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Prince Harry can take Daily Mail phone hacking claims to trial, High Court rules | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker


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Prince Harry and six other high-profile claimants can take their lawsuit against the publisher of the Daily Mail over alleged phone tapping and other illegal activities to trial, the High Court in London has ruled.

Mr Justice Matthew Nicklin on Friday rejected an application by Associated Newspapers to throw out the claims, which were also brought by musician Sir Elton John, actor Elizabeth Hurley and Baroness Doreen Lawrence.

The newspaper publisher had argued that the alleged wrongdoing took place more than six years before the claim was brought, meaning the claimants had in effect run out of time under the laws of limitation. 

But Nicklin found that Associated Newspapers had failed to deliver a “knockout blow” to any of the claims and judged that the lawsuit could continue to trial.

The seven claimants — who also include John’s husband David Furnish, former MP Sir Simon Hughes and actor Sadie Frost — allege that the publisher obtained private and confidential information about them by intercepting of voicemail messages, listening into live telephone calls, obtaining information by deception and use of private investigators. 

They allege that Associated Newspapers, which also publishes the Mail on Sunday, used this information in articles in its newspapers and online.

The lawsuit marks the first time that the owner of the Daily Mail, Britain’s top-selling print title, has been drawn into a costly legal battle over phone hacking and unlawful reporting.

Hugh Grant, the actor and board director of Hacked Off, a campaign group, said Friday’s ruling was “a significant blow to the Daily Mail and great news for anyone who wants the truth about allegations of illegal press practices to come out”.

Philippa Dempster, privacy lawyer and London managing partner at law firm Freeths, called it “a victory for common sense and one that will send a shockwave across the press industry”.

“No longer can the press easily rely on the passage of time to be their get-out-of-jail-free card,” she added.

Associated Newspapers has yet to file a defence to the claims but instead challenged them on two grounds. The first centred on the time between the wrongdoing alleged by the claimants and their claim.

The second challenge was to the parts of the claim that had relied on documents from the Leveson inquiry, a judicial inquiry into the practices of the British press following the phone hacking scandal. The publisher argued these documents were subject to continuing restrictions, and the High Court upheld its objections against their use.

Following the ruling, Associated Newspapers said it welcomed Nicklin’s “decision that the information we and other newspapers supplied to the Leveson inquiry under strict grounds of confidentiality remains subject to the Restriction Order imposed by Lord Justice Leveson”.

“The lurid claims made by Prince Harry and others . . . are simply preposterous and we look forward to establishing this in court in due course,” it added.

The Duke of Sussex has made separate claims in the High Court against Mirror Group Newspapers and Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers, the parent company of The Sun and defunct News of the World titles.

Mirror Group, whose parent company is now known as Reach, has already paid out £1.2mn in damages to eight celebrities after a 2015 trial found a “widespread culture of phone hacking”. The company has since paid out on hundreds of claims for civil cases.

NGN has admitted that phone hacking took place at the News of the World — but not at the Sun — and has paid out hundreds of millions of pounds to victims of voicemail interception.

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