he’s pursuing against publications). In April, the newspaper group’s attorneys argued that it had taken Harry too long to bring forth his claim. Harry’s lawyer has now countered that the duke was waiting for the company to deliver on a reported deal it had made with the royal family. NGN denies such an agreement took place.
Harry’s lawyer David Sherborne says in 2012, the two parties reportedly made a private deal: The royal family agreed not to pursue claims against NGN, which would in turn apologize and provide the palace with compensation, The Guardian reported.
Sherborne pointed to e-mails sent in 2017 and 2018 between Queen Elizabeth’s then-director of communications, Sally Osman, and NGN executives. Osman discussed “unfinished business,” which Sherborne says refers to the agreed-upon apology and compensation. He explained the company’s failure to deliver on these two parts of the deal prompted Harry to launch his own damages claim in 2019, the BBC reported.
“Your lordship will see why we say that is consistent with what the Duke of Sussex says in his witness statement about what he was told as to why he couldn’t bring a claim earlier than he did,” Sherborne said, according to The Independent.
A lawyer for NGN called Harry’s claim “Alice In Wonderland stuff,” denying that such a deal was made and arguing that the emails didn’t amount to evidence that it ever took place, the BBC reported. “He is seeking to rely on an agreement that increasingly seems to be such a secret agreement that nobody other than the claimant knows anything about it,” the attorney said.
A judge is expected to rule on the future of Harry’s claim in the coming months. The Duke of Sussex is also engaged in legal battles with the Mirror Group and Associated Newspapers.